Employer changed offer; can I contest it?
November 8, 2006 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I applied for an internship with the understanding that I would be making a certain amount, but the offer letter states a lower amount. What are my options?

I responded to an online posting (which is no longer available, unfortunately) for a position at $15 per hour -- not $12-$15/hr, but "$15/hr." During phone interviews I mentioned and confirmed the $15/hr figure with the person hiring me several times. However, upon receiving the offer letter, I am being offered $12/hr, which is substantially lower.

I realize the company has great leeway in offering me compensation based upon my experience, but since the original agreement was for $15/hr should I try to challenge this offer? Do I have any chance of succeeding? I'm confused and a bit pissed off, since I feel like I was lied to (or at least not told the entire story). I would prefer not to resort to legal remedies, since it would not be worth my time for the payoff involved.
posted by armage to Work & Money (12 answers total)
Sure you should. "I'm sorry, but when we spoke, we agreed the wage would be $15/hr - there must be a mistake in the letter, since it mentions $12. "

There's a chance they may say, "well, we changed our mind," in which case you can press them to honor the agreement, and then decide whether you want the internship more than the extra bucks per hour ( what they're banking on.) If you're willing to walk away if you don't get the agreed wage, and make that clear, you have a shot of getting what you want.
posted by canine epigram at 9:02 AM on November 8, 2006

I agree - start not by treating it as a big scam, but by treating it as an honest mistake. 'During the interview we discussed and agreed on $15 per hour, but the offer letter has a mistake - it says $12. Can you send a corrected letter?' Best possible scenario, they realize it was a mistake and fix it, no harm done.

If they then try to argue the $12, you'll have a better sense of where they're coming from. Decide before you go into the call if you're willing to work for a) $12 an hour and b) someone who deliberately tried to scam you. If you're not, and they insist on the $12, walk away. Also decide if you're willing to work for a) $15 an hour and b) someone who deliberately tried to scam you - because if they don't immediately make a correction but you eventually win, you might get what you want, but do you still want to work for these people?

Your basic choice, though, is going to boil down to take the job on the terms you can re-negotiate or not take it. The likelihood of having any legal remedies, given that you haven't started yet, is pretty limited.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:13 AM on November 8, 2006

The difference between $12 and $15 is pretty big. I would stick to my guns on this, but be polite. Assume there has been some sort of mistake and make reference to the explicit statements of $15 that were made.

You'd be perfectly justified in not working for $12, and unfortunately, that's gonna be your only option. However, if they really baited with $15 and switched to $12, do you really want to work for them? You're not asking for anything unreasonable, don't budge on $15. Internships are great for experience and learning; this should be a great opportunity to learn not to let people screw you over.
posted by bluejayk at 9:14 AM on November 8, 2006

This is exactly what I've been thinking, folks. Thanks for the comments. I'll definitely treat it like the mistake it could be, especially since the person who hired me (technical division) and the person who likely drafted the letter (HR division) are different.
posted by armage at 9:18 AM on November 8, 2006

Write a letter back to them accepting the offer contingent on the original $15/hr offer. Don't be a budding lawyer about it but keep it business-like in a one-sentence statement:

I appreciate and am excited about the opportunity to work for your company. I accept your offer of the internship based on the agreed upon amount of $15/hr during the phone interview. Please contact me as soon as possible if this is satisfactory so we can schedule a starting time convenient for you.
posted by JJ86 at 10:01 AM on November 8, 2006

Personally I'd phone them rather than write a letter back (JJ86's suggestion) since a letter gives the impression you think they're screwing you ... when it could be an honest mistake.

Plus a call is likely to get the situation resolved quicker.
posted by mr_silver at 10:51 AM on November 8, 2006

If you value the internship more than the money, then I would take it. Most of the internships that I was familiar with as an undergrad were all unpaid, so you're lucking out here.
posted by dr_dank at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2006

Personally I'd phone them rather than write a letter back (JJ86's suggestion) since a letter gives the impression you think they're screwing you ... when it could be an honest mistake.

I once sent an e-mail to hundreds of colleagues referring to a female boss as a "man," because I had reused an old letter which referred to her predecessor (who was a man).

I could see myself on a bad/busy/strssful day opening up the letter to last year's person (who worked for $12), entering your name and sending it to you because I forgot to change the hourly rate.

It really might be an honest mistake. Call first and see what happens.
posted by 4ster at 11:11 AM on November 8, 2006

Just as a sidenote, much of this will depend on the length of the internship and whether it is full or part time. If the internship is just for a semester and is part time, it may not be worth the effort. Use your best judgement of course but not all internships are the same in these regards.
posted by JJ86 at 2:15 PM on November 8, 2006

The internship is part time but on an ongoing basis -- I'll work for a given duration (2-3 months) and then they'll see if they want to hire me for more. It's not a fabulous job, but I need the money and it's enough in my field that the experience would be good. But, as others have said, even if I worked for $12 (which I might still do) it's the principle of the thing...

I will call him tomorrow and politely discuss it, since they've requested that I fax them the letter once I've signed it. I'll let you know the results! ::crosses fingers::
posted by armage at 4:17 PM on November 8, 2006

Also, it could be the person you interview with was willing to pay you the $15/hr, but once the HR dept. got ahold of things, they said no.

I recently had this happen to me with a person I was trying to hire. All parties (me, my boss, the candidate) were happy with the rate, but HR sent out a much lower offer. Needless to say, he didn't accept.

I'm not sure what "legal remedies" you are referring to. The offer letter is what counts, what grounds do you think you would have? They made you an offer. You can accept, reject, or try to re-negotiate. Threatening a lawsuit? Laughable....
posted by blind.wombat at 4:59 PM on November 8, 2006

After speaking to the man who hired me, I decided to take the job. I debated it for a while, but I came to the conclusion that I won't be able to find as good a job in the short-term and the pay is better than what I was being offered at other places. However, if they turn out to screw me over, I can just quit :-D

Thanks again for your advice, folks.
posted by armage at 7:04 AM on November 10, 2006

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