my boss wants 20% of my salary from my next job

A reader writes:

I recently told my boss that I am looking for a new job, and that I would be leaving his company within four weeks. When I had a few offers, I met with the boss and discussed them with him, especially since one of the offers is a current client. He said that he wishes me well and that he will waive adherence to the “non-compete” clause, as the client is not changing any services with his company. A few days later, my boss calls me and says that he feels that it is fair that I pay 20% of my new salary as a conversion fee to his company.

He said that it was because of him that I was able to interact with the company, and most recruiters charge 20% of the new salary as a fee. I would have to pay about $25,000 to my old boss because I have a new job. He said that it was only fair since he was “nice enough” to let me out of my non-compete clause. Is this legal?

Sure, it’s legal for him to ask for it, just like it’s legal for him to ask for your first-born child or a lock of your hair.

It’s also legal for you to laugh and laugh and laugh, and give him nothing — no child, no hair, and no money.

He has zero claim to any portion of your new salary. He has zero claim to even a single dollar from your wallet.

Yes, you met your new employer through your current job, as hundreds of thousands of people before you have done. That’s a very normal thing. It’s a huge part of what networking is.

The type of recruiter fee he’s referring to is paid by the hiring company, not the person being hired — and only when there’s a pre-negotiated contract agreeing to said fee.

As for the non-compete, loads of employers have people sign overly broad non-competes that won’t hold up in court. You’d be well-served by having a lawyer look at yours.

But what your boss is asking for is ludicrous and outrageous. Do not pay him any money.

I do worry that he will try to torpedo your job offer with this client when you decline to turn over your money to him. It would be good to be working with a lawyer before he hears your answer, because your lawyer might be able to warn him off doing that, possibly citing tortious interference (illegally and intentionally damaging someone’s business relationships) or something similar. Note that I’m not a lawyer and can’t say if you’d actually have a case … but a good lawyer is likely to have lots of tools at her disposal to get your boss to back off regardless. Call one today.

{ 325 comments… read them below }

      1. Emi.*

        I got my first 20% of someone else’s salary by just walking up and asking! Also my first lock of someone else’s hair, and my first someone else’s firstborn child.

        1. Allison*

          It sounds like something a business exec would publish on LinkedIn. “I got what I wanted because I went up and asked for it! And I didn’t take no for an answer! This is the secret to success! If you want something, just go for it! INSPIRAAAAAATION!”

          1. Squeeble*

            Right? I find it so amusing that LinkedIn is such a treasure trove of bad, cliched business advice.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I always get wallets when I ask for them!! I’m sure the machete doesn’t have a thing to do with it!!

          1. LSP*

            I’ve got a 3 year old who has taken to spitting and throwing food and anything else he gets his hands on when he is the least bit put out. Do I hear a third?

            1. Cary*

              I’m just about ready to send mine to a boarding pre-school (the thereeanger years are hitting us hard), so we could put together a three for two deal.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        OMG, yes. This is why I am so dubious of the “You’ll never know unless you ask!” and “It doesn’t hurt to try!” advice. Even if it doesn’t end up hurting you (which it very well might), it might make you a raging asshole!

        (I always remember, in a totally unrelated context, a guy at a college party who went around my group of female friends asking each one if they’d screw him that night. No flirting, no preamble, just “hey, fuck me tonight?” When we gave him the beady stare of “WTF dude?” he said, “Hey, can’t blame me for asking!”

        Yes. Actually. Yes. I can blame, and judge, you for asking.)

        1. Czhorat*

          This is sales advice I got when working for a life insurance company. They literally told an anecdote about a guy who always has a woman because he asks every one he meets if she wants to screw. He gets slapped a lot, but also screwed a lot.

          This is not good advice.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            omg everyone search Tired of Bad Boss on this page for OPs follow up… that is literally what he’s doing… asking every person AND new company… my mind is blown.

          2. Mental Mouse*

            Definitely not good advice — my sister the lawyer pointed out that the “ask every girl if she wants to screw” is actually likely to be a chargeable offense, though I forget exactly what term she used.

    1. Antilles*

      But the 1947 Employment Guide says all chutzpah is good…That’s why you should always walk up and offer to work for free forever while also providing free use of your car and house to the boss, should he want/need them!

      1. Karen D*

        Mom and Dad agree. In fact, you should bring them to work with you every day so they can provide you with valuable advice right on the spot.

          1. SQL Coder Cat*

            I actually have gotten (multiple) locks of hair from coworkers because I asked.

            Now that everyone is staring at me in abject horror, I’ll explain.

            In my free time, I’m a doll collector. I design and sew outfits for them, make wigs… all kinds of crazy stuff. One summer, a male coworker of mine with very long hair lost a bet and was going to shave his long, bleached blonde hair, and was complaining that he couldn’t even give his shorn locks to charity, because of the bleach. I (mostly jokingly) said I would love to get his hair so I could try making a human hair wig. He was horrified and then intrigued. The next day he presented me with a long braid of hair. I was able to make several Barbie wigs out of it (including one Ken doll that I made to look like my coworker pre-shave as a thank you gift).

            Since then, any time someone is getting ready to cut off several inches of hair, I always ask. Surprisingly, almost no one declines.

            1. Edith*

              Oh my gosh I can’t wait to read the AAM letter one of your coworkers will inevitably write about you.

              “She heard I was getting a haircut and asked for my hair. I went along with it because I didn’t know how to say no without being super awkward. Then three weeks later she gave me a voodoo doll of myself she had painstakingly made. Should I report her to HR now, or should I wait until I find chicken bones at my desk?”

              1. SQL Coder Cat*

                That’s one of the nice things about being in IT- absolutely *everyone* has their own weird hobbies, so everyone’s pretty tolerant of mine.

            2. Chaordic One*

              What an interesting hobby!

              Many years ago (late 1990s/early 2000s) when I lived in southern California I noticed a job ad in the L.A. Times from the Mattel Corporation for someone to style and design the hair of Barbie dolls.

              1. Nonyme*


                I once sold 200 pounds of junk dolls to a set designer for Pretty Little Liars. Think beat up hairless Barbies sold by the pound. (I have an business selling not-junk Barbies and Barbie accessories to collectors and people like SQL Coder Cat, who reroot and/or repaint them, but these were the junky ones that weren’t worth the effort of listing.)

                Years later, in an interview, I had a question pertaining to my sales experience and my favorite sale ever, and I mentioned this to the interviewer as an example of paying attention and jumping on sales opportunities when you see them (I saw the guy post on a forum that he was looking for dolls).

