Court Upholds Firing Before Work Commenced

August 22, 2007 ( - A Connecticut appeals court has determined an employer can terminate an at-will employment relationship even before an employee first commences work.

According to the report on the Jackson Lewis law firm’s Web site, the appellate court rejected Kevin Petitte’s argument that breached its contract to employ him, and because he never had the opportunity to begin employment, he never became an at-will employee. The court noted that at-will employment means an employer or employee can terminate the employment agreement at any time for any reason.

The court opinion said “the employment at will doctrine applies to all aspects of the employment relationship and is not conditioned on the prospective employee actually commencing employment,” according to The court further determined, “An employer who changes its mind about a prospective employee should not be required to allow the person to actually commence duties before ending the relationship.”, Inc., offered Petitte a sales position with the company on December 8, 2003 and he signed an offer letter on December 10 agreeing to begin working for on December 15. The letter provided that the offer was contingent on Petitte’s understanding that it was “not a guarantee of employment for any specified length of time by either party” and explained that his employment would be at-will, “which means that either you or the company can terminate your employment at any time for any reason, with or without cause.”

After Petitte signed the offer letter, asked him for a list of employment references and when he reported to work on December 15th, a employee told him the company had some concerns about hiring him, asked him for additional references and sent him home for the day, the Web report said. Later that evening, Petitte was informed by telephone that could not employ him, and a few days later, received a letter rescinding the offer due to information collected from his references.

Petitte filed a lawsuit against claiming it breached not only the contract of employment, but the contract to hire him. Petitte also charged that the offer letter constituted negligent misrepresentation and that’s behavior was “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree” as to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court dismissed all claims.

The opinion in Petitte v., Inc. , AC27557 (Conn. Ct. App., July 10, 2007, is  here .