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For two years I've been working for a single corporate client through a recruiter, via a one-year contract that was renewed once. The end-date of the second contract was this week, and I wanted to negotiate a raise because I believe I've earned one.

At the beginning of the month, my bosses at the client had occasion to mention in a private conversation with me that they have been pleased with my work and intended to renew my contract, and I told them I was glad to hear it and was also hoping to renew. (The conversation was about how our team manages deadlines, not about my contract.) So, I was expecting my rep at the agency to reach out to me with the good news and ask me what my intentions were.

By June ~21st I'd heard nothing, so I emailed my rep directly, told him I was expecting an offer to renew, that I thought this was a good time to negotiate a raise, and I quoted a figure. The 27th came and I'd heard nothing, so I emailed him again, and then a few hours later emailed the person at the agency who manages the relationship between the client and my agency -- this time just asking to confirm the end date of my current contract. Still no response. Finally, today, I telephoned him, but he didn't answer, so I left a message saying that I'd been trying to contact him about my contract end-date, and was worried that the lack of a renewed contract was going to disrupt operations at the client.

With only 15 minutes left in my workday, I reluctantly made some preparations in the name of continuity, and then I emailed my bosses at the client to let them know that to the best of my knowledge I was going to have stop working for them (and that probably I should have stopped earlier this week), that I was probably not going to be online tomorrow, and also with a brief word of farewell in case this really is the end.

Then I checked my personal email and discovered that my rep had finally replied. He claimed that my previous emails had all gone into his junk folder, and he flatly stated that their system shows an end date in December.


This whole situation seems fishy to me.

First: I'm probably in his address book, so my messages won't go to Junk. He had no trouble receiving my emails a few months ago, when I had a problem at the client and asked for his help. (To his credit, he waved a magic wand and made the problem go away.)

I think it's known that this client does not like to give out raises, and so I suspect that he saw my email asking to negotiate for a raise, worried that it would derail an otherwise guaranteed renewal, and decided to duck my messages until all the paperwork was filed, hoping to make it a fait accompli. It's also a little suspicious that I got no response from any of my other contacts at the agency -- this makes me think they're closing ranks to help this shady gambit succeed.

For the record: at no point did he (or anybody at the agency) ask me whether I wanted to renew, notify me that the client had in fact offered to renew, or notify me that a renewal had been effected.


It seems to me like I am at liberty to reject the agreement entirely, because it was made without my authorization or even my knowledge, and that it's up to me whether to give the recruiter any option to make things right. It also seems to me like I need to make up my mind pretty much immediately if I want to be able to claim that I'm acting in good faith.

What are my options in this situation? Does my analysis seem reasonable?

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  • 6
    Check YOUR copy of your contract for the actual end date, and make your decision based on that.
    – PeteCon
    Jul 1, 2022 at 3:53
  • 6
    To me, it sounds like your agent was not acting in your interests, and regardless of the outcomes here, you should consider dropping them. Jul 1, 2022 at 8:10

4 Answers 4

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First: I'm probably in his address book, so my messages won't go to Junk.

You being in his contacts doesn't mean that your email won't end up in his junk folder. Contacts aren't automatically considered "safe senders".

He had no trouble receiving my emails a few months ago, when I had a problem at the client and asked for his help.

As is the nature of email and spam filtering. Things change every day. Spammers change their tactics and methods and spam filters change to stay at pace with those tactics and methods. What went to the Inbox today may very well end up in the Junk folder tomorrow.

I think it's known that this client does not like to give out raises, and so I suspect that he saw my email asking to negotiate for a raise, worried that it would derail an otherwise guaranteed renewal, and decided to duck my messages until all the paperwork was filed, hoping to make it a fait accompli. It's also a little suspicious that I got no response from any of my other contacts at the agency -- this makes me think they're closing ranks to help this shady gambit succeed.

If your email wound up in his junk folder then it's almost guaranteed that it wound up in the junk folder of everyone else at the agency. I don't find this particularly unusual or suspect.

It seems to me like I am at liberty to reject the agreement entirely, because it was made without my authorization or even my knowledge, and that it's up to me whether to give the recruiter any option to make things right. It also seems to me like I need to make up my mind pretty much immediately if I want to be able to claim that I'm acting in good faith.

Yes. I agree. You should be at liberty and have the authority to either accept the contract as is or reject it and negotiate for what you want. You're not an indentured servant.

What are my options in this situation?

I'd say your options are to either accept the contract as is or reject it and negotiate for what you want. The agency and the client are then at liberty to negotiate with you or terminate your contract.

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  • You're probably right about the Junk folder.
    – Tom
    Jul 1, 2022 at 3:59
  • 4
    IMO the “junk folder” story is pure nonsense.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 1, 2022 at 6:10
  • 18
    Don't forget OP phone called and left a message but didn't get called back.
    – JayZ
    Jul 1, 2022 at 7:13
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Congratulations - the good news is your client likes your work enough to offer a renewal :-).

tl;dr

The bad news is that now your existing contract has expired, your negotiating position is a lot weaker than it would have been if you'd started discussing a rate increase a month ago :-(.

