Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: A relative interviewed for a job, received an offer and accepted the position. But the day before she was due to start, the company rescinded the offer. What if she had already given notice at her present job? Would there be any legal recourse? -- Canceled Job Offer
DEAR CANCELED: The company's action doesn't seem fair, but it's probably legal because New York is an employment-at-will state.
"In New York, unless there is a contract that says otherwise, employment is presumed to be at will," said Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan. "That means that the employer is permitted to fire the employee at any time, for any lawful reason or for no reason at all, without prior notice."
And that includes someone just offered a job, he said.
"A prospective employee who hasn't even started working yet is in no better position than an employee who has already started working," Kass added. "Therefore, the reader's relative is out of luck. She could not have reasonably relied on being employed for any definite period of time, and therefore she did not suffer any legally recognized harm when the job offer was rescinded."
In other words, he said, "when you quit a job to take another one, you take the risk that you may lose your new job after one day -- or even before it starts."
Hopefully, she hasn't given notice and can get her old job back. If she has given notice, then she is out of luck. That would be unfair, but when it comes to the law, fairness doesn't come into play.
"This may seem harsh and unfair, but it is no more harsh and unfair than the employment-at-will doctrine itself," Kass said. "The law does not require employers to be nice."
DEAR CARRIE: I believe I was wrongfully terminated from my longtime job. The company let me go after I gave verbal and written complaints of harassment to my department head and to human resources. What should I tell prospective employers on an interview? -- Do Tell?
DEAR DO TELL: Unless you are planning to sue the company, you won't gain anything from claiming that you were wrongfully discharged, said career specialist Leslie Prager of the Prager-Bernstein Group, a Manhattan career-management firm.
"A comment like that might lead a prospective employer to believe that hiring you might lead to problems," she said. "If the official company line is that you were laid off due to budget cuts or a reorganization, you would be best served by adopting the reason given by the company."
More importantly, you need to determine what your former company will tell prospective employers who call for references, Prager said. Maybe you can agree on what the company line should be.
DEAR CARRIE: I work as an office manager earning $43,000 a year. My employer has outsourced and automated many of my job functions to the point that I am concerned that my hours or salary will be cut, or both. When can I refuse a reduced salary and still be eligible for unemployment benefits? -- Fearing the Worst
"However, eligibility can only be determined when a claim is filed," a spokeswoman said.
Some of the variables considered are whether the reductions are temporary or permanent, how much the salary was reduced and if the individual is performing the same duties.
Bear in mind, though, if your reduced salary exceeds $405 a week, the benefit maximum, you wouldn't qualify.