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Confirmed job turned out to be nonexistent

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  • Nov 28th, 2019 6:54 pm
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Nov 24, 2019
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Confirmed job turned out to be nonexistent

A few months ago, my wife received a confirmation by email from the head of a department at a university in Ontario that they were offering her a postdoctoral position. After confirming that she was happy with that position and relying on the department's assurance, but without having received a formal offer letter, my wife relocated to Canada from overseas. However, when she went to the university for a meeting she was told that the previously mentioned job didn't exist after all due to a lack of funding. Not surprisingly, the result was that my wife ended up with a gap in her CV and no income for several months.

Does anyone know if it's legal in Ontario to tell someone (in writing) that they are being offered a job, when that job doesn't actually exist? As mentioned, my wife never received an actual offer letter, so the only thing she has as proof is the email from the head of the department in which he clearly states that she's offered the job.
15 replies
Deal Addict
Oct 18, 2014
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You need an actual Offer Letter. That being said, you should consult with a professional (e.g. lawyer).
Deal Guru
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Mar 23, 2008
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McKinsey wrote: You need an actual Offer Letter. That being said, you should consult with a professional (e.g. lawyer).
This. Your only recourse is likely to go legal on them. Provide them (your lawyer) with the documentation you have, have an idea of your costs, and see where it goes.

For me personally, I wouldn't even QUIT a current job without having a signed job offer from another company, much less relocate internationally. That's just crazy.

C
Last edited by CNeufeld on Nov 25th, 2019 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Oct 24, 2016
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If there was no offer letter then I’m guessing there was also no signed acceptance letter provided to them? So basically no documented terms/conditions of the offer.

Looks like the university jumped the gun without having secured funding in place.
”If you buy things you don’t need, soon you will have to sell things you need.”
Deal Fanatic
Mar 21, 2010
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CNeufeld wrote: For me personally, I wouldn't even QUIT a current job without having a signed job offer from another company, much less relocate internationally. That's just crazy.
I think this is one of the problems, if it goes legal - the university could say "okay, we're sorry you're disappointed - but why should we pay for your moving costs and lost income when no reasonable person would ever quit their job and move to another country without a contract?". For example, if you're immigrating to Canada, you're not going to get a work visa based on someone's email saying we'd like you to come and work for us.

It's possible that the person she was emailing with doesn't even have the authority to bind the university in a contract. Like in many corporations, a senior manager may really want to work with you, but it's not a done deal until HR signs off, so if in the intervening time they can't get the budget for another person, there's no job.

It's really hard to say without seeing all the correspondence because in the absence of a contract, different people may think very different things about what an email means.
Banned
Aug 23, 2019
897 posts
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For those of you talking like arm-chair lawyers, the fact that the offer is coming from a LEGITIMATE email address at the university, and specifies contractual agreement, then the university WOULD BE liable.

How much? That is yet to be determined. We also don't have the contents of the email... so it's all 'hearsay'.

If the email spelled out START DATES, SALARY, etc, then it would be seen as a "contract" and the school will get sued.

OP needs a lawyer.
Sr. Member
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Jul 25, 2018
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Milton, ON
I work at a university and nothing was official until my contract was actually signed. I knew the funding was there though. I had several correspondences where my supervisor said they'd hire me but if they couldn't due to lack of funding, Idk if I'd have a legal case. Like everyone else said, consult a lawyer.
Deal Guru
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Mar 23, 2008
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Doebird wrote: For those of you talking like arm-chair lawyers, the fact that the offer is coming from a LEGITIMATE email address at the university, and specifies contractual agreement, then the university WOULD BE liable.

How much? That is yet to be determined. We also don't have the contents of the email... so it's all 'hearsay'.

If the email spelled out START DATES, SALARY, etc, then it would be seen as a "contract" and the school will get sued.

OP needs a lawyer.
For those keyboard lawyers willing to give definitive answers as to one part's liability based on a 3 paragraph statement (and no documents) by one party, good luck finding a real lawyer offering the same assurance.

At least you got the "OP needs to see a lawyer" part right...

C
Banned
Aug 23, 2019
897 posts
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CNeufeld wrote: For those keyboard lawyers willing to give definitive answers as to one part's liability based on a 3 paragraph statement (and no documents) by one party, good luck finding a real lawyer offering the same assurance.

