Pharmaceutical giant, Merck, is being sued by a woman who was in the process of being hired by the company. She was given employment information and was offered a job over the phone by a Merck recruiter. After receiving the offer of employment in the mail, she quit her job at Crown Bioscience and made a down payment for a townhouse that was closer to Merck. The offer was later rescinded by Merck because the woman’s temporary visa expires in 2020, which means the company would have to sponsor her during the application process. Although her contract litigation claim of promissory estoppel and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing against Merck were dismissed, the court granted her leave to amend the negligent misrepresentation complaint.
U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter dismissed the plaintiff’s claim of promissory estoppel on the grounds that at-will employees may not sue for promissory estoppel under Pennsylvania law. The promise of employment was contingent, so it was not actionable for promissory estoppel purposes. The court determined that the claim would have been dismissed, even if the promissory claim was allowed for at-will employment.
Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceed with Misrepresentation Claim
The court disagreed with Merck’s argument that the economic loss doctrine prevents recovery for damages, so the plaintiff was granted leave to amend the complaint. According to the court, it was clear that Merck and the plaintiff were in the process of establishing an employer/employee relationship. The plaintiff was given employment information, which implied a job offer. Companies are aware of the fact that prospective employees use the information provided to decide whether or not to accept the position.
The plaintiff claimed that she assured the Merck recruiter that the company would not have to sponsor her because she was in the United States on a work visa, but the visa expires in May 2020. The employment offer was contingent on proof of identity and eligibility to work in the U.S. She would be required to complete an I-9 form and provide the necessary documentation. After quitting her job at Bioscience, Merck rescinded the offer on the grounds that they would be required to sponsor her in the future.
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