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I accepted a temp/contract employment offer a few weeks ago. One of their internal departments has been backed up and they are slow in getting me into their system. Although I have an written offer letter with a tentative start date, by the time I start - including a drug and background check - at least a month will have elapsed. This is unusual because as a long-term freelancer, I won't be a full-time employee.

Prior to the offer, I was applying for unemployment compensation with my state. Although I'm not actually working, there are certain requirements. One of these requirements is to continue looking for a job until you return to work. Since I have an offer, I cannot look for work. Yet, because of the company's delay, I have not returned to work - so I'm not getting paid. It is a waste of unemployment funds and I'm hamstrung by a company I don't work for. Just to clarify, I'm including this information about unemployment to emphasize that the company's delay can have serious consequences.

I know that it's not the fault of the hiring manager or recruiter, but I am nervous about waiting another 2 weeks to start. For one, I don't want to be accused of fraud by the state for applying for unemployment insurance even though I have a job offer. (And I am not sure that the state will continue to process my claims, given that I have an offer, even though I haven't returned to work.) I am tempted to renege on the offer but I think it might be an overreaction. However, this delay is a problem. Given that the start date has passed, I am tempted to restart my job search. There may be other recruiters who can get me into a new freelance gig faster than I would with this one.

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    This question seems to be legal and perhaps very location-specific. What is the location? – morsor Feb 20 '17 at 6:39
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    A job offer is not a job and from what I read here you don't even have a job offer. Check with whatever agency covers your unemployment to find whether you can still receive benefits. This is mainly a legal question. – Lilienthal Feb 20 '17 at 8:49
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    "I accepted a temp/contract employment offer a few weeks ago" was this verbally? or do you have a written contract? – Migz Feb 20 '17 at 10:15
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    @Migz The offer letter is written. It was in the text of my question, but I emphasized it since multiple people missed it. – user70848 Feb 20 '17 at 15:25
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    Just keep looking. If you get an offer or an interview you know you don't want, simply tell them about your pending offer. Problem solved. You're not refusing a job (which breaks the rules) but they're not going to offer it to you either. Oddly enough, you're being completely forthcoming. – Chris E Feb 20 '17 at 16:49
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Since I have an offer, I cannot look for work.

For me this has never been a true statement. I have continued to apply for jobs up to the starting date because there was always a small chance that the job will disappear. The fact you are waiting on the drug and background check means the job isn't 100% guaranteed.

But even if there were no contingencies the delay when you have zero income from a job should be reason enough to keep looking.

In your case the unemployment office may require you to keep applying for jobs. This is generally one of the requirements to receive benefits. You might find something else that starts sooner, or can fill the gap.

I am tempted to renege on the offer but I think it might be an overreaction.

Don't reject the tentative offer before you have to.

Keep the potential offer alive by performing all the pre-employment tasks. But keep applying for other positions, keep interviewing when asked. Rejecting a valid offer generally makes the unemployment benefits come to a halt.

Rejecting an offer, by telling the company that you are no longer interested due to unreasonable delays, is something you can afford to do when you have a stable job you want to leave, but are in no hurry to do so. Rejecting the offer in that case doesn't lead to loss of income. Rejecting an offer due to delays when you are unemployed doesn't seem to make sense.

  • Well, if I end up starting another job before this one comes through, I will be reneging on their offer. – user70848 Feb 20 '17 at 15:23
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    @user70848 That's their loss. Good luck. – Strawberry Feb 20 '17 at 15:33
  • These two paragraphs seem to contradict each other. Can you clarify? "Don't renege. Keep the potential offer alive by performing all the pre-employment tasks. But keep applying for other positions, keep interviewing when asked. Rejecting a valid offer tends to make the unemployment benefits come to a halt. Rejecting an offer due to unreasonable delays is something you can afford to do when you have a stable job you want to leave, but are in no hurry to do so. Rejecting the offer then doesn't lead to loss of income." – user70848 Feb 20 '17 at 16:37
  • @Strawberry Maybe I misunderstand, but this seems unprofessional. I don't want to be known as someone that walks back on an offer. This isn't a FT job, and I may need to work with this recruiter again. – user70848 Feb 20 '17 at 16:42
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    @user70848 Lets be clear, this "offer" is still subject to background checks, and they haven't given you a start date yet. At the moment, it's just an indication that they intend to employ you if you pass all the checks. You don't actually have a job yet so there's nothing to stop you carrying on looking for a better job. As for "reneging", in another comment, you said that employment is "at will" - that works both ways. – Simon B Feb 20 '17 at 17:21
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I feel like you anwsered your own question without really knowing it.

to continue looking for a job until you return to work

"Work" does not imply having "found" a job. It implies you have a job and a written contract. In these contracts there's a starting date. If the company pushes you back, you should still get paid based on the start date that you recieved in the contract.

Seeing as you don't get paid despite having found the job. This simply implies that You do NOT have the job. So keep looking for a job untill the very moment you have a WRITTEN contract with a clear starting date.

When I was initially looking for a job I applied for over 10 companies within a single week. At the end of the week I had 3 job offers but only 1 of them gave me a contract to look at. Even when you recieve this contract you're not hired. Only when it's written by both you and the company will the contract be valid. If I wanted to sign this contract and the company asked me to wait for a while, I would have looked at the other offers I recieved and would try to get a contract from them. so I could compare them.

I'll emphesise something since I'm still not clear on what has happened. You seem to have recieved a "contract" with a "tentative" starting date. To me this does NOT equal as a contract. This merely sounds like a way for them to bind you without giving you anything in return. A good contract requires a fixed starting date unless it is a contract between 2 companies. Seeing as you're going to be an employee, this is not the case.

If they were to push the starting date by 6 months, they will not have paid you for that amount of time. As soon as you refuse their offer and work somewhere else they will yell at you and say you had a contract with them to work for them. THAT is the kind of contract you signed.

Luckilly you're somewhat covered for these kind of shenanigans. At the moment where the tenative starting date has passed and you're still not working due to their fault, your contract will need to be changed. At this point you're allowed to deny these changes. and can therefor get hired somewhere else.

So let me get back to the emphasis on what I meant.

"No written contract with a clear starting date = no job"

As for background checks requiring you to have a tenative starting date instead of fixed is also incorrect. The company can simply make a contract where it states that the contract will become invalid the moment the background checks do not confirm what you have told the company through your CV.

Meaning you don't NEED a tentative starting date. that company is either screwing with you, or they don't know what they're doing.

  • I'm not sure what you mean by "contract". If you mean "guaranteed employment", that is rare in the US in my experience. Employment is "at will"; not guaranteed at all. – user70848 Feb 20 '17 at 15:29
  • @user70848 I edited my awnser. Either way. your "contract" is not binding. It's simply binding YOU for the duration between now and the "tenative starting date". and it has no consequences for the company either. they basically screwed you, kept you on a leash. – Migz Feb 21 '17 at 7:24
  • Ok, thanks for clarifying. Yes, what I have is not a contract in the legal sense. At this point, it is simply a good faith agreement that they will employ me for $$ starting approximately N date, assuming I pass all the required background checks. But it is not legally binding. – user70848 Feb 21 '17 at 15:39

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