We’ve all seen claims for wrongful termination, but one recent case takes a different twist: wrongful hiring. An employee who was laid off eight months after moving his family across the country to take a new job was awarded $1.9 million in damages when he convinced a jury that his new employer knowingly induced him to accept a job that did not exist. The employee claimed the company was trying to entice potential buyers by making it seem by his hire that the company was further along in its development of a project than it was. The jury found the employer misrepresented to the employee how far along it was in developing the project for which the employee was hired, and the job he was supposed to do never developed. In the meantime, as technology changed his field, the employee’s skills fell behind, so that when his new employer laid him off, he had trouble finding work in the field.
A Minnesota statute prohibits companies from knowingly inducing employees to come to the state through false pretences, and the jury decided that was exactly what the employer had done: misrepresented the job to induce the employee to come to Minnesota. However, even companies outside of Minnesota should take note of this decision, since a common-law claim for fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation could lead to a similar result. So when creating a new position, make sure that the need for the job exists before hire, or at least that recruiters and interviewers understand the tentative nature of the position so that they do not mislead candidates about the opportunities and duties of the position.