2 more reader updates

Two more updates from readers —

1. The reader whose client hadn’t paid her yet

Well, a few days after I contacted you, my newspaper client did actually email me back. She responded by clarifying the terms of our contract, that although I sent my full invoice at the beginning of the month, she would pay it in bi-weekly installments, starting the next week. (I think this might be because they do not have very much money themselves, which you’ll see later in the story.)

So the week of Christmas, I got my first paycheck, which was about one-fifth of my total invoiced amount. I went and deposited in my bank account. Two weeks have passed and I was supposed to get another paycheck by now, but I haven’t yet. I thought it was weird but I figured maybe I’ll get it today or tomorrow?

I went online and checked my banking account. There was no money in there. What? I checked my banking history. The check from the newspaper had bounced … and I had been charged outrageous fees. I couldn’t believe it! It was such a paltry sum of money, and it got rejected for insufficient funds.

So right now I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this situation. Of course, I want to ask her for my money, plus the fees my bank hit me with. But I don’t really want a check because I have no guarantee it’s not going to bounce again. Also, in my contract it says I get paid biweekly by check, but I would like that to be reevaluated if this is an issue for them. Ugh, I hate this!

2. The reader with a jerky manager in an unsafe workspace (#6 at the link)

I wrote to you originally back in 2012 about an awful manager and some pretty horrifying work conditions.

I really, truly wanted to thank you and your readers for the responses. Seeing what they had to say really made me take a good look at how terrible the place I was at actually was.

I stuck around for about 6 months after sending in my question, but things really just got way out of control. We found out my manager had actually been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but refused to take any medication for it, which explains his odd behavior. They started rolling out terrible, sexist policies that forced the women in the office to always wear makeup and have their hair down, otherwise we would be written up. (We couldn’t wear our hair in buns, braids or ponytails, in a call center where we all wore headsets!) The policies were actually so ridiculous I made of copy of it to take home and show everyone. It’s over 11 pages long and just describes exactly what women should look like when we’re on the job. Strangely, however, there were no restrictions on what the men could wear/look like. As for the other things, like black mold on the ceiling and rusted fire sprinklers, people put in complaints with OSHA, but from what I hear that still hasn’t been fixed.

However, none of that is what made me actually leave the company. It wasn’t until I was told not to talk to anyone (management, law, coworkers, ect.) about a customer who committed suicide on the property. Without explaining the details of the situation, I had been frantically trying to get security to check on the woman for over 40+ minutes, and when they finally reached her, she had passed. They asked me not to talk about it because had they gotten to her sooner, they actually could have saved her life. The situation they put me in stressed me out so much that my hair started falling out, and I would just cry for hours before going to work, to the point where I would vomit. Just thinking about it today makes my blood boil.

This will be the only job that I ever quit without notice, which I know is not something I should do, but I went in about 2 hours before my shift and told my manager that I was done. I was without a job for a couple of months, but I had my sanity and dignity back. Now I work at one of the greatest places in the world, a place that actually cares more about its workers’ physical and mental health than just getting the work done. I wish I had listened to everyone’s advice sooner to get out of there, but if nothing else I hope someone out there will see this and realize no job is ever worth suffering over!

I’m forever grateful for your advice on resumes, interviewing, and terrible awful jobs.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonPuff

    :O
    D:

    ^ me after hearing about the poor customer at the casino, oh my gosh. :( I have no idea how I would have handled that, what a terrible situation. I’m so glad you have a new, caring, job though OP2!

    1. Just Ugh

      Sorry, that’s not an “awesome update.” It may be awesome that the OP is out of there and has a much better job now, but everything else about that update is terrible. All the other people at that casino are still trapped with even more horrid conditions that aren’t being addressed, and how on earth can a business ask anyone to not talk to law enforcement?!?!?

