Can a Company Legally Rescind a Job Offer?

Congratulations! You’ve pounded the pavement, networked, networked some more, interviewed, and voila! You’ve been offered a job.

Check that — you were offered a job until a company rescinded the offer after negotiations occurred. Enter screeching car tires here.

Wondering if it’s legal or not? Well, unfortunately it is indeed legal. Greg Giangrande, the chief HR officer at Time, Inc. points out in today’s New York Post, an offer is simply that an offer. “And even if you accept the offer — unless there’s an employment agreement that specifies terms and conditions — it is an offer of employment ‘at will,’ meaning either party can terminate the relationship at any time. Companies rescind job offers for a variety of reasons.”

One reason could be discovering something about the potential new hire whereas another reason could be management changes which result in a strategic change for the department.

Perhaps the job was no longer available because internal shifts took place, perhaps two departments merged or perhaps the higher ups didn’t think it was the right time to add to head count. Or maybe the potential hire is high maintenance (gasp!) during the negotiation process.

Net net: It is indeed legal but if the job seeker can find out why the offer was rescinded — if it was due to unprofessional behavior during negotiations, then at least you can do your due diligence to try to learn lessons for the next time.

Some companies may not even divulge why because that itself could open them up to risk so suffice it to say, rescinded offers do occur and technically the company has the upper-hand in this case — they can offer the job and they can taketh away.