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A friend of mine used to work as an intern is 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 for 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 fried 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 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 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.

  • Is there a contract with a specified start date? – Solar Mike Feb 11 at 12:52
  • @Solar Mike: Yes. Supposedly an amendment will or should have been sent, but is not signed yet. – Mefitico Feb 11 at 12:55
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    Not signed then not worth the paper it is written on... – Solar Mike Feb 11 at 12:58
  • @JoeStrazzere : I doubt there is an specific law against it. But as asked by SolarMike, there was a contract saying when the internship should start and there was a notice period to be observed before quitting the previous internship. Breach of contract allows legal action anywhere in the world. Notice that the point is to avoid legal action altogether and threats of legal actions. – Mefitico Feb 11 at 12:58
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    Just to address some comments, violating contract is not breaking the law. And they haven't broken anything yet, they just indicated they want to update the contract. Your friend is not without recourse because he already has a signed contract with a start date. You're thinking of dispute resolution. – rath Feb 11 at 14:47
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Usually, a signed contract is not invalidated by verbal communication - so don't jump into conclusions. There has to be a written communication mentioning about the delay and change in the contracts / bonds.

I believe you're guessing the part where the salary / stipend will not be paid out (which is the same I believe, too), however, since this is a very very last minute notice, I'd propose to check with the BigCorp once again to have the possibility of getting the reimbursement (technically, it's not a salary - as the contract is not signed yet). I will also suggest - not to bank upon getting it.

There's no harm is asking - so just ask.

It's a tough situation, and there's nothing much you can do about it (unless there is a specific law which covers you in this case). Try to get some part-time or freelance work to cover for the month.

  • @SouravGhosh whose judgement are you invoking to say it is the "best" advice? "good" is appropriate here... Also it is the change of contract that is not signed - the original is signed... – Solar Mike Feb 11 at 13:43
  • Are you that confident there is no harm in asking for reimbursement? Would you not look down on an intern who arrives demanding payment for a month he did not work? He may have his reasons for doing that, but I think this is a fairly delicate matter, as in any BigCorp you can't just sign someone a reimbursement. Also, should that be asked to RH? To the direct supervisor? – Mefitico Feb 11 at 14:35
  • @Mefitico Are you mixing up between asking and demanding? Get your facts correct, there's nothing wrong is asking. Best case, you'll get what you're asking for, worst case, you're already into it. What else can happen? – Sourav Ghosh Feb 11 at 14:37
  • I don't think it's not salary because the intern has a signed contract with the start date. So, it's salary. If the company has nothing for him to do for a month, that's up to them. Then again I'm not too familiar with employment law to add an answer of my own. – rath Feb 11 at 14:45
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    @rath In that case, yes, but I really doubt companies will sign employment contract before the employee actually joins. This is difficult for two reasons - 1) the employee may still be working 2) to avoid cases like this. – Sourav Ghosh Feb 11 at 15:17
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Even if your friend have a signed contract, the company can still fire you w/o any compensation due to intern contract. Even in Brazil very strict law, interns can be fired w/o any due notice and with no compensation other than "proportional vacation time".

My advice would be to try to ask them, but be prepared to suck it up if the relation with the new company is really important.

And please, don't even think about legal action for such a small reason. That will leave your friend marked for the rest of your life as "problematic employee".

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I would suggest he talk to the company and explain that the delay has caused him a financial hardship as he was expecting to start on the date of the signed contract.

Ask if it would be possible (being polite) for some sort of compensation, just to cover his ongoing living expenses for that period. (rent & food maybe)

Don't get your hopes up though!

He could also ask if he could actually start on that date and use the first month to familiarise himself with the company

Does he know why it was delayed?

  • He doesn't know why as of now. Also the company has some serious integration process, so it would not be possible to come by and try to start on signed date. – Mefitico Feb 11 at 17:33

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