  2. Becca

    OP #2:
    Wow. I’m so sorry that happened. I cannot believe they tried to tell you not to tell the police about how long it took them to respond to the poor woman. The situation was reprehensible before you got to that part, but that just blows my mind. I am so so sorry you had to deal with it.

    1. ella

      Same here. My heart goes out to her, and to the customer’s family.

      OP, if it helps, you played a very, very small role in a very complicated problem. You’re not responsible for the customer’s death, not even the least little bit. It sounds like you’re on your way towards forgiving yourself, and that’s good, give yourself credit for all that you tried to do–and don’t beat yourself up because the outcome wasn’t different. The woman was dying before she ever stepped foot on your property.

  3. ArtsNerd

    Oh no, to both updates!

    I’m so sorry things have deteriorated, OP#1 – one thing you can do is say “given the last check that bounced, I can’t do any more work for you until you pay my fee plus bank fees in the form of a *cashier’s check*.” And stick to it.

    OP #2, I want to cry for what you’ve been through. I am so glad to hear you are in a better situation now, but that is, as Becca said, reprehensible. Don’t give another thought to whether quitting without notice was the right thing to do, because it was. This situation is an exception to that rule.

    1. The Clerk

      They hadn’t been giving the OP work for a while, which was part of the reason she was concerned for her status. Saying she won’t work for them until she’s paid won’t help if they weren’t planning to engage her anyway.

      1. April

        Right. I think it is definitely beyond that point. She should indicate that she intends to seek legal recourse unless cashiers check is in hand in her hand by x date (something measured in days from now, not weeks) – and then follow through vigorously.

        Even if they did seem to want her services in future, it would be beyond the point of simply threatening to discontinue services. Sorry, you just don’t send a bad check. If the money isn’t there, tell the person and work out an alternate payment plan. Do not send a bad check. No. I would not do any more work period for a client who ever did that. I don’t just mean no more work until they made good, but no more work. They have totally lost my trust if they do that and if they drag their feet *at all* about replacing the bad check, then definitely pursue whatever it takes to get them to do so.

  4. Robyn

    I would go even further, OP1, than what ArtsNerd said.

    “I will not do any future work until all of my outstanding fees, plus bank charges, are covered via either direct transfer or cashier’s cheque. And then we can renegotiate my contract to reflect this payment process going forward.”

    They broke the contract when the cheque bounced.

    I’d also be looking for a new client ASAP.

    OP2 I’m so glad to hear you’re out of there and you found a better job.

    1. EngineerGirl

      I agree with Robyn. They broke contract so you are no longer bound by that. I would immediately demand payment and also renegotiate for any future payment by cash or cashiers check.

      1. Jessa

        Exactly and depending on where you are if you are in the US some states you don’t even have to go to small claims court. In Florida you can hand the information over to the state’s attorney. They send an official letter, then the sheriff and it goes from there. In that letter they get x amount of time to pay by certified type of funds (cash, credit card, money order, etc.) and any fees for collection are included in that. So they pay a fine too.

        If they end up paying on like the first letter, they don’t have a record or anything really, it just gets dealt with.

    2. Super secret anon for this

      Yes, the implied contract regarding the check is that it would be a good check. They broke the contract – you have every right to insist on a secure form of payment.

      And I also would stop all work until paid, this is ridiculous.

  5. Zelos

    OP#1:

    Since your (ex) boss has basically replaced you, I don’t think you have much in the way of recourse. Sure, you can (and should) respond and demand payment via bank draft, wire transfer or other such payment methods, but if she continues to skirt the issue you might have no other recourse than small claims court. (Or if you know any legal professionals, a strongly-worded letter suggesting small claims court.)

    Good luck! Wrangling money from non-paying clients is like wringing blood from a stone.

    1. Mike C.

      Small claims court would be an appropriate response here, and one that is within the means of your average person without a lawyer.

      1. fposte

        I definitely support going to small claims court. That said, it’s good to be aware going in that the court doesn’t do collections for you–a judgment just gives you more tools to get blood out of the stone.

