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How binding is the verbal offer to which I agreed?

Monday July 2, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I was offered a job to be the night charge nurse without working weekends. Unfortunately, I did not get it in writing when I accepted. Six months ago, the employer started assigning me one weekend per month. Now they assign me to work in the rooms regularly, after training someone. How binding is the offer I accepted in good faith? Can I refuse to train my replacement?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Anita,

Unfortunately, the offer you accepted in good faith is not a binding one, unless it is part of a written contract of employment or a union-negotiated position. Most employees are employees at-will, which essentially means there are no guarantees of work conditions, length of work or salary, as examples. In addition, your employee handbook most probably contains a disclaimer that states your employment is one at-will, and the employee handbook does not constitute an expressed or implied contract of employment. The disclaimer probably also states the employer can change conditions of employment at its discretion.

You certainly can refuse to train those who need to be trained, but there probably is no guarantee your employment would continue at the facility if you refuse to train those who need to be oriented. It may be best to seek another position in another facility.

However, do keep in mind a similar situation might arise at a new place of employment. Sometimes trying to make the best of a job you have is better than looking for another with no guarantees you will fare better. Be certain to carefully evaluate any new position you might be considering.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.