Pact's specifics are key when employer reneges

Salesman seeks recourse after promise of job sours

Can They Do That?

Your Money

August 29, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

A regional manager of a local company hired my husband as an outside salesman. My husband received a contract via e-mail setting out the salary, commission plan and benefits. He printed out a copy, signed it and mailed it to the manager, who set a start date and made an appointment to meet with the company president.

When my husband arrived, it seemed the president didn't know about his appointment and said the regional manager jumped the gun in hiring him. My husband was told they'd call him the next day but he never heard from them again, despite numerous calls to the company. What recourse does he have?

Whether your husband has any legal recourse depends on whether the contract specified an employment period and whether the regional manager had the authority to make an offer, said Alan L. Sklover, a New York employment attorney and author of Negotiating for Yourself at Work: The 7-Step Method for Job Security & Career Success ($59.95 for a three-CD set).

If the e-mailed contract didn't mention a specific period of time when your husband would be employed, he might be out of luck.

"Without a definite term, your husband would be an at-will employee who could have been let go after even one minute on the job," Sklover said.

On the other hand, if the contract mentioned a specific employment period, or "definite term" of, say, one year, "then your husband's erstwhile employer would owe him all of his salary, likely commissions and benefits for the one year, less any and all salary, commissions and benefits he earned at other employment during that time," Sklover said.

In that instance though, the law would require him to document that he's actively trying to find another job.

The final factor to consider is whether the regional manager ever told your husband that an employee on his level had the authority to hire your husband. If he did tell your husband that, and thus lied to him, the employer could owe him the amounts mentioned above and maybe more.

"Where intentional misstatement of fact [the definition of fraud] is found, a court might award your husband extra damages, to punish the employer for deceiving your husband," he said.

Your husband should send the company president a letter asking for some redress. Failing that, your husband should consider hiring a lawyer.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at

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