        1. De Minimis

          Can’t remember what the stat is, but I’ve been through the small claims process and the vast majority of people never get anywhere near what they are awarded, and many times they get nothing other than as fposte said, the options available with getting a judgment. This is why they work so hard to get the parties to reach a settlement without going to court.

        2. AdAgencyChick

          Agreed. I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in the original post as “this is a nuclear option that you shouldn’t take unless you’re certain you never want to work for these people again,” but getting paid late and with a bounced check to boot is something that I’d consider worthy of the nuclear option. It was suggested to me by Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly.com (who, like fposte, said that taking someone who’s used your work to small claims is pretty unlikely to actually produce your money) and it worked like a charm the one time I’ve had to use it:

          Send a certified letter to your contact there informing her that your check bounced, you were charged $X, and you require payment of the full amount due via cashier’s check immediately. If you don’t receive your payment within 10 days, you will be writing to your state attorney general and the BBB (more detailed list of whom to write here: http://writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/002330_01122005.html) to tell them what happened to you.

          1. fposte

            Excellent list of other options! I think there’s also merit in having the business on record as having a judgment and maybe a lien against it even if you don’t get the money, too (unless you’re just the latest in a long line), so I wouldn’t just abandon the small claims idea out of hand. But the OP would need to do the math for herself on the time spent, filing fee (generally low, but still might be more than you want to pay if you don’t think you’ll get anything back), etc. to decide if small claims is the way to go as well.

          2. Green

            Use the magic words “demand letter” and “demand” for payment for services rendered, etc. (And google “demand letter” in your state.) Don’t threaten to write anybody yet; all that threatening to write everyone and their mom says is that you don’t have a lawyer and aren’t willing to get one.

    2. Jessa

      Check with your state. Some places you don’t have to roll through small claims, I know in Florida like I said above you can sometimes go through the State’s attorney.

      Although in future contracts make sure it spells out carefully the penalties including a fee that is within your area’s allowance but covers BOTH your bank fee AND some of your time for collection. As well as “court costs,” if you have to take them to court.

  6. Not So NewReader

    Wow. Just wow.

    OP 1: When you do get a check from them, please just cash the check at the bank it was drawn on and hand carry the cash to your own bank. Hopefully, this will prevent you from having to use your own bank account as “collateral” for that check. I hope you add your additional expenses to their bill. Any company would do that, so should you. If you don’t ask then you will never receive the compensation, for sure.

    OP2: What an awful, awful thing to go through. omg. I am so sorry you went through this. You did the right thing by walking out- the situation was indeed dire. I hope time is kind to you and your new work place complete with sanity helps you to reknit and reweave after experiencing work place from hell.

    1. L McD

      Re #1 cashing it at the bank on the check – they can also call the bank and verify that sufficient funds are in the account before redeeming if that is more convenient. A lot of people don’t realize you can do this, but you have a right to this information since you are ultimately responsible for the validity of the check, as OP now sadly knows.

      1. Christine

        You CAN do that, but there is no guarantee that the money will still be there be the time the check clears the payer’s bank. OP1 is better off hand carrying it to the payer’s bank and verifying funds in real time immediately before getting the cash in hand. It would be even safer to demand a cashier’s check.

        1. sharon g

          This. The only way to guarantee you will get the cash is to take it to the bank on the check and get cash or a cashier’s check. Even if you have to pay a fee for the cc or to cash the check (some banks charge a small fee for non-customers to cash checks), it would still be worth it not to have to deal with a bounced check.

    2. kelly

      At the motel I worked at for a very short time, the paper checks would bounce if you deposited them into your account. The manager suggested taking them to a local grocery store and getting them cashed then depositing the cash in your bank account. It wasn’t a particularly well run place – the manager herself was a incompetent liar who when I asked her when this issue would be resolved did not give me a straight answer.

