Definition of moonlighting:

paid work that you do in addition to your normal job

I am starting summer internship in a big tech company soon. I am also self-employed and work for a family business during my free time.

My contract with the big tech company states that I need a written permission from them before being allowed to work for another company. When HR sent the contract to me, I replied with an e-mail asking for the permission. They've said that I need to talk it through with my manager, which is on vacation and returns only couple days before my start date.

Today, I received an e-mail from HR saying that they need me to sign the contract tomorrow, because of limited availability of the signatory and the short time frame before my start date. They've said they hope I'll be able to agree with my manager on details of the moonlighting.

What should I do? Do I sign the contract tomorrow?

What if my manager will have a problem with my side-job? I think they'll be fine with it, but I don't like being put in a position when I've given up my right for choice. If the push comes to shove, I would choose to continue working for my family business over the internship.

EDIT: Thanks for all responses. I've decided to sign the contract, and in case if my manager doesn't approve, do the work for family business for free. That way it doesn't break the contract.

  • What are the penalties for breaking the contract? Jun 24, 2021 at 2:14
  • 4
    Welcome new user. It's impossible to answer this without more detail. Is your family business connected in any way to the industry at hand, or is it totally unrelated?
    – Fattie
    Jun 24, 2021 at 11:32
  • Is "my manager" and "the signatory" the same person, or different people? (i.e., Is the problem one single person on vacation or are there two overlapping vacations creating a further complication?) Jun 24, 2021 at 16:34
  • @Fattie The family business is in a totally unrelated industry. Jun 25, 2021 at 12:49
  • @DanielR.Collins My manager and "the signatory" are different people. Jun 25, 2021 at 12:50

6 Answers 6


Given that this is an internship I would suggest that deviating from their processes is risky. I would follow HRs advice and resign citing an urgent need to support family business if an agreement can't be reached on this this point. This path gives you the most flexibility and would be very unlikely to get you put onto a "Do not rehire" list.

  • 1
    OP did not give a location, resigning on day 1 could take 2 weeks. (german law) Of course, you could argue that down to leave on the same day. That is more likely to put you on the nohire list than not signing the contract in the first place.
    – Benjamin
    Jun 23, 2021 at 15:03
  • 4
    If OP has not signed a contract then he is not an employee - no need to resign from a position you do not hold.
    – Tom
    Jun 23, 2021 at 19:49
  • I read this answer as recommending to sign and just resign if the boss doesn't agree. So he would be by then
    – Benjamin
    Jun 23, 2021 at 20:39
  • Totally Agree. Go with the contract signing and start your internship. if you would be be accommodated with written permission for your family business, you can ask to expedite the matter. Also, you can always quit later.
    – Strader
    Jun 23, 2021 at 20:57
  • 2
    You would be in breach of contract or the internal regulations if you start working there while being employed somewhere else. Signing a contract in bad faith is bad for your mojo.
    – BoboDarph
    Jun 24, 2021 at 12:47

Tell them you will happily sign once this is resolved and not before. Either you get the permission, or you get to sign a contract without that clause. This will test their commitment and there process: Are they able to do this fast enough and are they willing to put in the work to make the exception work?

Since you are only an intern, it might very well be that someone decides: Nope, not worth the hassle, just tell the intern (-> you) take it or leave it.

Since you already made your mind, this will be easy for you. Only sign if you are willing to accept a no to your moonlighting request. Otherwise, they have the upper hand and are under no obligation to accomodate you.

  • 1
    They will neither give the permission now nor remove the clause (which is essentially the same). So your advice boils down to just not do the internship even though there is a realistic chance the manager would allow the side work.
    – FooTheBar
    Jun 23, 2021 at 17:01
  • 1
    HR requires that you sign, HR requires that you talk with a manager to secure what are essentially changes to the contract. If they don't like the pressure they've imposed upon themselves, that's their problem, don't let them make it yours. Defer signing until the terms you want are in writing. You can just walk away at any point if you haven't signed.
    – Tom
    Jun 23, 2021 at 19:55
  • 3
    Sorry, that's almost guaranteed to lose the OP the internship.
    – Hilmar
    Jun 23, 2021 at 20:36
  • 1
    I've had contracts like that, with clauses I couldn't sign. Best try talking them out of it and if you can't just walk away.
    – BoboDarph
    Jun 24, 2021 at 12:49

What I would do to not lose the internship (which is likely much more important to your future than helping your parents out in a family business, depending), is to:

  1. Decide whether being able to moonlight is really a deal-breaker or not. If it's not, then there's nothing more to worry about - sign the contract, try to get permission, if you don't get it tell your family they'll need to work without you for the summer (or however long the internship is). You say you would rather work for your family business than have this internship but, lacking more information on the family business, I find it very unlikely that's better for your future. Maybe it is, if it's a great business that you are an actual important part of and you'll be owning it or having a job there that pays more than a tech job when you graduate. But if your parents just want free room cleaning of their motel and you're their huckleberry, they can make do without you for an internship period for sure. (Heck, if you're helping for no money it doesn't count as moonlighting.) Make sure you are not compromising your own career and future.

  2. If it is really a deal-breaker, then sign the contract but tell HR "I understand that it's up to my manager, but I just want to note that me actually coming to work there will be contingent on him approving it." Assuming there's no long contractual notice period you don't need it in legalese.

  3. Contact your manager immediately when he gets back (leave him a message before he returns, too) to discuss and ask for permission. You will have a couple days before showing to work to get it worked out with him. They may or may not allow it - if it's unrelated to your tech work there's a higher chance, but they may be concerned (rightfully, it sounds like, especially if the position's remote) about you focusing on it.


