Recently, I flew halfway across the country for an interview. Not only did the interview go well, it could not have gone better! The principal and school board chair both believed I was a perfect fit for the school, and they were excited to have me join the school. I filled out all the necessary paperwork and cleared my state-mandated background check. Three weeks later, after I had quit my former job, hired a long-distance moving company, and nearly sold my car, the school board denied approval of my contract but gave no reason for it. The principal and school board chair ardently argued for approval of my contract but the board was steadfast. When pressed repeatedly, the board gave no adequate reason given. (School boards routinely approve of any teacher applicant who has the approval of administrators. Denial to applicants who have successfully passed the interview process is rare.)

When the principal told me of the news, she was upset because she believed it was unethical. Besides, she knew I was good for the school and could tell that the students would enjoy having me as a teacher. She explained that the school board's decision was final and that the chair could not overrule or veto that decision.

The school board chair, the principal, and I all acted in good faith and were looking forward to the coming school year. Do I have any recourse in this matter? Do I not have the right to know why I was denied the job after the principal and school board chair promised it to me? This makes me suspect the unspoken reason for not approving the contract was not defensible by law.


These offer letters typically state explicitly that the offer is contingent on approval by the relevant governing board. This is sufficient to thwart promissory estoppel. Such highest-level overturning are frequent enough in the US that a reasonable person would know that the principal (for instance) does not have final authority to make a contract.

There is no requirement that the board justify their decision to you. If you file a lawsuit alleging racial or religious discrimination, and if you can make a prima facie case for discrimination,you might survive the motion for dismissal, and the board might be required to say why they didn't hire you.


Did you actually receive a job offer?

If you did, you can sue for breach of contract. Bearing in mind that a conditional offer (e.g. subject to board approval) has not been breached if the condition is not met.

Did the principal or the chairman actually promise you a job offer and, if they did, did they know that you were going to take the steps and incur the costs you did in reliance on that promise?

If so, you can sue under the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

Note that there has to have been a clear, unambiguous promise - not a suggestion or are “I’m sure the board will agree with us”. You then have to have made it clear that, on that promise, you were going to quit your job etc.

If neither of those things happened

You have learned a valuable but expensive lesson.

  • 1
    Yes, I was offered and accepted the job the same day as the interview. I was even quoted a salary and benefits, which were agreeable to me. Board approval is routine. The principal stated that she had never seen this happen in all her years in education, and neither have I. I strongly suspect that the board did not approve due to either a religious or ethnic concern, both of which are violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The board's refusal to state a reason seems to protect it from those charges. Jun 23 '19 at 16:37
  • 3
    "Board approval is routine" - apparently not.
    – user4210
    Jun 23 '19 at 21:19

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