  7. just laura

    OP2, I think you should still talk to law enforcement about what happened. If I were a family member of the lady who died, I would want the casino held responsible for their actions. Regardless of it being a suicide or another cause of death, they behaved reprehensibly and should be accountable.

    1. Jamie

      I’m not clear if the OP followed the directives or not. Just the request to keep my mouth shut would have promoted me to quit, but it wouldn’t have stopped me from talking so she may have talked to law enforcement and still quit over it.

      Without details we can’t speak to this specific situation, but it’s a good reminder that if there is a medical or safety emergency and tptb aren’t moving fast enough don’t wait – call 911.

      Everyone has the personal authority to call for aid when needed, work doesn’t change that.

  8. Kat A.

    OP #1: Send a certified letter demanding immediate payment in FULL plus bank fees. Tell them you will go to their county courthouse and file a Warrant in Debt against them if they do not comply. Then they’ll have court fees to pay in addition to that.

    If they do not pay, file the warrant in debt in their county or city. There’s usually a small fee, like $20-$40 to do so. Gather all your evidence, make copies, and prepare to face them in small claims court.

    Don’t be afraid. This is business.

  9. Poe

    #2: Please, please, please talk to a counselor. They can help you work through having knowledge about the situation, guilt about quitting, etc. I had a former coworker who committed suicide very soon after being fired, and going to a counselor to talk about it was one of the smartest things I did.

    #1: Ugh, that sucks. I’m sorry. If you want to shake your head at other crappy clients that didn’t pay, perhaps the Clients From Hell site could help? Best of luck with getting paid!

  10. Anon

    #2, I’m so, so sorry about what happened, but I’m glad that you’re out of there and in a much better working environment. It sounds like you might still be in contact with people working there, so I hope that things really improve soon, if just for their sake! I second the poster above who said that you should make sure the police do know exactly what happened with your co-worker – and if it were me, I’d be contacting every other body who’d be interested in the number of laws potentially being broken here, too.

    1. ChristineSW

      I second the poster above who said that you should make sure the police do know exactly what happened with your co-worker

      It was a customer, not a co-worker.

  11. nyxalinth

    #2 that is just horrifying.

    I grew up with a bipolar mother, who wasn’t diagnosed until late in life. Like OP’s boss, She refused to take meds. Anyway, I’m sorry you had to endure all of that, especially not being able to help your co-worker. I can’t even imagine, and I had thought it was bad when Time Warner told a call center employee to stop giving CPR to a co-worker and made her get back to work:

    http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/10/14/woman-told-to-stop-giving-dying-co-worker-cpr/

    You know the economy sucks when you you have to let someone die in order to avoid losing your job.

    1. A Teacher

      Holy crap! Thanks for posting this. My sophomores start the CPR unit in 2 weeks, I’m going to use this article for a read-respond activity!

    2. April

      “Have to?” Poor choice of words. No, you certainly do not “have to” stop efforts to save someone’s life to save your job; your job is not in serious jeopardy. Deal with what you have to to get that life saved and cross the bridge about your job when you come to it (after emergency is over). The idiots who were there at the moment will be overruled by saner heads who praise you for your actions. (And even if there were an actual risk of your job – which is highly doubtful in the described situation – if you think your job is more important than saving someone’s life you have another think coming)

      1. fposte

        “your job is not in serious jeopardy”

        It’s quite likely it is, actually, if you’re told to get back to work and don’t. There’s no legal block to firing somebody for the insubordination, and equally stupid firings happen with regularity. The ones that hit the media sometimes result in somebody’s being offered reinstatement, but I doubt that’s going to be a long-lasting work relationship even in such a case.

        I get your point that saving somebody’s life should trump the work concern, but I think it’s good to be realistic about just what can happen–and it’s not for us to say whether the person in question can afford those consequences.

        1. April

          Maybe the world is a worse place than I think it is, fposte, but I really, really have a hard time believing that the majority of people (including supervisors’ supervisors) once the dust settles and the emergency is over with this person the clear hero doing the right thing in an life or death situation, would stand for her being fired.