                I got the job.

              2. Julia*

                That show is so unintentionally hilarious it’s ridiculous. Do you know the site Recap Everything? Those recaps are so, so funny.

            3. JKP*

              This reminds me of when a friend asked for my hair. I was getting my waist-long hair cut short, and he had a new hobby making jewelry from hair like they did in the Victorian era. He had a little loom that finely braided it and made rings and necklaces from it. The ones he did looked sort of like finely woven friendship rings (link follows).

              The big difference is that me giving him my hair didn’t harm me in any way. I didn’t lose anything because I was getting it cut anyway. But asking for 20% of someone else’s salary definitely harms them.

  1. K.*

    [reads title of letter]

    … I wish I would. No ma’am. Your local bar association can refer you to an employment attorney (I found one through them when I wanted them to review my severance agreement after a layoff). I second Alison’s advice to find one, but for SURE do not give him a dime.

    1. SystemsLady*

      Or give him a single dime and tell him that’s what you think the monetary value of his “contribution” is.

      (Please do this in your head, not in real life)

    1. Sibley*

      I know for contract arrangements it can be, but it’s something the hiring company would have to pay. It doesn’t impact the employee at all.

          1. Lauren*

            I’ve had temp companies claim that I have to do it for 3 mouths to 1 year. It made me not take a few FT jobs and get out of temping.

      1. Koko*

        Surely it’s not commonly 20% of the salary either? At that rate any recruiter who managed to place 10 people in halfway decent positions each year is pulling in a cool $500K+ a year…is recruiting really that lucrative?? (I’m assuming they only take the cut the first year and not in perpetuity.)

        1. Recruit-o-Rama*

          Contingency recruiting can be very lucrative and the standard fee is 20%. A good recruiter who specializes in an industry and who has good contacts can make a very good living off of a half a dozen to a dozen hires per year. It’s also very competitive and cut throat and you spend the majority of your time selling, the next chunk of your time chasing your tail and the rest of your time worrying that you might never get paid again in your life. I did it independently for 3 years and stressed myself out to sickness with the feast or famine routine. I make less money over all now, but not it come reliably every two weeks and I sleep all night every night. :)

        2. BananaPants*

          Recruiting can be very lucrative. It’s a very feast-or-famine industry and a lot of people fail at it. It’s basically a sales job in the end and it involves a boatload of cold-calling and rejection. A friend is a recruiter and he averages one placement a month – but sometimes he’ll go 3 months without placing anyone (and thus with no income) and then will place 4 people in a week and a half. He’s the sole breadwinner for his family and it took some getting used to.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      Yes, it’s a real thing. Most commonly the new employer pays the fee. (Hence recruiters’ pressure for you to let them find you a job!) But at executive levels, it’s not uncommon for the employee to pay it to a recruiter s/he has hired.
      And as Newby points out, that agreement is signed up front- not after the fact.

      1. sstabeler*

        It helps if you see it as sales- in the recruiter for a company variety, the recruiter is finding an employee for the job- hence, the employee is the product, and the company pays. In the recruiter for an individual variety, the recruiter is finding a job for the individual, so the job is the product. Hence the individual pays.

    3. designbot*

      Yes and no. A fee, the amount of which is based on the salary eventually agreed to, but paid from the hiring company to the recruiter, is a thing. The recruiter literally taking a piece of the employee’s salary from them? No. The company hires a recruiter, not the employee.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Unless you’re one of my previous employers where they offered me a pathetically low salary, I countered with my “absolutely lowest I could take salary” and they actually returned with “oh, gee that’s what we planned to pay for this role, but because we have to pay the recruiter’s fee, this is all we can afford”. I was desperate and this was the height of the recession so I agreed. It felt like the recruiter was was taking a piece of my salary (though that was totally the employer’s fault).

        I was promised *not in writing* that I’d be taken care of at my one-year anniversary and I’d receive a raise based on the number I gave/that they were planning to pay for the role (pathetically low salary + recruiter fee), not just pathetically low salary. That obviously did not happen at the one-year mark.

        They turned out to be penny-wise-pound-foolish jerks who seemed to get some sort of thrill out of lowballing people/vendors. Learned a from them though (as in how dysfunctional a workplace can be and what sorts of red-flags to look out for in the future).

    4. Beancounter Eric*

      Used to be.

      Interviewed with a recruiter nearly 30 years ago (gee, I’m getting old!!), where, had they placed me, I would owe them 33% of my first year comp immediately….they had financing options available, however.

      It was a very short interview.

      Today, in most cases, the hiring company pays the recruiter.

    5. SystemsLady*

      I’ve actually heard of clients offering to pay contractors when things like this happen, just as a side note, though I get the impression the other way around isn’t received well.

      Not to mention asking the “recruited” employee, geez.

  2. Newby*

    He didn’t even act as a recruiter! He had no part in securing the job offer, so why would he be paid as if he had? Also, I’m pretty sure that deals like that are made with recruiters before the job offer, not after because “he feels it is fair”.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        My uncle was a VP for a large US company. He wanted to move on, and he did, in fact, pay the fee himself.

        1. Karen D*

          Ah. I know some headhunters in Europe work this way … I have a friend who works in a pretty specialized field – the deal for her was that if she approached the headhunters as a client, she paid. If the headhunters approached her, the company they were headhunting for was considered their client and they paid. But it was all spelled out in advance.

          I always thought that having the same company rep for employees and employers was far too ripe for conflict: Happy Teapot Land is looking for a teapot marketing manager, and Olivia is a client of WeHunt4U but Jason is really a far better fit – who is WeHunt4U going to recommend? But it all seems to work out.

          1. Liane*

            I have heard, although not often, of arrangements where the jobhunter pays for a “recruiter” to find them a job. But those are still covered by a contract signed ahead of time.

          2. sstabeler*

            I’m 99% sure that how it works is the headhunters provide a list of candidates that the company them interviews- basically, the headhunters draw up the shortlist for interview, and the company takes it from there.

    1. Amber T*

      I feel it’s fair that I be paid $1,000,000 every time I post something on the internet. Yes? Awesome, lots of money for me :)

      1. JMegan*

        Yes, and since I read this excellent piece of advice of yours, I feel that it’s fair that I should get 20% of that $1,000,000. Fairness for all!

  3. Jessesgirl72*

    It’s not legal to ask for the firstborn child. Buying/Selling/Bartering children is illegal. ;)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s legal for him to ask though, is it not? Like I could say “I’d really love to raise your child, Jessegirl72,” and you could say “F no.”

