63

I started working as a remote(work-from-home) intern at a very young startup. The internship is for 3 months and I just learned I will have to attend a 3-hour meeting every night. For every meeting missed, a day will be added on to my internship completion date. This will not work out for me. How do I tell them that I won't be continuing with the internship?

  • 25
    What country/jurisdiction? That may be relevant, for local customs if not laws. – PeteCon Jan 31 at 15:23
  • 6
    Is this a paid internship or tied to your schooling? – cdkMoose Jan 31 at 17:55
  • 10
    Why are you doing this internship? If it's with the school then it's the school that decides the hours. So you can just ignore it. – Bakuriu Jan 31 at 17:58
  • 7
    Why are the meetings at night? Are they part of the working day for them, but you're in a different timezone? Or what is the situation exactly? – marcelm Jan 31 at 21:10
  • 5
    "Work from home" and "attend a meeting" are confusing here. Do you mean it is a video-link meeting, or do you have to physically travel to somewhere else for three hours? – alephzero Feb 1 at 9:14
155

What is in your contract?

  • If there is no written contract, no problem. You just say thank you but no, thank you, that's not the deal we had, and walk away. Stress the part about meetings and completion date changes certainly not being what you agreed to. You have no obligation to respect deal you didn't make.

  • If the contract you signed does not say a thing about these meetings, you should say something like:

    I'm sorry to hear about the night meetings. My contract does not include such obligation and does not give you right to change completion date, and I do not agree to such changes. We may proceed with my internship as contracted, or you may decide to break our contract. If you want to withdraw from the contract, we may negotiate that.

    Be sure that you will have it clear and in writing that it is their breach of contract / withdrawal, not anything that can be considered your fault. If you needed this internship as part of your education, include someone from your school in the negotiations.

  • If this rule was in your contract, you need a labor law lawyer. It depends on jurisdiction but it probably was illegal. If it is part of your formal education, your school will probably provide you with lawyer help, and even if not - should be notified about the issue.

  • 68
    And the place of employment has no right to extend your internship, paid or not. You need to go back to your courses! It's unlikely the school would ever allow this and have it interfere with your school work. This situation is so bizarrely ridiculous that you won't have a problem getting support from your school. – Nelson Feb 1 at 1:00
  • 1
    I mean, yeah, some companies like their meetings. But this is dystopian. What could they possibly hope to achieve with this ?!? – bytepusher Feb 1 at 20:21
  • @bytepusher "Very young startup" = overenthusiastic founders who know tech, dream of being the next Google, but have no management experience. A very common phenomenon. – user71659 Feb 2 at 20:59
29

It's odd to have a completion date for a non-contractual arrangement (there being no compensation, it's hard to view this as a trade).

You can amicably inform them that the position they have kindly offered you is no longer appealing to you, and you will not require access to their systems in future. Obviously, you need to return anything which was lent to you (e.g. laptop).

  • 6
    Note that the concept of consideration (both sides need to get something out of it or it's not a valid contract) is something in common law, but in e.g. continental Europe it's perfectly valid to have a contract that is entirely one sided in who it benefits. – RemcoGerlich Jan 31 at 20:33
  • 9
    Are you certain that the experience gained is not valid consideration for an internship contract? – jpmc26 Jan 31 at 21:59
  • 7
    @AnoE, "unpaid" is in the title. – Peter Taylor Feb 1 at 12:42
  • 1
    @jpmc26 It wouldn't count in a common law country, since consideration needs to cost the giver something as well as benefiting the receiver (all that fresh air, exercise, and work ethic my kids get mowing the lawn wouldn't count as consideration if I tried to make them contractually obligated to mow the lawn without pay—ignoring issues of child labor and room and board, of course). India does have a consideration element in its contract law, but it's not exactly common law and I'm not sure what would be required there. – 1006a Feb 1 at 19:32
  • 1
    @jpmc26 All of that might be enough to convince a common law judge that an unpaid internship contract was enforceable, but in this case we don't have any space or equipment and very little information about training. If the company is just giving the student a project and expecting them to (remotely) fit in and accomplish their tasks, perhaps while ghosting on a nightly three-hour conference call that the company holds anyway, and forcing the student to work extra for every missed meeting, I don't think that would count as a valid contract under common law. – 1006a Feb 1 at 19:53
17

It's an internship, legally speaking I would imagine they have literally no power to hold you to your contract. You are working voluntarily for them. If you were a paid employee and you walked away at this point you would lose your paycheque but since you're not being paid you will lose nothing.

Send them an email saying:

On reflection I cannot commit to attending a three hour meeting every day and for that reason I no longer wish to pursue this internship. Thank you for this opportunity.

  • There could be a requirement to complete an internship to validate a diploma (this is only of the only reasons people do unpaid internships: because they are required to). Terminating the current internship means having to find a new one, which may delay things, and often admin hassle if the internship is somehow registered/approved by the school. – jcaron Feb 1 at 23:32
  • @jcaron people do internship's for lots of reasons, not just validating a diploma. Often it's just done as way in to an industry to gain experience and has no relation to a degree. – Pixelomo Feb 1 at 23:56
13

Focus on clear communication.

Before quitting, find out what the meetings are about. The meetings may be training for interns. Three hours of training could be wonderful.

If they are not training, try to find out the purpose of the meetings and why they think it is important they extend the internship if you don't attend. Find out what they want to get out of the arrangement and explain what you want from it.

If they see the internship as free labor, you can politely explain that is not what you are interested in or what you promised and move on. Don't burn any bridges; they are a young company and may have no idea how to handle interns yet. There might be great people working there who you will come across again in the future.

Don't feel any pressure to go back. The deal has to be beneficial for both sides.

2

"You're asking for too much for me to work without pay. Sorry but the opportunity cost for this is simply too great. I won't be working with you." And then you leave a bad review for the company on glass door. Leaving a bad review is standard for a company adding 3 hours to your work day - almost doubling it if you work 4hrs a day and bumping an 8 hour day to 11 hrs - and causing you to question your employment there. It's not revenge, it's truth.

That should be all it takes.

  • 9
    Can you cite any experience of this working well in this kind of situation? – doppelgreener Jan 31 at 20:53
  • OP hasn't established that he's won't "get anything out of this". (See @David's answer.) And leaving a bad review sounds like revenge. – Shawn V. Wilson Feb 1 at 7:30
  • 3
    OP specifically said that he wants to resolve this amicably, which I interpret to mean not burning bridges. This answer, if he'd given it to me, would certainly burn bridges. – AnoE Feb 1 at 10:35
  • 1
    If you're trying to describe "all it takes", all it takes is quitting. Everything else in your suggestion looks more like trying to get back at them. – Sneftel Feb 1 at 12:09
  • 1
    Leaving a bad review is standard for a company adding 3 hours to your work day and causing you to question your employment there. It's not revenge, it's truth. – Steve Feb 1 at 15:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.