Employee’s “Offer Letter” Binds Brown University

A Rhode Island Superior Court judge rules that an offer letter to a prospective dean was a binding contract between the dean and Brown University.  In an unsigned fax, Brown had promised that if the prospective dean agreed to come to the university, his wife would be given a job, too.  She was given essentially the same job protections as a tenured faculty member, though she was not given tenure.  The court found the offer letter to represent a “meeting of the minds” with the power of a binding contract requiring the dean’s wife to be reinstated.  WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU:If you are an employer, you need to make sure that pre-contract negotiations in writing very explicitly show that they are preliminary discussions intended to bring the parties closer together, but do not constitute a meeting of the minds.  All preliminary negotiations should be followed up with formal contractual documents in writing superseding all previous writings.  If you are an employee, the same formalities are helpful.  However, if your employer fails to draw up a formal contract after preliminary negotiations, and you are given a job, a court may enforce written preliminary negotiations like a contract.  Contact Muller Law or your attorney for more information about how this applies to your particular situation.