A friend of mine used to work as an intern at a small company and accepted an offer as an intern in a big company. He quit the small company in December because (due to local law) interns are entitled to 1 month of paid vacation. The internship on the big company was supposed to start by February, according to a signed contract.
On the Friday, before the starting Monday of the new internship, the big company called and said that "due to internal reasons", the starting date was being delayed by one month. A contract amendment should have been sent to adjust the date, but is not signed yet. This supposedly leaves my friend without any salary for this month, which is a big deal for him.
I guess in a perfect world, the big company would take the initiative to simply pay the intern for the one month delayed. The intern did not work but reserved his time and was given no reasonable heads up (one month is the notice time for interns too). In the real world, one could take legal action against the company, but if one still wants to be hired after internship, this is a really bad idea. Also, the time taken by this process would not prevent the short-term damage of missing a monthly payment.
What would be the reasonable steps to try and recover these losses in fairly short term while not jeopardizing the image in the big company?
He is already looking for some free-lance work and considered talking to the old boss, but no big hopes there.
EDIT: To clarify: Location in Brazil, where labour laws are strict and so are internship laws. The university is required to sign and approve an internship contract, hence it does contain a starting date and a reference termination date.
Despite the legal discussion, because labour laws in Brazil are very strict, taking legal action against a company gives you a terrible reputation. If you've sued the last 3 companies you've worked for, there's a big chance you've become unemployable for life. And companies often give fairly good reasons to be sued, mostly due to laws being complex.
Again, the question is about addressing the short term damage with the company while keeping in good terms with the company. Threatening legal action or throwing contracts on people's faces would give a very bad impression and my friend still wants to be hired by the end of the internship.