At least you got the "OP needs to see a lawyer" part right...

C
Some of the posters are claiming that a "contract" needs to be signed. There is already legal precedent in place that an email can qualify as a credible contract... lots of cases for you to go and explore if you don't believe me....... figured that was basic knowledge.....

The only thing we don't know are the details of what exactly was said and how it was interpreted..... However, the OP said that there was an offer... so? Based on the OP's post, assuming it's true and an offer was GENUINELY made, then the OP's wife can sue.

That being said, how much will they get? That depends.... They could be fired on the first day...…… Get 2 weeks of pay. and that's that.
Sr. Member
Nov 22, 2017
833 posts
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This probably won't be worth the lawyer fees even though you might have a strong case depending on what was said in the email. Just take it as a lesson learned to ensure proper communication and always have an offer letter signed before taking drastic moves. Having said that I have worked at universities before and have seen first hand what a mess some departments are from an organization point of view.
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Aug 22, 2011
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I wouldn't even relocate in the same province without a formal offer signed by both parties.
Sr. Member
Jun 19, 2007
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Doebird wrote: Some of the posters are claiming that a "contract" needs to be signed. There is already legal precedent in place that an email can qualify as a credible contract... lots of cases for you to go and explore if you don't believe me....... figured that was basic knowledge.....

The only thing we don't know are the details of what exactly was said and how it was interpreted..... However, the OP said that there was an offer... so? Based on the OP's post, assuming it's true and an offer was GENUINELY made, then the OP's wife can sue.

That being said, how much will they get? That depends.... They could be fired on the first day...…… Get 2 weeks of pay. and that's that.
Exactly this. I would never relocate for a company that didn't cover it. Most jobs are tenuous at best, and would the situation be very different if funding was pulled a week after she started? Would she even be entitled to 2 weeks since most likely she'd be in a probationary term? I remember when Air Canada was on the rocks during my co-op terms like 15 years ago. You had students, a month before starting a 4 month work term which they are counting on to get experience, and hep pay tuition pulled out from under them, despite all the assurances by AC to the students, coop advisors, and the university that that would not happen. Not only that, but due to the highly structured, and short term nature of the job hunt/acceptance/job itself, it was basically impossible to secure anything else, since all those ships had sailed.

It's just an all around shitty situation. They're out there. But if there's no money, there's no money. If it's any consolation, I'm sure a good many company has been screwed by candidates accepting an offer, only to bail last minute when a much better wild card they weren't expecting came through.
Banned
Aug 23, 2019
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seadog83 wrote: Exactly this. I would never relocate for a company that didn't cover it. Most jobs are tenuous at best, and would the situation be very different if funding was pulled a week after she started? Would she even be entitled to 2 weeks since most likely she'd be in a probationary term? I remember when Air Canada was on the rocks during my co-op terms like 15 years ago. You had students, a month before starting a 4 month work term which they are counting on to get experience, and hep pay tuition pulled out from under them, despite all the assurances by AC to the students, coop advisors, and the university that that would not happen. Not only that, but due to the highly structured, and short term nature of the job hunt/acceptance/job itself, it was basically impossible to secure anything else, since all those ships had sailed.

It's just an all around shitty situation. They're out there. But if there's no money, there's no money. If it's any consolation, I'm sure a good many company has been screwed by candidates accepting an offer, only to bail last minute when a much better wild card they weren't expecting came through.
We just had a strong candidate bail the day before they were supposed to start lol.
Bastardo
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Oct 6, 2015
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seadog83 wrote: Exactly this. I would never relocate for a company that didn't cover it. Most jobs are tenuous at best, and would the situation be very different if funding was pulled a week after she started? Would she even be entitled to 2 weeks since most likely she'd be in a probationary term?
"Probation" has no meaning in law. Its really an archaic concept used by old-fashioned employers.

If an employer caused her to move, or to leave secure employment, and then reneges on a legit job offer, certainly there can be a case for damages, and/or additional notice.

However, if there wasn't really an offer, then doubt there's a case.
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Jun 12, 2008
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CNeufeld wrote: This. Your only recourse is likely to go legal on them. Provide them (your lawyer) with the documentation you have, have an idea of your costs, and see where it goes.

For me personally, I wouldn't even QUIT a current job without having a signed job offer from another company, much less relocate internationally. That's just crazy.

C
I couldn't agree more.

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