Employer Held Liable for Intentionally Misleading Employee, Inducing Him to Turndown Competitive Job Offer

June 12th, 2013

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently handed down a victory for employees in Sletten v. Crop Production Services. The Court of Appeals ruled that an employer could be liable for damages when it made false promises to an employee that caused him to turn down a more lucrative job offer. Halunen attorneys represented the employee, Brian Sletten.

Mr. Sletten was working as a manager for Crop Production Services (“CPS”) when another company offered him a higher-paying position. Mr. Sletten enjoyed his job and liked his co-workers at CPS. He told CPS he was considering the higher-paying job offer.

When CPS learned about the competitive job offer, CPS offered Sletten a substantial raise. Mr. Slettn accepted CPS’s offer of a raise and turned down the other job as a result. But CPS never actually gave Mr. Sletten the raise he was promised. Instead, CPS secretly hired Mr. Sletten’s replacement and then fired Mr. Sletten shortly thereafter, leaving him without any job at all.

The district court dismissed Mr. Sletten’s claims for fraudulent inducement and tortious interference with business expectancy, but allowed his claim for promissory estoppel to go to trial. Mr. Sletten won his promissory estoppel claim at trial and then appealed the dismissal of his other claims.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and remanded Mr. Sletten’s fraud and tortious interference claims for a second trial.

The Appellate Court’s reversal was based on evidence that CPS lied to Mr. Sletten when they promised him a raise and only intended to keep him through the spring, a particularly busy time for the business.

This is an important decision because it highlights that an employer can be held liable for fraudulent inducement and tortious interference if it makes empty promises to lead an employee to turn down a competitive job offer.

Download the Unpublished Opinion.

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