Sercia v. Red Bull North America, Inc., 2009 WL 648988 (App. Div., March 16, 2009) – In this case the plaintiff sued her prospective employer for withdrawing a job offer after a background check was conducted. Affirming the doctrine of employment at-will in New Jersey, the Appellate Division upheld dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint alleging promissory estoppel, tortious interference with employment, and fraud, where it was undisputed that the prospective employer’s offer was for employment at-will, and the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that she suffered any detriment in reliance on the promise of employment, or that the prospective employer violated any protectable right or materially misrepresented facts.
The plaintiff accepted a verbal offer of employment and resigned from her former position. The prospective employer then asked her to complete an application “for administrative purposes,” which unequivocally stated that her employment would be “at-will,” and provided for a background check. The employment offer was rescinded days later as a result of the background investigation.
The court noted the application contained at-will language, and informed of the employer’s right to rescind an offer for any reason, or no reason, including the results of a background check. The court further found that the plaintiff had not established detriment of a definite and substantial nature in reliance upon the offer of employment. Compare this decision to Schley v. Microsoft Corp., No. 08-3589, 2008 WL 5075266 (D.N.J., November 24, 2008) [reported in the January 2009 issue of The New Jersey eAuthority], where the plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim survived.
Note: This article was published in the April 2009 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.