      1. Karen D*

        On any given day, my answer to this would be “WhenCanIDropHimOffAndCanIBringAllThoseDangLegosToo?”

        (I kid, I kid.)*


          1. Chameleon*

            Heh…my daughter’s name is your username, she is going through the terrible twos, and I had pretty much the same reaction.

          1. Merci Dee*

            Ha!! One of my favorite stories by o.henry!! I thought my daughter would fit that role quite well when she was a toddler. But she’s growing into a lovely young lady….

            …. which I fear will end in September, once she crosses the threshold into the teen years. I’m stocking up on duct tape now to cut down on the sass and back-talk.

            1. Zombii*

              If you treat her like she’s a human with rapid and arbitrary chemical reactions happening inside her brain that she can neither anticipate nor control, you won’t even need the duct tape.

              Kindness first, she’ll be fine. :)

              1. Parenthetically*

                Exactly this. A lot of compassion, a little firmness, a solid foundation of affection and common sense. Signed, someone who has been teaching teenagers for 10 years, and loves them.

            2. MashaKasha*

              I found the teenage years much easier to survive than the infant/toddler ones, if that’s any consolation. But I might be a teenager at heart myself. :)

            3. Candi*

              A study a few years back found teenagers’ brains are literally being rewired on the fly as they shift from child to adult structure.

              In other words, they really don’t have all circuits functioning properly at times.

              Knowing this has made it a LOT easier to deal with my kids. When I remember to approach a subject from a different perspective or angle, discussion goes a lot smoother.

              Of course, that’s one reason small children need good habits programmed in early; easier to access and maintain.

          2. KarenD*

            LOL he’s a good ‘un. Just a little too smart for me sometimes. In mouth AND deed.

            I am pretty serious about the Legos, though. I’ll even pay shipping. Of course, they will keep breeding in the couch so any relief will be transitory.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Hey, it’s a perfectly natural feeling! Back when I was younger, and was in a large social group where a lot of us had preschool-age children, someone once sent a mass email to the group, of a gas station where the prices were, from lowest-grade to the premium gas, “Arm”, “Leg”, and “Firstborn” (for the premium). You would not believe how many of us immediately replied to all with “Where’s this gas station? I’d like to buy the premium.” These kids are now all in their 20s, and no, if anybody asks, they can’t have them – should’ve asked earlier!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, if you’re offering money in exchange, then yes. But I think you could legally make the request with no mention of money. I mean, I offer to take my nieces off my sister’s hands all the time.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            He is trying to barter though. So I am betting at least in some States, it would be illegal.

            Not that I meant my comment to be taken this seriously! :D

            1. Emi.*

              I don’t think it’s bartering–he’s not really saying “I’ll waive your noncompete if you give me your firstborn child.” It’s more like “Aw, come on, I waived your noncompete, so you should be grateful enough to give me your firstborn child.”

                1. Jeanne*

                  My niece was amazing then completely ditched me when she went to college. I’m not as cool as I thought.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I looooooove the nieces columns, especially their response to whether or not it’s one’s responsibility to clean bathrooms and errant poop.

          2. Gene*

            Robert Asprin once offered my body to Gordy Dickson in an elevator at a con. I don’t know if there was any discussion of remuneration as I declined the offer. I don’t know if Gordy swings that way, but I don’t. Yes, alcohol was involved.

        2. Emi.*

          Probably, but he could ask to be allowed to adopt your firstborn, and say that you owe him such a debt of gratitude that you should agree. If “Aw, come on, I paid for dinner” isn’t solicitation, that wouldn’t be either.

        3. Oscar Madisoy*

          “if it’s illegal to buy and sell something, wouldn’t it also be illegal to solicit?”

          In the case of offering money for sexual favors, it is.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s generally illegal for him to ask for your child and definitely illegal for him to try to barter for it. There’s a different legal framework for surrogacy and sperm/egg donation and for person-to-person private adoption, but otherwise no, not legal to request an employee turn over their offspring.

    2. fposte*

      Speaking more seriously, if you do it in certain ways, it’s tough to catch–that’s pretty much gray market adoption in a nutshell.

  4. Anonymous Educator*

    Fully agree with Alison’s advice here. I’ll also add that I used to work in recruiting (external, not internal), and it was standard practice in my industry that we (not the former employer) would get a cut of the hiring salary if we helped the new employer hire a candidate. That was, however, agreed upon between us in advance and, more importantly, not taken out of the candidate’s salary. It was over and above the candidate’s salary and paid for by the new employer.

    So if your old boss thinks he has any standing on this (he doesn’t), the only thing that would make even a modicum of sense would be for him to make that case to your new employer that they pay him 20% of your salary, and then they can laugh in his face.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Technically you didn’t get a cut of their salary.

      You got a separate commission that was determined by doing math based on the salary amount.

      Important semantic distinctions.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, I have a lot of friends that firmly believe they’ve received lowball offers because “the rest went to the recruiter”. I’m sure it happens, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

  5. Ripley*

    “It’s also legal for you to laugh and laugh and laugh, and give him nothing”

    There will certainly be a time in my career when I will need to remember this golden piece of advice.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Today’s TL;DR summary – “It’s also legal for you to laugh and laugh and laugh, and give him nothing.”

      This one is just so ridiculous and weird…. I love that you just hard-core validated the weirdness of it from sentence one.

  6. Karen D*

    Yes, yes, yes please contact a good employment law attorney. The one I know eats non-compete clauses for breakfast — shredding them is just one of his favorite things on Earth — and I suspect that the attempt to extort money from you after admitting that he’s not harmed by letting you out of the non-compete will make this one extra-shredtastic.

    1. ToS*

      Yes. And if the attorney is not easily attained the mantra you have to support this is, as YOU were impressive:

      *I* did the WORK, yes *I* did the work!

      That is all you owe your employer, full stop. You can tell your boss that he should set up recruiting as a side-hustle and review with legal and HR for conflicts of interest, if he thinks that he has this talent.

      With this discussion, it seems his current talent is Driving.Away.The.Talent. Not really something that can be monetized.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely. Your boss is seriously contemptible (and delusional), but having an attorney will make it easier to navigate his asshat-ery. You owe him nothing, OP—not legally, not morally and not ethically.

      1. HR Jeanne*

        Agreed. Total asshat-ery. If I were HR at your company, I would also want to know that this fool of a manager had made this request, as it makes the company look terrible. Seriously, I would question the ability of this person to manage. This is beyond.

