I am currently laid off from my job due to the Coronavirus outbreak. My employer informed my coworkers and I in a group meeting on the day before the lay-off that we would all be brought back to work when it is safe to do so.

If my employer was to not bring me back to work after the outbreak is over, perhaps citing a work performance issue or something along those lines, can I sue them for wrongful termination after they verbally promised all of us that we would all have our jobs after the Coronavirus outbreak is over?

2 Answers 2


People are laid off all the time when sales are down, the market is bad, etc: there is no legal "right to a job" except whatever is in your employment contract. There is a legal concept of promissory estoppel which boils down to promises being binding. However, there has to be a clear and definite promise, not for example a statement like "we hope to bring you back after this is over".

Normally, the employer can argue that they have the right to fire you regardless of performance, and that would be the end of it. Let's say you have it in writing, and it is clear that they unconditionally promise to hire you back: you would want to (e)stop them from arguing that they have the right to fire you. The underlying idea of promissory estoppel is that such a promise keeps them from making that argument. But: it is not enough that they made the promise, you also had to rely on the promise and act / forbear from acting in some way because of that promise. It could be, for example, taking another job, or moving to another country, or simply looking for another job. The hard part, then, would be getting a clear and definite promise.

  • so basically what you telling me is their verbal agreement to bring us all back is basically worthless and it would have been worth asking them to put this promise in an e-mail. This e-mail then could be used in a court of law as 'a clear and definite promise' not to terminate any of us during the Coronavirus outbreak, yes?
    – user30507
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 19:39
  • 1
    The problem with a verbal promise is that there will be a dispute over exactly what was said. What would matter in this case is the exact words of the promise. Independent unbiased witnesses to the promise could overcome the elusiveity of a verbal promise. But yeah, it's a matter of trust, and if that's missing then you want writing.
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 19:55
  • 2
    @user255577 in at-will employment, even a written promise isn't worth much, since after they bring you back they can fire you for any reason (except for prohibited discrimination, of course) or for no reason at all.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 23:02

If you live in an at will state then you have no legal recourse.

  • I live in Ohio which is an employment-at-will state.
    – user30507
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 21:54

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