There's nothing stopping you still trying to negotiate a rate increase if you really want to, but you should consider whether it's worth upsetting the apple cart over, or whether it might be better to accept the renewal offer at your current rate and be more proactive at the next renewal.

Long Version

It seems to me like I am at liberty to reject the agreement entirely

You're only legally bound by the terms of any contracts you've already signed. There's good-faith expectations though, and the recruiter might try to put some emotional pressure on you to sign the existing renewal offer, but you're under no obligation to do that if you don't want to.

If you're not sure how you want to proceed just tell them you need some time to assess the situation, but don't take too long to decide because you'll be leaving your client with a lot of uncertainty in the meantime, and that will reflect on you if you do decide to renew.

Junk Emails

The whole thing about junk emails and who said what when is kind of irrelevant, tbh, although there's a lesson to learn about being more proactive about contacting the recruiter in future. Ultimately you should take responsibility for driving the renewal (and knowing when it's due!) in order to ensure you get what you want out of the process.

That might still mean letting the recruiter handle negotiations with the client, but you should be chasing the recruiter to work to your timescales, which might mean, for example, calling them sooner if they're not replying to emails, or even escalating to their line manager if they're not responding.

If you want to get really Machiavellian, you can even let the client know you're having trouble getting hold of the recruiter to discuss the renewal, and if you don't hear from them soon you'll need to start looking for other opportunities. I guarantee you'll get a call from the recruiter the same day :-).

Next Steps

Right now though, you should focus on the moving parts of the situation you're in at the moment:

  • You have a renewal offer in-hand at the same rate
  • Your current contract has expired
  • It might take a while to negotiate a rate increase, and you might be out of work during negotiations
  • The client probably won't like being surprised by a request for a rate increase at the 11th hour, and they might refuse it anyway
  • They might even find someone else to fill the role in the meantime and rescind your renewal offer

What you need to think about is whether asking for a rate increase at the last minute is worth the risk and the reputational damage it might bring to you personally. If you're looking for a significant increase then maybe it is.

On the other hand, you might just consider that you're happy enough on your existing rate to simply renew for another year with a good client who you're content to be working with, then plan to start negotiations earlier and be more proactive at the next renewal date in a year's time.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

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I think you could have even been a bit more pro-active about discussing your upcoming contract ending/renewal with the agency/recruiter. For example: starting it earlier or trying to contact the recruiter in person. However it's also the recruiter's responsibility to handle these things pro-actively. So even without you approaching them, or your mails disappearing in the spam-folder (indeed likely to be a bull-shit story) he should have contacted you well in advance.

Apart from these considerations, you are always free to accept or decline a renewal offer, whether it is presented to you in a timely manner or last-minute. So right now I think you should only concentrate on the question whether the new contract is good for YOU considering the alternatives you have at the moment. If you are not desperate you could also weigh in that the recruiter/agency has proven not to be a reliable business-partner.

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This could have all been solved with a phone call after the first non-response.

Assumption #1 - what motivation would the recruiter have to dodge your emails and not have an active contract with you? Is there any probability that the recruiter decided, "we don't want Tom to make any more money for us"?

Assumption #2 - a raise in your rate might not be passed along to the client - the agency could be 'eating' that raise. By design, you're not privy to the agency's bill rate.

Assumption #3 - This is really a misunderstanding of contracting. There was no authorization needed by you to extend a contract between agency and client, because you're not a party to that contract. You're a party to the contract between yourself and the agency. The agency can contract as it pleases with the client. Any notification to you about what it does with the client is a courtesy, at best.

Don't let those assumptions get the best of you. If you have what you need now, let some things go.

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  • 7
    -1 "There was no authorization needed by you to extend a contract between agency and client, because you're not a party to that contract." The agent is working for the OP and cannot make any commitments without appropriate authorisation!
    – deep64blue
    Jul 1, 2022 at 8:10
  • @deep64blue No, that's quite incorrect. OP works for the agency. The agency secured the work and sought OP to fulfill it. The client pays the agency. The agency pays OP, whether as a W-2 employee, 1099, or a corporation. OP is not privy to any transactions between agency and client.
    – Xavier J
    Jul 1, 2022 at 12:08
  • You are 100% incorrect, my agent works for me and can't agree a contract without my say so.
    – deep64blue
    Jul 1, 2022 at 12:24
  • @Xavier So in your eyes the agent is employing the OP? So the OP can just resign at any point and leave the agent trying to fulfil the contract? Jul 1, 2022 at 13:31
  • 1
    @XavierJ I think this sounds like a contractor working with an agent that places them, rather than a cleaner. Jul 1, 2022 at 14:00

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