Can an Employer Withdraw a Job Offer If You Counter Offer?

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So you've landed a job — great! But, what happens when the salary isn't quite what you expected? This can be tricky territory, as no one wants to start off a new job with any negativity. Beyond that, many job applicants are concerned that they might jeopardize an offer if they issue a counter offer to an employer, in which they ask for better compensation.

Employment at Will

Unfortunately, in all states except Montana, individuals are "employed at-will" by legal statute so employers can discharge workers without cause.

That means an employer can legally withdraw your job offer if he or she feels put off by your request.

Exceptions to Employment at Will

Several other states provide greater latitude in their public policy regarding exceptions to employment-at-will. In most states, the employment-at-will principle extends to cases where job offers are withdrawn under the assumption that the employer could fire an employee at any point in time after the hire anyway.

In some states, candidates may be protected by a legal statute called "promissory estoppel," a statute which can be used to defend a job seeker when he or she is negatively impacted as a result of a withdrawn offer. For example, a candidate may have lost his or her original job after giving notice to their prior employer, or he or she may have incurred moving expenses to relocate for the new job.

There are other exceptions that can protect applicants when a job offer has been rescinded.

Employers can not withdraw an offer for discriminatory reasons, such as race, religion, age or gender. In addition, if a contract for services has been signed, it will supersede employment-at-will and protect the candidate.  

How to Successfully Counter Offer

Although the situation varies on a case-by-case basis, your best bet is to avoid a negative response from the employer in the first place.

After all, the manner in which you make a counter offer can impact the chances that an employer will react adversely and withdraw the original offer.

Before asking for higher pay or better benefits, be sure to thank your prospective employer for the offer and express your excitement about the position. Go about the conversation with a smile, and be polite and professional at all times.

In addition, you should be prepared to defend your request with reasons as to why you deserve increased compensation. Even if you're insulted by a low offer, don't show it. Instead, calmly and kindly explain why you are making a counter offer. Be careful not to represent your counter offer as an ultimatum unless you are prepared to leave the bargaining table without that job.

If Your Job Offer Is Withdrawn

If you do end up finding yourself in a sticky situation following a counter offer, remember that you can consult an attorney in your state to determine if you are legally entitled to any protections following the withdrawal of a job offer.

Here's more information on what to do if your job offer is withdrawn.

Read More: How Can I Negotiate a Counter Offer? | Salary Negotiation Tips | Counter Offer Letters | Job Offer Letters | What to Consider Before Accepting a Job Offer