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I have a family member who had a steady full-time office job in Los Angeles. He wanted a change of pace, so he reached out and got recruited by a well-known transportation company who offered him a position as a long-haul driver.

He already has a commercial driver's license from California, but it's been about 8 years since he last drove professionally, so they said he needed a "refresher course". This course is offered and mentioned on their website. So the he and the recruiter reached an agreement:

  • Course is 1-week long
  • It would cost him $1,400
  • Takes place in Arizona
  • Starts on May 9th

These details were discussed over the phone, but there are also e-mails from the recruiter, and corroborated on their website.

With these dates agreed upon, he quit his job and his last day was April 29th. He took the next few days off, and when he reached out to go get his physical exam he got nothing but silence from the recruiter. He called, e-mailed, and texted all week long, and didn't hear anything. On May 10th (the day after he was supposed to start training) they finally contacted him to tell him that they cannot offer him the "refresher course", but he'd have to take the full commercial drivers' license training course. This course is:

  • 4-6 weeks long
  • Costs $7,000
  • Also in Arizona
  • Start date unknown

So now he has been unemployed for 2 weeks, looking to pay 5x more money, and spend 6x more time. He cannot take this new offer because he would go broke before the course is completed. If the recruiter hadn't made an unfulfillable promise, he would’ve simply kept his steady job.

Is there any type of California labor law that would allow for him to ask for compensation for lost wages? If so, what kind of lawyer should we look for to get advice?

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    Did the recruiter actually make an offer, including the condition of the refresher course, and did your family member accept that offer (is it in writing)? Or did the recruiter only suggest that an offer could be made once the refresher course was completed? If the family member quit without an actual offer in hand this is different than quitting with a signed offer (with conditions). Which is it?
    – J...
    2 days ago
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    Is that even a legitimate company? That looks like your every-day "give us some money, oh wait give us some more money, ..." scam, especially since the "refresher course" is offered by the same company.
    – user
    2 days ago
  • 2
    Related YouTube video: youtube.com/watch?v=phieTCxQRLA
    – plocks
    2 days ago
  • OK, that video is hilarious!
    – mikem
    2 days ago

3 Answers 3

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Is there any type of California labor law that would allow for him to ask for compensation for lost wages?

Your family member might have a claim of [intentional?] misrepresentation. Simply put, it is unjustifiable for a well-known transportation company to misrepresent for too long the requirements its drivers must satisfy. Assessment of other legal theories such as breach of contract or promissory estoppel requires a detailed knowledge of the interactions and terms between the parties.

Freeman & Mills, Inc. v. Belcher Oil Co., 11 Cal.4th 85, 107 (1995) points out that "courts will generally enforce the breach of a contractual promise through contract law, except when the actions that constitute the breach violate a social policy that merits the imposition of tort remedies". Misleading and belatedly avoiding a hiree who relied on the company's conduct contravenes public policy because of the ensuing disruptions and uncertainty the company could and should have avoided. Accordingly, see Robinson Helicopter Co., Inc. .v Dana Corp., 22 Call Rptr. 352, 361 (2004) ("[A] plaintiff advances the public interest in punishing intentional misrepresentations and in deterring such misrepresentations in the future.").

Generally speaking, the doctrine known as economic loss rule bars claims of negligent misrepresentation involving no property damage or personal injury. That is in order to preempt a party from sidestepping contract law. However, the extent of the company's conduct as you describe it might forfeit the protections embodied in the doctrine of at-will employment.