Do not ask for permission a second time.

Cross out the clause. Replace it in pen with wording about your self-employment and family business (personally, I would only mention the family business if that's the only business you'll be moonlighting for). If you mention both working for your family and being self-employed. They may imagine that you'll have multiple clients (aside from your family business) and your request could be denied because it won't sound as reasonable.

Then, initial the changes. Highlight the changes you've made in your cover letter. Call attention to it. Ask that they review and initial the change themselves. Photocopy the entire thing and keep a copy for your own records.

Then you've done your part. Now, if the contract is being held up, it's not because of you anymore. Not only your new manager will need to approve your request, but the company's legal department will also need to approve it (assuming your manager approves it). But this way, you at least get the ball rolling.

With that said, do not assume that your request will be granted. It probably will be. But just in case, you should continue to interview with other companies until you receive a signed copy of the modified contract.


One possibility would be to take the contract, edit it yourself with the required clause (that you continue working for your family business), sign that, and send it back. From Lawyers.com:

Minor modifications to a contract can be handwritten onto the document. Clearly write the changes, and sign your initials next to each change, before signing the entire document. If the other party agrees to the changes, the other party will also initial the changes and sign the document.

For major modifications to a contract, first negotiate those changes with the other parties, then ask the person who originally drafted the document to print a modified version of the contract. All parties should review the reprinted document to ensure that the correct changes were made, then sign the newest version.

Now, most of us would likely agree that the change being sought is really a "major modification", and ideally should be negotiated and agreed to by both parties in advance.

But in this case, the company is giving you an ultimatum, and you submitting a modified contract gives a slightly increased chance that this will keep discussions going, inasmuch as you didn't give them an outright "no" in response (c.f. Dale Carnegie). It's marginally better than a counter-ultimatum, IMO.

Really your goal at this time is to keep the discussion going until the responsible manager gets back who can take responsibility and make a decision. Another tactic (which worked for me recently) is to just respond daily with more questions. Don't directly acknowledge the ultimatum or deadline. There's a risk that HR cuts you off, but not as high as the certainty of you saying "no" to them (and more cost to HR in the former case).

  • I would personally go down this road first. Either marking near the section about moonlighting that this is still to be agreed, or near the signature something along the lines of 'Pending agreement of moonlighting exception' or something similar
    – Smock
    Jun 24, 2021 at 23:02
  • 1
    I would absolutely not recommend anyone do this. It's a valid thing to do, as far as contracts go.... But it gives the wrong vibe. Hr / the company will view it as some kind of weird fraud or power move on your part.... Its also not what you were asked to do. They sent you those terms, and they asked you to agree to those terms as a condition of employment... Changing that document, their signature on it (if included) is no longer valid, and it's likely they won't have any knowledge that the terms were changed and they "agreed" to the change. This could ruin a hire if caught.
    – schizoid04
    Jun 25, 2021 at 1:10
  • Now, of course this answers point is that they would then sign... But my view is that they're likely not expecting that and may view it... Rather oddly
    – schizoid04
    Jun 25, 2021 at 1:11
  • 1
    This answer doesn't make sense. The HR team clearly advised they don't have the authority to allow moonlighting, so amending the contract means you are explicitly asking them to allow it. Which they can't do. Jun 25, 2021 at 5:34
  • 1
    @schizoid04, "I would absolutely not recommend anyone do this" : I also agree with you too. I could give this answer another -1, but that option is not available, unfortunately. Jul 5, 2021 at 20:11

Firstly I'd stop referring to this as "moonlighting". That word comes with a negative connotation. Usually means you are doing it secretly when you shouldn't be doing it... Just call it a "side job with family business".

I think you have 2 options.

1. The stackexchange politically correct answer would be: Tell them you are not prepared to sign the contract until they have addressed your concerns.

2. You'll have to apply your own common sense to decide if you are comfortable doing this or not. - I am not a lawyer and don't know the legality of this in your area, but this is what I would do:

Sign the contract, but include a paragraph of text (in your email response, I assume your doing it via email) that says: "Signed on the understanding that I can continue working as self-employed for my family business during my free time."

(I'd only do this if the family business was in a different non-competing area of business. Otherwise I'd go with the first.)

3rd Option. Sign the contract. Contact the manager ASAP and ask for written permission. If manager refuses then terminate the contract (resign).

and let's be real for a minute. Even if you continue working for your family business without permission nothing bad is going to happen, because you're an intern. Worst case, the company will terminate your internship.

  • I'm not suggesting amending the contract, I'm suggesting forming a new contract. A verbal agreement that overwrites the written contract. -- but yes, OP should check local laws
    – flexi
    Jun 23, 2021 at 18:49
  • 1
    "I'm not suggesting amending the contract, I'm suggesting forming a new contract." A contract requires both parties to agree. Chucking some text in an email doesn't mean they agree to those terms, and thus would be invalid. Jun 23, 2021 at 23:43
  • 1
    By accepting the signed contract HR is accepting the terms on which you signed it
    – flexi
    Jun 24, 2021 at 8:35
  • 3
    @flexi Without knowing the location of OP, you can't make general statements like that. There are places where your terms have to be written in the contract (or at least you need written confirmation from HR they agree on the terms). Just signing it and mentioning your terms in an email is not legally binding in many places.
    – Dnomyar96
    Jun 24, 2021 at 8:49
  • I mean... That's why I said: "I am not a lawyer and don't know the legality of this in your area"
    – flexi
    Jun 24, 2021 at 8:51

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