    3. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

      TBH I’m in my second semester at law school and so far we’ve studied non-compete clauses twice, both times basically ending in, “if there are no trade secrets, it ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”

      Which is a gross oversimplification, but you get the picture. Judges don’t like to restrict trade and employment and all that jazz.

  7. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I Am Now A Llama, but the OP already has multiple job offers, so the boss has no leverage. If he threatens to torpedo them unless he gets paid, that sounds like textbook extortion to me. I hope the OP doesn’t live in a two-party state!

            1. Noobtastic*

              Also, coming up to you to lick your nose, and then sneeze right in your face, and then walk away purring. Perfectly acceptable cat behavior.

      1. AW*

        It took me a good 10 seconds to realize that that was auto-correct mangling “I Am Not A Lawyer” and not The Cosmic Avenger trying to reply to someone *called* “I Am Now A Llama”.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          No, I typed that! A few months ago (?) in the comments, someone asked what someone else meant by IANAL, and someone guessed “I Am Now A Llama??”, and I’ve taken to using that.

          At least, that’s how I remember it, and I’m sticking to that story! :D

          1. Poohbear McGriddles*

            I always figured IANAL was something one could do with their iphone but probably wouldn’t want to.

            1. Trillian*

              And I thought had something to do with spacecraft. I’m sure I read about IANAL drive in some novel or other.

          2. Candi*

            There’s also a IANAL (I Am Not A Llama) commenting in some of the older threads I’ve been reading.

  8. Detective Amy Santiago*

    IF the LW works for a staffing agency/recruiting company and IF the LW found out about this position because they are a current client who was looking to fill a position with the company, then the boss could have a reasonable claim of a conversion fee FROM THE CLIENT. But no reputable staffing firm or recruiter charges the employees.

    1. Tired of Bad Boss*

      I don’t work for a staffing company, I work in a very competitive niche of the IT market. Also, there is nothing in the non-compete clause about conversion fees, only that if I cause damages I have to pay them back.

  9. Venus Supreme*

    I’d love to hear how this story unfolds. This boss appears to be a smidge unhinged and incredibly controlling.

    1. Tired of Bad Boss*


      You are absolutely right, the boss is unhinged and he told me that he “paid for me and that I can’t withhold my talents or abilities” from his company. That made me feel horribly dirty, and I wanted to claim sexual harassment at that moment. Afterward, I called some former employees and come to find out the boss tries this with everyone who leaves the company, no matter what. At least I know that I am not alone in this, and that the boss is used to being told no.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I bet you feel so glad you have that feedback from other former employees. Sometimes the crazy boss can really makes you wonder.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Okay, I am reduced to keyboard smashing, because “paid for me and that I can’t withhold my talents or abilities” made my skin attempt to crawl right off my body and down the street, akfjd;kslj;fsak. Holy crap that’s creepy. Hold your ground, LW, you are clearly 100% in the right here, and get a lawyer to write a Stern Letter if necessary.

      3. Jeanne*

        What a creep. Get out of there and don’t look back. Just keep sayimg no to his demands and get that lawyer.

      4. NW Mossy*

        Oh, man, would I ever be tempted to respond with “You realize that what you’re describing is not employment but slavery, right? And that the pro-slavery camp lost the Civil War?”

        1. sstabeler*

          For that matter, the Supreme Court would agree- you are always able to refuse to work, they just don’t have to continue employing you if you don’t. (literally- the Supreme Court ruled that if you pay someone to do something, the remedy for nonperformance is return of the amount paid, not compelling you to do the work. Specific Performance- where the court orders the defendant to perform their side of the contract- is therefore pretty rare, being more-or-less exclusively for situations where compensation can’t really help.

      5. Zombii*

        If your employer doesn’t use employment contracts, suggest that he start doing so in the future, to avoid ungrateful employees from bailing on him. I don’t really see another way to avoid that—other than by being a decent employer, but, you know…

      6. stk*

        Holy moly. Um, that’s appalling and I’d be seriously looking into whether there’s anyone you can report him to. He doesn’t have any legal standing at all, but it’s so egregious! I’m worried about what happens when he says that to the wrong person, someone without AAM to write to.

  10. designbot*

    Would it also be worthwhile for OP to mention this to HR at her new office? That way if oldboss starts trying to sabotage her, they know where that’s coming from.

    1. Tired of Bad Boss*

      I talked to the HR manager today and she said it is best to just leave quietly and tell him no. There is nothing he can do. The problem is that this boss controls all of the company as if he owns our lives instead of being an employer.

      1. Zombii*

        No, no, I think you’re misreading it. :)

        Unless you talked to the HR manager at the new company, and they’re so aware of how your current boss operates that there’s no chance of him torpedoing your new position because everyone knows he’s b-a-na-na-s?

        1. Tired of Bad Boss*

          Thanks Zombii,

          The new HR team is acutely aware of what is going on, as is the CFO, Controller, and President in the new company.

  11. Kalkin*

    I do worry that he will try to torpedo your job offer with this client when you decline to turn over your money to him.

    I wonder, though, how the client/prospective employer would feel if they heard about this. (I assume they are unaware.) Given that they already like the OP enough to have made an offer, if they are sane people, I can’t help but imagine they might be really upset to know that her boss was getting in the way and acting so totally out of line.

    I also wonder if there isn’t more to the story on the boss’s end. This sounds like something a desperate person would do if they had made a string of bad choices and suddenly found themselves strapped for cash.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I would hope, too, that they would be horrified by the Boss’ behavior, but if they need the services provided by the boss or can’t find them easily elsewhere at a similar rate etc. it could be risky for OP.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      My guess would be if he were to torpedo her career it wouldn’t be a case of “hey client, can you believe Susie wouldn’t give me 20% of her salary?”

      It would most likely be “hey client, Susie is sloppy, unreliable and generally a horror to manage. You might want to reconsider your offer.”

      1. Kalkin*

        Right. But if they’re a current client and already know her, and assuming that before making an offer they followed standard operating procedure and contacted her references, that’s presumably going to seem very strange to them. I’m not saying it’s impossible, of course. But if I had solid enough history with a candidate to make them an offer, and everything had gone smoothly thus far, it would be really weird to get an abrupt call from her boss claiming that, no, actually, sorry, she’s not a good worker after all. At minimum, I personally would be inclined to follow up with the OP herself.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Agreed! I have no idea the two companies’ relation, but especially if OP’s current job involves doing any kind of work for the “new” company. I’d be very suspicious if OP’s boss suddenly like “her work is shoddy!”… when I’ve been paying for her work through him up until now.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          Oh yes, I agree with all that. I was really just replying to the notion that boss would torpedo and use this instance as the point with client/new employer. I think he would make up insane things.

