Oregon Supreme Court: an employer offering a job to a potential employee may be liable for changing its mind

April 8, 2013

The Oregon Supreme Court recently ruled that an employer who offered a job to a prospective employee can be liable for damages if the employer changed its mind after the prospective employee reasonably relied on the offer and changed his or her position.

Even though the court recognized “At Will Employment” so the duration of any employment is unknown because, in the absence of a contract stating otherwise, an employer may discharge an employee for any non-discriminatory reason it ruled, in a case of a car salesman who was offered a corporate job and who turned down another job in reliance on the offer, the employer can be liable for the prospective employee’s damages.

The takeaway for employers is to recognize that even though courts acknowledges the concept of “At Will Employment”  if they make an offer of employment on which a prospective employee reasonably relies they can be liable for damages if the employers change their mind.  Therefore, it is important to document any discussions about possible employment and make sure that any preconditions for employment are clearly stated.  See  Cocchiara v. Lithia Motors, Inc.  decided March 7, 2013.