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    @Marquizzo "What kind of attorney should we search for to book a consultation?" I don't know what to suggest. I myself am generally skeptic of lawyers. I have seen case records where the plaintiff lost because his attorney did not comply with procedural requirements. Likewise, there is a multitude of appellate opinions reflecting that the plaintiff's attorney either missed the statute of limitations or took the case ($$$) despite knowing that the claims had prescribed. A lawyer might also not notice decisive implications or subtleties of the controversy at issue. May 12 at 22:12
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    I see... I just don't think my family member nor I are qualified enough to open a case against a large transportation corporation. I presume they'd have their own legal team whereas I am an absolute novice. I don't even know where to file the complaint. Small claims court, I presume?
    – Marquizzo
    May 13 at 4:22
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    @Marquizzo I would recommend a labor attorney. Pursuing a labor legal action like this without professional representation is something that very, very few people can do successfully. 2 days ago
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    @IñakiViggers Yes, parties can get in trouble for having incompetent lawyers, but a lawyer is much more likely to understand and follow the procedural requirements than a layperson.
    – Andrew Ray
    2 days ago
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    @Marquizzo This sounds more like a total scam from the beginning, and I would not be surprised if your family member has never been in contact with anyone from the "well-known" company. It's easy to send someone a link in the mail going to a website that looks legit. When they heard he had already quit his old job they knew they could increase the price.
    – pipe
    2 days ago
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There was never a job. Your relative is simply the victim of a scam or ripoff.

What is unclear is whether this company is 100% scam or is just a ripoff hawker of overpriced training.

...been about 8 years since he last drove professionally, so they said he needed a "refresher course"

This is hogwash. There is no DOT requirement like this. I maintained a California CDL for 9 years and never once had a job where I used the CDL more than a couple of hours a month.

If it was a company requirement, the training would have been provided after hiring, with your relative being on the clock during training.

•Takes place in Arizona

A bit implausible to suggest that something as ubiquitous as CDL training cannot be found in a region as well populated as Los Angeles. This should have been a tipoff to the ripoff.

And again, if it was employer-provided training, it happens on the clock.

...when he reached out to go get his physical exam he got nothing but silence from the recruiter

This should be another tipoff to ripoff. Scammers don't have a contract with an occupational health clinic, so the recruiter had no good response to the request.

On another note, this might be a sign your relative was dealing with a slimy recruiter for a trucking school rather than an out-and-out scammer. A scammer probably would never have thought of the physical exam aspect of the job they are pretending to hold out

Conclusion

If the recruiter is a bonafide peddler of a questionable training product, maybe your relative can take them to small claims court. California small claims can recover up to,$10,000. https://www.courts.ca.gov/1256.htm

If the recruiter was a 100% scammer, then their real name is probably unknown, and trying to sue would be fruitless. Best to just learn a lesson and move on.

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    "their physical just happened to come due during this job change process? That smells very fishy." Some genuine employers do require their new hires to complete the physical before their first day of employment. "maybe your relative can take them to small claims court." Absolutely, but whether the limit in Small Claims [in CA] is $7,500 or $10,000, within few months the family member's losses can exceed that amount. The remark about CDL courses in LA is quite agreeable, but the communications with the recruiter/company might explain why the course "has" to be taken in Arizona. yesterday
  • @Iñaki Viggers yes I think you are right. Now that I look at the OP's phraseology, they"reached out" to the recruiter for the physical, that sounds more like an employer physical than a DOT physical. At the same time, the recruiter's unresponsiveness at that point further points to a scam. Scammers don't have an occupational health clinic on contract. I will edit my answer. 13 hours ago
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Like most US states, California is an "at will" employment state, which means that in lieu of an explicit contract defining a minimum duration, you can be fired for any reason as long it isn't one of a specific set of illegal reasons (race, marriage etc). Therefore, it is legal to revoke a job offer, and they don't have to have a "good" reason for doing so, it just can't be an illegal reason. You can hire an employment lawyer to evaluate the situation. In light of the fact that they suddenly want to require a full training course at five times the original cost, it is conceivable that there is something going on that is below-the-board.

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    This isn't a case of firing someone, though. It's a case of making an agreement (written, it seems) and then not following through on it.
    – Mark
    May 13 at 1:53
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    Yeah, I agree with Mark and don't think at will employment applies here. The situation described sounds like it could be a bait and switch potentially rising to the level of illegality, especially if they were knowingly deceiving the person they were recruiting.
    – PC Luddite
    2 days ago

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