    3. hbc*

      I don’t smell desperation, just an overly developed sense of entitlement. “You wouldn’t have gotten this job if not for me, therefore I am owed for making this job happen.” I would bet good money that he thinks he deserves gifts on Boss’s Day, but since he’s such a generous soul, he’ll accept that his employees get him a card and take him out to lunch on their dime.

      1. Willis*

        I think I might have worked for this guy. Last boss laid off our department and then *so graciously* let everyone out of their non-compete “because he was our biggest fan.”

        1. Tired of Bad Boss*


          That sounds EXCEPTIONALLY familiar. I wouldn’t be surprised that it is the same company.

      2. the gold digger*

        Ugh. This makes me think of Jennifer Weiner’s memoir, where her father, who had abandoned the family years before she became a published author, showed up at one of her readings and demanded a portion of the revenues from the book because if he hadn’t been such a bad father, she wouldn’t have had anything to write about.

        1. Maxwell Edison*

          LOL, maybe my high school frenemy will read one of my books, realize she was the inspiration for a character, and demand a cut. I wouldn’t put it past her.

        2. periwinkle*

          And didn’t Adele’s ex demand a cut of her earnings because she wrote so many songs about how he broke her heart?

          Hey, there’s our compromise. OP, tell the boss that he’s not getting a chunk of your salary but that you’re going to write a book of poetry about how much he sucks. If it’s a best seller, you’ll give him 20% of the net.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        And where does it end? Does she then owe him 10% of the next job, because she wouldn’t have that one if it weren’t for the one before…

    4. ToS*

      I would mention it as a joke to prepare the client company. Boss said this about 20%, I think he’s taking the departure hard, and you’d like to support a smooth transition.

      Chances are, her boss is a known quantity. Clients can take often their business elsewhere.

  12. Observer*

    Is your boss the owner? If not, you really should let HR know. I think that any competent HR would be horrified.

  13. MassMatt*

    Wow, I agree–laugh laugh laugh!

    But in general I wonder whether he feels like he got an “in” here by discussing the offers with him. OK so one was from a current client, but in general it seems like letting your bosses know where you are interviewing and where your offers are from simply gives them the ability to try to interfere. I give notice when I have the new job and not before, if I had any indication the old job would try to make things difficult then they’d never even know who the new employer is. That info is released on a “need to know” basis and it’s none of their business. Too many stories of employees worrying about old/current employer ruining chances at moving to a new job.

    1. (Another) B*

      I have no idea why OP even let his boss know and discussed offers with him. It’s none of his business.

  14. Laurie*

    The non-compete clause is still in effect though, isn’t it? Unless I missed something, it doesn’t look like the waiver of the non-compete is in writing (yet). The fee the boss is asking for could be considered a payment to relieve the OP from the non-compete clause, and following the payment, the OP will have it in writing and boss cannot initiate any legal action after the fact.

    I’m not saying it’s cool for the boss to extort the OP like this, but am saying he may have legal basis. I’ll echo one of the other commentators in this thread and say, definitely definitely contact a lawyer.

    1. sstabeler*

      I’m not a lawyer- and this is closer to legal advice than I would normally feel comfortable giving, so DO talk to a lawyer before relying on it- but i’m 99% sure it would be either- or both- Equitable Estoppel or Promissory Estoppel. ( long story short, a court would usually see it as the boss waiving the non-compete, then demanding payment after OP had already taken actions based on what was said)

      In short, because they said they were waiving the non-compete, it is waived. I agree that you should contact a lawyer, though.

      1. Uzumaki Naruto*

        Don’t you need detrimental reliance to make out a promissory estoppel claim?

        My hunch is that the best question here is whether the non-compete applies at all, since a client is not likely to be competitor. And relatedly, if it does apply, whether it is enforceable (since it applies to non-competitors, it is likely overbroad).

        1. sstabeler*

          as I said, I’m not a lawyer, but OP could reasonably gave already accepted the new job, turning down other offers. hence, detrimental reliance, since the other offers may well not be open any more.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This doesn’t fall into promissory/equitable estoppel, yet. But seriously, there’s no need to even go there if you have a halfway competent employment lawyer.

        1. sstabeler*

          I was referring to if he tried to enforce the noncompete- basically, that since OP had taken action based on the promise that the noncompete would be waived, the boss can’t turn around and refuse to waive it.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I understand the context; I’m just saying that they’re not yet in promissory estoppel territory.

    2. Anna*

      OP says that the boss agreed to waive it and that it didn’t really apply anyway since nothing would be lost by the company she currently works for. The client is still getting services from her employer.

    3. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

      Well, if the 20% is to waive the non-compete, then the OP would still have to ensure that:
      1. The boss is the proper person in the company to waive the non-compete (i.e. it would not require authority above him or lateral to him, such as HR, or that those people are also okay with it);
      2. The 20% would not go into the boss’ pocket, because it is the company, not the boss himself as a person, who would be exchanging a right to pursue the non-compete for a payment;
      3. I am hardly a specialist in non-competes, but it would have to be legal in that person’s state to ask for payment in exchange for non-enforcement; and
      4. The non-compete would have to be valid in this situation. (Going to a competitor is more likely to violate the non-compete than would going to a client, although both could or could not, depending on the situation.)

      Yes, talk to a lawyer. But also consider talking to your HR. If there is a valid claim to enforce the non-compete, then the company shouldn’t have its rights relinquished by a manager who is lining his own pockets. Last I checked, that’s likely illegal and certainly could result in his termination.

  15. AdAgencyChick*

    Whatever happens, OP, make sure you let all your coworkers know what your boss did, so that the next person who resigns knows to politely decline to mention where she’s going next.

    1. the gold digger*

      It’s actually in the non-compete I had to sign last fall (two years after I started my job) that I have to tell my employer where I am going when I quit. (And our non-compete covers customers and vendors as well as competitors.)

      As I signed an NDA when I started and as I one of like five non-engineers in the company, my attitude is pretty much, Yeah, come and get me, copper.

      1. Tim W*

        And if you refused to comply with their demand to know where you were going they would, what, fire you? Withhold a reference? You’ve already decided to leave, so…

        1. Zombii*

          This. Making a policy or rule without having any kind of leverage to enforce it is just stupid. (It reminds me of middle school: “No chewing gum in class.” “Or what?” “Or… we won’t let you?”)

          1. Candi*

            My middle school:

            1. After school detention.

            2. The teacher who assigned the detention could have you sit and stare off into space, do homework, read …or do a small chore.

