Securing a job offer is often a momentous occasion, signifying the beginning of a new professional chapter. However, employment relationships are not always predictable, and various factors can come into play, which may lead to unforeseen circumstances, prompting an employer to reconsider a previously offered position. Therefore, understanding the nuances of the legal regulations surrounding job offers can be crucial for both parties.

This blog will provide a high-level overview of various legal aspects, considerations and potential consequences surrounding the revocation of job offers in Alberta. From the initial offer stage to withdrawal, this blog will shed light on the complexities of this issue, providing prospective employees and employers with valuable insights regarding the intricacies of job offer revocation in Alberta. It will also consider a recent decision from the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal in which a worker claimed that the employer discriminated against him by revoking a job offer.

Why Would an Employer Revoke a Job Offer?

When a candidate accepts a job offer from a new employer, and that offer is taken away before their employment has commenced, this is known as rescinding an offer of employment. In many cases, a business will typically withdraw a job offer because of factors outside their control or are driven to it by the candidate’s actions. As the hiring process has already taken place and the candidate has been hired, rescinding the offer afterwards results in wasted time, money, and effort for the company. For example, an employer may no longer have the budget to pay the employee’s wages, the employer may have “just cause” to terminate the employee, or the job offer may have been conditional, and the employee may not have met such conditions. 

However, an employer may be liable to pay damages to an employee if a job offer is rescinded. For instance, the employee may be considered wrongfully dismissed following job offer revocation and may be entitled to damages due to breach of contract or termination pay in lieu of reasonable notice. The courts recognize that it still takes a worker time to find a new job, and the law seeks to remedy lost wages between unemployment and re-employment.

Revocation and Complaints of Discrimination

In Greidanus v Inter Pipeline Limited, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a discrimination complaint from a worker after their job offer was revoked. The worker failed a pre-employment drug test. However, he claimed that the employer discriminated against him on the basis of disability. The job position the worker applied for was considered “safety-sensitive” due to the operation of heavy machinery and equipment at job sites, and, as such, the formal employer offer was conditional based on a pre-employment drug test. However, upon accepting the conditional offer, the worker did not advise the employer of his use of cannabis, which he used following his diagnosis of Hasimoto’s disease.

When the worker’s drug test showed that he tested positive for cannabis, the employer rescinded the offer of employment. The worker claimed his mental health issues worsened after this, and he was unable to revoke his resignation from his previous job. The worker subsequently filed a human rights complaint alleging that the employer discriminated against him due to physical disability, contrary to the Alberta Human Rights Act. He argued that the job offer was revoked due to his cannabis use, which was directly linked to his disability. 

Worker’s Disability Not Factor in Revocation of Job Offer

In reviewing the complaint, the Tribunal was satisfied that the worker had a physical disability, which was a protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act and the denial of the benefits and salary offered to the employee were an adverse impact arising from the revocation of the job offer. However, despite having numerous opportunities to disclose his cannabis use or disability to the employer, the worker never did, even when he knew the offer was conditional to the drug test. 

Accordingly, the Tribunal found that the employer “did not know about the complainant’s physical disability before they revoked the offer of employment. The evidence shows that the [employer] only became aware of the [worker’s] disability after (and not before) they had taken and communicated their decision to revoke the offer of employment.” As such, the employer was not obliged to inquire, and the worker’s disability was not a factor in the employer’s decision to revoke the job offer. Further, the Tribunal noted that the job involved fieldwork and was legitimately a safety-sensitive position. The rescission of the job offer was not an attempt to exclude the workers.  

Takeaways for Employers

An employer can retract an employment offer without having to pay damages in certain cases, depending on the type of job offer that was made and the timing of the proposal, for example, during the negotiation phase. However, if the new employee has already accepted the terms and conditions of the offer, then there may be specific legal consequences attached to revocation, as the employee may be treated as terminated and may, therefore, be entitled to the same compensation as any other employee.

In any case, an employer should consult with a trusted employment lawyer regarding the job offer they wish to withdraw to explore possible repercussions before making a costly decision. 

Takeaways for Employees

Employees should be aware that an employer may rescind a job offer in certain cases, which may absolve them from liability to pay damages. However, you may be entitled to compensation if you have accepted a job offer and it has been revoked before you started working. As such, discussing your circumstances with a knowledgeable employment lawyer who can advise you of your options and legal entitlements is important. 

Contact the Labour and Employment Lawyers at Getz Collins for Advice on Job Offer Revocation

Regardless of whether an employment relationship is terminated before the worker starts or after they have been with the company for several years, understanding your rights and options can be overwhelming. At Getz Collins and Associates, our trusted labour and employment lawyers can help you ensure that your interests are protected. From helping employers proactively consider their options and possible consequences of termination to advising employees on their rights and legal entitlements in the event of wrongful or constructive termination, our team will ensure that your risk is mitigated and your rights are protected until the issue is resolved. With offices in Calgary and Strathmore, our lawyers help employees and employers across the province navigate complex employment disputes. To speak with a member of our employment law team, contact us at (587) 391-5600 or contact us online.