A reader writes:
My brother in-law, Ryan, has worked for his now-former company for a couple of years now. He began looking at changing careers and was recently offered a new job. This new job would be as a product representative for a company that is utilized by the same company he had been working for. He accepted his new offer and was very excited to start. However, the new job required that he start immediately, so he was unable to give notice to the former and he had to leave abruptly, not by his choice, but because he wanted the new job and it seemed a necessary evil.
His immediate supervisor wished him luck and understood the situation. The district manager, however, after hearing Ryan was leaving, took it upon himself to call Ryan's new employer to tell them he would not be welcome in the stores as a product rep, simply because he was upset that no notice was given. This was not a reference check, nor did the new company instigate contact. It was simply the district manager's attempt to submarine Ryan's new career. Upon hearing this, the job offer is in danger of being rescinded, post-acceptance, because "if he is not welcome in-store, he is of no use." Now, Ryan cannot go back and may effectively be unemployed because his former district manager decided to keep him from succeeding at his new job.
My question is whether this is legal or not, and what options he may have going forward as he will also have to explain this situation to every prospective employer should he not get this job, and his professional reputation may be tainted. Can you help?
Ugh, what a horrible situation. Yes, it's probably legal. Really jerky though.
If I were Ryan, I'd appeal to the immediate supervisor and ask him to intervene. Ryan should ask him to plead his case to the district manager and see if the damage can be undone. He should also speak with the new employer, explain that he gave no notice at their request, and ask them to work with him on finding a way to fix the situation.
I know it's of no help now, but always, always give notice. A company that refuses to understand that you need to give notice to your current employer is a company that is likely to be unreasonable in other ways too (as we're seeing now).
Update: A reader wrote to suggest that Ryan might have a legal case under tortious interference, which is a legal violation related to intentionally damaging someone's business relationships. My own reading (and I am not a lawyer) was that it doesn't apply here, because the old employer is within his rights to say that they won't deal with Ryan as a product rep because of the way his employment ended (again, a jerk, but within his rights). But I'm not a lawyer and if he's seriously interested in potential legal action, he should talk to one who specializes in employment law.