            Like scrape up a given number of gum wads from the floor, sidewalks, and desks. The number was capped at 200.

            One teacher explained why it was specified used gum from those locations: Two girls who got detention were told that they would come in after school and had to give the teacher 50 gum wads.

            They got ahold of 50 pieces of gum, chewed them at detention while the teacher was working, and handed them over.

            Uh huh.

    2. Tired of Bad Boss*

      Great advise, I will make sure that I tell the right person after I leave. That way it will quietly be told around the water cooler.

  16. MuseumChick*

    OP, I think if you say replay (in writing) “Hi (Boss), I wanted to thank you again for agreeing to wave the non-compete clause because of X, Y, Z reasons. Per your request for 20% of my salary from my new job. I am going to speak with a lawyer to get a sense of what the law is about this kind of thing. I wouldn’t want either of use to unintentionally break the law.” Might be enough to scare him off and buy you time to get out your current job and into your new one.

    This gets everything in writing to CYA if he tries to pull anything in the future.

    1. sstabeler*

      I wouldn’t- that sounds too close to acknowledging that the 20% was agreed for waiving the non-compete.

      1. Anna*

        Agreed. The 20% was something the boss thought up AFTER he agreed to waive the non-compete. It’s like he figured out a way to extort some money. Sorry, buddy, but that’s really gross and that ship has sailed.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Also agreed—just document that he agreed to waive the non-compete (and if you don’t yet have it in writing, get it in writing and signed). But don’t raise the 20% issue in that email.

    2. Buffy Summers*

      Necessary revision to follow:
      Hi Boss,
      I wanted to thank you again for agreeing to waive the non-compete clause because of X,Y,Z reasons.
      Regarding your request for 20% of my salary from NewJob, HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAAHAAAHAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!

      1. Coalea*

        Or what about:

        Dear Old Boss,
        I regret to inform you that I will be unable to honor your request for 20% of my new salary. Please accept this lock of my hair as a token of my appreciation.
        Yours, etc.

        1. Fafaflunkie*

          I would offer him something else. A picture of my middle finger would be more appropriate than any tangible part of my person, IMHO.

      2. Tired of Bad Boss*


        I will have to write that one down and send it to him immediately. I hope he sees the humor like I do.

  17. Freya UK*

    I would’ve legitimately laughed in his face.

    Congrats on getting away from this loon AND getting a payrise!

  18. Manager in CA*

    Definitely consult with an employment law attorney regarding the “non-compete” clause. Here in California, those are generally void, unless I’m selling you my business and its goodwill, or if we’re in a partnership together. I’m not sure where the OP is located, but knowing whether or not the “non-compete” clause is enforceable will bring peace of mind.

    As for everything else the boss is trying to do, wow. I’ve worked for some bad employers in the past, but seriously?!?

    1. Candi*

      I remember reading about some tech noncompete cases in New York, and the courts’ decisions boiled down to “you can’t keep people from supporting themselves.”

      Granted, Tired may be in neither NY or CA, but it’s something worth talking to a lawyer about.

  19. Mike C.*

    Does this employer have a history of pursuing non-competes? I agree that this is absolutely hilarious, but maybe start looking around for a lawyer just in case.

  20. Willis*

    I’m pretty sure I would have assumed this was a joke and given a sarcastic response…what planet is this guy on?

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Same. Very, very likely I would think it was a joke…

      (My manager at ToxicJob once took me aside to talk about my “late lunch issue” because I was a minute late clocking in and had enough of a “rap sheet” now to get written up. I thought it was a joke until he pulled out a spreadsheet. The “worst offender” was the time I was 7 minutes late… when we went on a team lunch.)

      1. Edith*

        WOW. That’s something else. Kinda reminds me of my disastrous tenure as an RA in college. We had weekly one on ones, and one week I got dinged for not socializing enough with the residents and told I needed to go to parties with them. Then the next week I got dinged for going to a party with them.

        1. Zombii*

          To be fair, when they told you to go to parties with residents, they probably didn’t mean “an underground rave in the abandoned warehouse that gets busted by the cops.” Seriously, what were you thinking? ;P

      2. Kindling*

        Yeah, my boss at my old ToxicJob had her second-in-command talk to me about being one literal minute late to work once. He thought it was ridiculous too.

  21. Kalkin*

    I’m also curious about how the mechanics would work here. Does the boss expect a lump sum, as if the OP just has ~$25,000 sitting around to spare? Or does he want the OP to just send him a check every two weeks? So bizarre.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      She could probably set up her auto deposit with that portion going directly into his account. (I’m being sarcastic of course)

  22. CoveredInBees*

    I really hope we get an update from this LW and the one with the insane non-profit non-compete.

  23. LawBee*

    Oh dear, this is great. OP, a decent lawyer should be able to cut this off with one well-worded letter. Get you one – it will be worth the fee. Plus, you’d be providing comedy fodder for the attorney’s future bar association meetings.

  24. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I wonder what the OP’s soon-to-be-former company’s higher-ups would think of this, too, since it sounds like the boss isn’t saying “you owe the company this money for this networking connection” but “you owe me, personally, for anyone you met through working here.”

      1. Edith*

        This. And not that savvy of a sole proprietor, either, as his non-compete and finder’s fee policies sound like they originated as just something he heard other companies do.

        1. Tired of Bad Boss*

          Edith and Chariama,

          You both are correct, he is the boss and the owner, and he often says that he heard of this or that and he wants to try it. At first I thought that he was a progressive employer, looking to make his business better, now I just think he is a bitter old man who is trying to pad his retirement with my money.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Exactly! Although it would still be shady as an old growth forest, the company, not the manager, would be the only entity with the standing to ask for a “referral fee.” Moreover, the manager doesn’t get to decide to wave the non-compete by fiat; that also the purview of the company.

  25. A girl has no name*

    Now, I’m curious…what does he have in mind for that money? How will that be shown in the books?! Or does he plan to bypass the books somehow, hmm? So incredibly shady. Get out now! RUN!

    1. Emi.*

      When I demand $25,000 from my employees, they always give it to me in unmarked fifties, usually in a briefcase.

    2. Natalie*

      Oh, there’s an account for this. There’s an account for everything.

      (This would likely be “non-operating gains/losses”)

  26. BePositive*

    I had a heart attack when I read you said it was legal and then realized you were kidding. Phew! How ludicrous!

      1. Candi*

        Illegal is often ‘someone did something so stupid or awful or that was such a violation of good manners that we had to pass a law because some people just can’t play nice with others’.

