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Best of HRRecruiting: Offer rescinded after background check: Can candidate sue?

Your company offers a candidate the job — then rescinds after his background check uncovers a felony conviction. He sues, claiming he was promised a job, quit his old position and bought a house in preparation to relocate. Who wins?

That’s what happened in one recent case:

A candidate, living in New Jersey at the time, was offered a job at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA. He received a written offer letter, which stated his employment was at-will and the offer was conditional on a successful background check.

He also spoke with the hiring manager, who encouraged him to quit his current job and begin looking at houses in Washington. He recommended specific neighborhoods and gave him the name of a real estate agent to contact.

The candidate quit his job and purchased a house. However, his criminal background check uncovered a felony conviction, and he didn’t get the job after all.

He sued Microsoft, claiming the company asked him to leave his employer and move across the country under the promise of a new job.

Did manager promise a job?

Microsoft tried to have the case thrown out. It pointed to the letter, which told the candidate he would be an at-will employee and that the offer would be canceled if his background check didn’t come back clean.

But the judge didn’t buy it. The offer letter may have stated that the offer was conditional, but the hiring manager went too far in encouraging the candidate to relocate and helping him buy a house.

The company now faces an expensive trial or a hefty settlement.

The bottom line: Microsoft took the right steps in the wording of its offer letter. And the manager may have just been trying to help, but it’s best not to get involved in a potential employee’s personal affairs before the job offer is finalized.

Cite: Schley v. Microsoft Corp.

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  • Do the background check first! (with a written release of course)

  • Heather

    Pretty stupid on that manager’s part, wonder what Microsoft did with him? Sounds like he might be toast!

  • Barbara

    It was also pretty stupid of the potential employee’s part to quit his current job and relocate knowing he had this felony on his record and that they’d be doing a background check and that the job was contingent on this.

  • CM

    Wouldn’t this have been avoided if the question about felony convictions was asked on an application? If he had lied on the application and said he WASN’T convicted of a felony, that would be considered falsification and the job offer could have easily been rescinded.

  • Maria

    It may also be possible that the candidate knew what he was doing and the manager was unaware of the candidates intentions.

  • Ben

    Get your FACTS straight. The background check contained inaccurate information. In FACT, the job candidate had no conviction record at all. The incident in question turned out to be some dispute with a disgruntled contractor and was ultimately dismissed on grounds of absurdity.

    Micorsoft should suffer both costs and punitive damages that are sufficient to injure the corporation’s bottom line.

    In turn, Micosoft should fire the human resource staff who mistakenly rescinded a valid job offer and Microsoft should sue the background screening company for providing inaccurate criminal background information.

    Write it off to the costs of making a more prejudicial social culture.