          As to affording the consequences, well, most people (all people, actually), can afford to lose a job better than they can afford to lose their life.

          You could argue that job loss is a start of a chain of events that could lead to death, but in most situations (in this country at least) it is a long enough chain with enough diversion points all along the way that it’s not at all realistic to say that losing your job is a death sentence. But if I fail to administer CPR, that *is* a death sentence for the person who needs it.

          1. Colette

            Well, yes, but it’s someone else’s life. I’m not saying your job is more important in the overall scheme of things, but it may be extremely important to you. You’re the only one who knows how close you are to not being able to afford food/rent/life-saving medicine.

            And if your supervisor threatens to fire you for saving a coworker’s life, you’re not working at a place that is likely to care about their employees.

            1. April

              Sure, yes, as I said, there could be a chain of events that could make someone’s job loss eventually life threatening. But it is not immediately life threatening, so to my mind, it is not equal in weight to my obligation to do my utmost to save the person right in front of me that I have the skills to save.

              And… I bet you’d rather have someone like me sitting next to you if you were suffering a life threatening emergency than someone who thinks “oh, but its someone *else’s* life” ;)

              I don’t subscribe to the self-interest theory of ethics, but it seems that if someone did, then out of sheer self-interest they ought to promote altruism!

              1. fposte

                I don’t think Colette or I are saying that people ought not to choose CPR over job security, just that your assertion that there really isn’t any threat to the job is unfortunately wishful.

                1. Colette

                  I’d go a little further – some people are closer to disaster than others. If your child’s insulin runs out next week, will you be able to navigate the paperwork to get her assistance before then?

                  As well, CPR is a tool, not a guarantee. The coworker could still die.

                  I think most people would help, but not everyone has the economic ability to lose their job and survive.

        2. Anonymous

          In a call centre your job would definitely be in jeopardy. Can’t get off those phones for any reason!

      2. nyxalinth

        I agree it isn’t more important, and for me it’s not, but I can see where others might feel pushed into that frame of mind, right or wrong.

  12. S

    #2 –
    I am so happy for you now that you are in a much better work environment.
    I recommend you speak to a counselor/therapist about your negative experiences. Your new company might have an EAP program that could be helpful (and no cost to you).
    Good luck in your new job and I hope things continue to get better for you.

  13. RubyJackson

    OP#2, you should consider filing a worker’s comp claim against your former employer for post traumatic stress disorder and get the therapy you need to deal with this. That’s awful and the anger you speak of makes me think you’re still suffering from the experience. I’m sorry you went though that and the way your employer advised you to deal with it is truly reprehensible.

    1. fposte

      Unfortunately, you can’t get worker’s comp for psychological problems in many states, and even in those where you can, it’s extremely difficult to get it for a psychological disorder, especially when it’s not the result of suffering a direct physical problem. Even to try, you’d have to pay a lawyer. You’d also have to be willing to get an official diagnosis of PTSD and, likely, be willing to open up your own mental health history for scrutiny to prove that it was this event rather than anything else in your history that caused it.

      Great as it would be to punish this horrible employer, I don’t think this is the route.

  14. brightstar

    OP #1, I hope you get this worked out. I once worked for a company with financial problems and had paychecks bounce. They then began giving me a check, and insisting I go (on the clock) to the bank immediately to have it cashed.

    OP #2, how terrible! I second S’s recommendation of possible therapy to help you cope with this.

  15. ChristineSW

    #2:

    This will be the only job that I ever quit without notice, which I know is not something I should do, but I went in about 2 hours before my shift and told my manager that I was done.

    Normally it is not the wisest thing to do, but in your case, you absolutely did the right thing for the sake of your emotional and physical well-being. I second others who suggest speaking with a counselor; a situation like that is not easy to get over easily. Congrats on your new job and best wishes going forward.