        If too many glass bosses tried to extort their soon-to-be-ex-employees this way and got extra nasty and vicious about it, and it attracted enough attention, and someone cared enough to get it to the legislature or make an initiative* about it, then there could be a law about this depth of the pit behavior.

        *The initiative process is not available in every state.

  27. Trout 'Waver*

    What a complete jackass. I’d be worried about him shorting the final paychecks. And if I worked for this guy, I’d immediately start looking for a new job. His sense of entitlement is outrageous and likely bleeds over into other areas.

    1. k*

      Just another good reason for OP to consult a lawyer on this one. They can probably address the issue of final paychecks along with making sure boss doesn’t badmouth OP.

    2. Artemesia*

      I can’t imagine actually giving him an answer on this. I’d just ignore it (while lining up my ducks for a cease and desist letter if he actually tried anything) I’d also be sure I knew my state law on final checks. But I wouldn’t tell him know, I’d just pretend that of course he wasn’t serious. And avoid avoid avoid. Furthest I’d go is laugh and ask if he wanted it in unmarked 20s and which park bench it needed to be left on.

  28. Matt*

    This is the perfect time to quote Pirates of the Caribbean at him and say “I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request”

  29. Chriama*

    > It’s also legal for you to laugh and laugh and laugh…

    Please answer more questions this way :D

  30. John*

    Alison – Are you offering some sort of monetary prize for the worst boss of the year?
    Is that the reason these sorts of letters are becoming more frequent? This is unbelievable. I am speechless.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I don’t think these types of letters necessarily are getting more frequent, but even if they are this blog has been around for 10 years. A lot of the basic “how do you follow up after an interview” questions have been exhausted. It’s sort of a natural evolution of a blog to go from basic things more specialized situations and complex advice.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Realistically, you’re probably right, but it’s tempting to think that people are just going bonkers, like some kind of long-term Mercury retrograde or something.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think the mix hasn’t changed all that much for the last few years. I definitely get more letters to choose from now because as readership has grown, my mail volume has gone up. But I think the level of craziness has remained more or less steady since 2014-ish.

        It’s definitely true though that I’m less likely to answer “how do I follow up on an interview” letters these days, so maybe the mix has shifted slightly in ways I’m not fully realizing.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          If I were in your shoes, given the choice between “how do I negotiate a raise” and a question like this one, I’m going to pick this kind every time!

      3. Candi*

        Yeah. The routine stuff only needs updating every so often. The wacky and one-off stuff winds up filling the space.

        The off the wall stuff does make for very entertaining Alison answers. :p

    2. MuseumChick*

      I think as AsM becomes more well know Allison has a larger pool of letters to pick from. As Leatherwings said, the basic stuff has been extremely well explored over the years. Instead of post 10 “How do I ask for a raise?” or “What questions should I ask in an interview?” letters, which would get old, she is able to pick some really bizarre and interesting letters to post.

      1. OhNo*

        And I, for one, really enjoy it! I’ll admit I occasionally get lost in a “what is wrong with people?” cloud, but I still really enjoy the more out-there letters.

  31. I wanna be a Llama*

    Here’s something nobody (I think) has thought of. The LW could co ahead and go to work for the client and then after she starts she could go back and tell her boss that if you want to use to stay on as a client you should be ME 20%

    1. Artemesia*

      Not this of course (as it is a joke) but if the new business is a client, I would be doing my best to move them to another vendor of the service or product. If they are the vendor, it is trickier but if they are the client, time to move that contract.

  32. Contrarian Annie*

    The elephant in the room here is whether the “non compete” clause is enforceable and would he seek to enforce it?

    You may need to be a realist and steer clear of the offer from the current client (since it sounds like you have others)…

    1. Anna*

      It probably is not enforceable. Besides, it would be REALLY hard to enforce it after you’ve stated you’re going to waive it. “I told her I would waive the non-compete. Then it occurred to me that I might be entitled to some recruitment fee, so I told her I wanted 20% and she said no. So now I want to enforce the non-compete.” Not a good look and would not gain any traction.

      1. Thornus67*

        The non-compete is likely in writing, and there is likely a clause stating that no oral modifications/waivers/etc are valid without being reduced to writing. The boss could just lie and say that he never agreed to waive it, and even if he did, it was never reduced to writing.

        But most non-competes are incredibly overbroad anyway.

    2. Zombii*

      That advice makes no sense. If the non-compete is so overbroad that it applies to a client, it’s more than likely that the employer would consider it to apply to anyone needing whatever service LW provides (any design work, any IT work, etc), and getting a job offer from somewhere else instead wouldn’t change the basic scenario.

    3. Ted Mosby*

      I felt like this was dismissed as well. Not that he’s not insane, but if OP says no won’t he just enforce the non-compete. I highly doubt he put in writing he was going to waive it. My brother works in an industry where non-competes, including clients, are widely used and enforced. I don’t know how common they are in other industries and this is my only real experience with them (Brother Ted was trapped with Old Boss, and finally left the industry for a year in order to get around it, which stank for him a lot), but are they really so easily ignored? Seems fishy.

  33. Tired of Bad Boss*


    My boss has contacted my future employer requesting that they also pay conversion for me working in their office. The company (a subsidiarity of a large 20,000+ employee business), told my boss that he is to not contact them again, and that it is not part of their contract with his company.

    So, I took the your advise I sought out legal representation, this is what I was told…

    “Your employer was never contracted to find you a job, he is not your recruiter, politely tell him ‘no’ on his request and then end your relationships with a smile.”

    The attorney stated that if the boss says anything else to the new firm that there is good grounds for an “Employee Defamation Lawsuit” and that the email to the new company will help setup the case against the old boss.

    I politely told my boss no, he told me to go home for the day and to “think hard” about what I was saying.

    The bright side is that I got a paid day off out of all of this!

    1. paul*

      I know it’s unprofessional but man, I’d be tempted to bring him a card with a giant “STILL NO” written inside. And maybe email him a clip of a looping gif of the “hell naw” thing on

        1. Sans*

          “Go home and think hard” sounds like a veiled threat. Like — there will be dire consequences, you better think about it. He is just digging his own grave, isn’t he? Definitely keep track of what he says and does. I’m thinking that this is unfortunately not the end of his insanity.

    2. MuseumChick*

      So happy I decided to check back on this post. Your boss is an asshat. Keep track of everything he says to you and does over your last few weeks working under him. And, if he keeps bothering you, I would escalate this to HR or his boss.

