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I have been working for a year for a privately held company that prominently touts in it's recruiting process that it gives 20% of it's profits to charitable causes. But it doesn't, at least for the last two years, and probably ever.

By virtue of this claim being used as a hiring incentive, can they be forced to make the promised contributions? Can a claim for essentially unpaid wages (since lower wages were accepted based on their promise) be made on behalf of the entire class of employees recruited past and present based on this lie?

  • How do you know that they are not doing so? What kind of business is it(e.g. Sole proprietorship, partnership, public company)? – sharur Sep 13 '18 at 22:24
  • I had suspected it because they have said nothing about it despite publishing a monthly employee newsletter, but I just had it confirmed by an executive who recently left the company. They are a Colorado LLC – JPMaverick Sep 13 '18 at 22:59
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By virtue of this claim being used as a hiring incentive, can they be forced to make the promised contributions?

The decision would be based on the prima facie elements of promissory estoppel, which are:

(1) [a] promise which (2) the promisor should reasonably expect to cause the promisee to change his position and (3) which does cause the promisee to change his position (4) justifiably relying upon the promise, in such a manner that (5) injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.

(See Havens v. C & D Plastics, Inc., 124 Wn.2d 158, 171-172 (1994)).

The difficulty lies in establishing elements (4) and (5), since the plaintiffs/employees would need to persuade the court that the notion of injustice in element (5) may also refer to the detriment of third-parties rather than referring exclusively to a detriment of the promisees themselves. Thus, the question for a court would be: Is the alleged injustice as per (5) sufficiently attached to the employees' reliance as per (4) to merit the injunctive relief?

Can a claim for essentially unpaid wages (since lower wages we're accepted based on their promise) be made on behalf of the entire class of employees recruited past and present based on this lie?

Yes, provided that the employee(s) can prove that the promise of charitable contributions persuaded the employee(s) to accept lower wages. I believe that proving this would be difficult because such level of detail of an employee's mind is hardly ever reflected in an employment contract or related records.

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