  16. The Clerk

    OP#1, looks like your gut was right all along. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this and try to figure it out piece by piece.

    If it were me, I’d email* her calmly and state that due to insufficient funds, you will need the original amount plus fees paid to you immediately. I’d request that the remainder of your bi-weekly installments be paid by money order or cashier’s check “to avoid you incurring further surcharges” (you meaning the client), but I wouldn’t count on that happening.

    * For a little background, I used to work for a property management company and we knew that conventional wisdom seldom works when you’re dealing with deadbeats. Certified mail sounds great in theory, but half the time people just refuse it (and if they have a P.O. box as their mailing address, they can just ignore the notice until it gets returned as undeliverable). We also had more than one person claim in court that the certified envelope was empty or contained only a blank sheet of paper. Which wasn’t true, but it could have been, because there’s no way to verify the contents. Email isn’t foolproof, but they can’t refuse it or claim it was blank. Certified mail only works insofar as it occasionally scares someone simple enough to believe it means something.

    Same with (politely) demanding future payments by cashier’s check, MO, whatever. I’d at least try, but you can’t force them to. We even had provisions in our leases stating that if a check bounced, future payments had to be cash or MO. People still sent checks. It was either accept it or start the eviction process, and eviction is not something a landlord wants to go through time after time just to win a pissing match.

    If they won’t reimburse you in a timely matter or if the next installment bounces, you could tell them the next step is small claims. Now IANAL, but my interpretation of your contract is that they can make biweekly installments starting from the day you submit your invoice, but the full amount has to be paid within 60 days even if that means the last installment has to be bigger. So if you’re not squared away with all fees by then, day 61 (or the next business day) is the day I’d (professionally) lay out your plans for small claims court to them.

    I wouldn’t say that you can’t do any further work for them until this is resolved because as you stated in your original email, they hadn’t offered you anything in a while anyway. Now we know why. :/ So they’ll just roll their eyes at that one. (On the off chance they offer you an assignment, of course, you can bring it up then).

    It boggles my mind that they’re causing all this over a $50 fee. I’m sorry.

    1. fposte

      I think it’s more than $50–that was the fee per article, and the OP says she wrote several articles that month.

    2. Contessa

      If I have someone with a history of refusing mail, I use FedEx, so I have it in writing from FedEx that it was willingly refused. I also send emails with read and delivery receipts.

  17. A Teacher

    I didn’t know we were nominating for crappiest boss awards already…yeesh. Sorry to both OPs for deling with this

  18. Lindrine

    In creative fields especially, it is important to get part of the funds up front. To save you money in the long run, you may want to find a friendly local lawyer who will write up a “pay up” letter for you and have him review your contract.

  19. Erik

    #2 – good for you. I’ve done that before when it was absolutely necessary.

    It’s not worth destroying your health over a job. Glad to hear you’re at a workplace where they care about people.

  20. Jerry Vandesic

    #1, you need to consider talking with the District Attorney. Passing a bad check is often a crime.

  21. OP #1 Here

    Thanks everybody for your comments and advice so far! They are so so helpful.

    I did email my client in a nice, matter of fact email stating that her check bounced, she owes me my money plus check fees, and I would like it in an alternative form such as cash or via PayPal.

    She replied with a vague response of “So sorry. I’ll take care of it.” And in reply to my request for alternative payment methods, she refused and said “That’s not necessary, but thanks for your offer!”

    Um. Okay.

    I don’t know how to respond to this. Can I force her to pay me by an alternative method? Can I force her to pay me my full amount instead of little increments every two weeks? I’m not going to keep taking bad checks. I don’t know what kind of rights I have with this.

    (And yes, I have been to small claims court before, it was one of the worst things I have ever been through and would like to avoid again..)

    Thank you!

    1. Mander

      Um, what?? I guess I’d email her back and explain that it was not an offer, but a demand, because you clearly cannot trust the validity of her checks.

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