    3. Kalkin*

      Honestly, I would drop HR a note regardless (assuming there is an HR). This is so out of line. And if he tries to pull something similar with another employee down the line, it will be helpful for HR to have documentation of this incident.

      Plus, he’s potentially jeopardizing the company’s relationship with a client. Assuming his behavior isn’t normal for the place, someone with authority will want to tell him to knock it off.

    4. Observer*

      What about the non-compete?

      Also, what exactly does he expect to happen when you “think hard” about what he is saying? Or, to put it a different way, what is he threatening you with?

      Have you already accepted the offer? Do you have a start date?

      1. Tired of Bad Boss*


        I am not sure what his threat really means, and I am sure that I will find out in the next few days. I will definitely keep everyone updated.

        As for the new job, I will be starting there in the next 7 days, and I have already completed my physicals, tax paperwork, and received all of my access cards and keys.

        1. Not Yet Looking*

          I do hope you had his “I’m waiving the non-compete” in an email that you can print out and save. Be sure to do so while you still have access to it.

        2. Spineful*

          I was in a dispute once with a neighbor about a fence – who would pay for it, what it would look like, where it would be placed, etc.. He said something vaguely ominous like “I can put it on my side of the property line, but you’ll want to contact a lawyer about what the implications of that will be.” I suspect both my neighbor and Bad Boss were making a last ditch effort to get us to bend to their wills. I suspect they knew that they have neither the law on their side nor any leverage to force their preferred outcome.

    5. NW Mossy*

      I sincerely hope that you thought hard about you really made the right decision to run fast and far from this lunacy. And good on your new company for joining in on the “hahahahahaha no.”

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Wow, your boss is even more unhinged than I thought. The fact that he contacted your new company is another level of crazy. That said, I think your future company is awesome and did exactly the right thing. And I’m so glad you identified an awesome attorney, because if nothing else it will make you feel supported and reaffirm that he is nuts.

      Second, I think it’s amazing that he’s still trying to harangue you about this. If anyone needs to start thinking (let alone “thinking hard”), it’s him, because clearly his critical thinking skills are way out to lunch. He does realize he’s at risk of losing a client if he continues this course of action, right?

      I become a jerk when people behave like this (it’s why I’m an attorney—we’re all part-jerk). I would seriously consider reporting him to the labor commissioner or another fair employment organization. You’re not an indentured servant. You don’t have to “tithe” back 20% of your future salary, and it’s so deeply wrong of him to implicitly threaten you for not agreeing to his craziness. WTF is wrong with this guy.

      P.S. I want so badly to punch your boss in the face.
      P.P.S. Can you give him an empty jewelry box, like they do in the Bachelor?
      P.P.P.S. When does your notice period end? I would be tempted to cut mine short if I were working for this guy.

    7. EleanoraUK*

      Great update! If the new job offer is agreed, signed, official, and you have a start date, I’d be tempted to tell your boss you’ve thought hard and have decided to leave with immediate effect , given his conduct (finances allowing). If ever there was a valid reason not to give two weeks notice…

      At this point, the reference is shot anyway, if only cause you can’t trust him not to be a loon. My one concern would be damaging your reputation amongst your coworkers, but telling the right water cooler gossip colleague like you mentioned in a comment might sort that out too.

    8. ArtK*

      Good grief! This guy’s a few pancakes short of a stack!

      “Think hard”??? Yup, thought very hard. “No!”

      I would push this to his boss and HR. It’s extremely unethical of him. If this is a one-man shop, it’s time for Glassdoor (once you’re free, that is.)

      I’d be prepared to be walked out the door when you say “no.”

    9. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Good for you! Also, now you know your new company knows that your soon-to-be-ex boss is unfamiliar with reality.

    10. Fafaflunkie*

      Now that you had a paid day off to “think hard” about what you were saying to Old Boss, I think the only way to reinstate your position to him is to take a selfie of your middle finger, and send him a polite email with said photo as an attachment, letting him know that you thought real hard about what you politely told him. And thank your lucky stars you’ll never have to deal with him again.

    11. Ted Mosby*

      Also sorry to comment again but what happened with the non-compete?

      So happy he showed his true colors to your new employee. Now nothing he tries to say about you (if you decline to pay him and he decides he wants to screw you over) will have any effect.

    12. AdAgencyChick*

      oh, BRILLIANT! dare I hope your new company’s negative reaction to this turd indicates that they’ll quit using him as a vendor once his contract is up?

  34. Turtle Candle*

    Yeeeek. Yes, talk to a lawyer. If it turns out to be necessary, well, sometimes a strongly-worded letter from a lawyer can work wonders, even if their strong words are toothless. (Not that yours necessarily are–I am definitely not a lawyer!–but still.)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously. We used to joke that a lawyer’s approach to all problems is to “write a very stern letter.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The cat burps on the rug:

        “Mr. Fluffykins,

        It has come to our attention that you have deposited your upchuck upon the human’s $450 throw rug. I wish to inform you that such behavior is in violation of Rule No. 43, i.e. ‘There will be no hairballs permitted except in designated areas.’ This is a tort-ioushell offense.

        Please see to your aim going forward, or prepare to meet us in court.

        P. C. B. Hammock, Esq.”

  35. Robbenmel*

    Once, long ago, I bought a used car from a Fly By Night Industries sort of place. The day after I paid for the car in full at the negotiated price and took it home, the guy called me and told me, so sadly, that the salesperson I originally spoke to had made a mistake, and that I would (so sadly!) owe them another $2,000.00.

    Although I didn’t know about Alison back then, I took her advice anyway, and laughed and laughed and laughed. And hung up on him, and then laughed some more. In fact, I am laughing about it right now.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I wonfer if the person on the phone was planning to pocket the extra $2k….

      But yes- laughable.

    2. fposte*

      This is a really common car dealer sleaze move, apparently. Needless to say, your reaction is the best one to give.

  36. Marietta*

    It sounds like you already have the other job lined up, and it sounds like he sent you home today to “think”
    about it? You may want to be sure you have your personal belongings and are ready to go; he may let you go or otherwise make it untenable to work out your notice period.

    1. periwinkle*

      Yeah, he might want 20% of your personal belongings, too. After all, you bought them with money he paid you, so he owns them.

      While I feel bad for the OP having to deal with this wingnut of a soon-to-be-former boss, I am grateful for the little touch of hilarity this brought to a dull day.

    1. MMDD*

      Right? My knee-jerk reaction to a request like this would be “bless your heart” as I fought back the urge to laugh outright in Boss’ face.

    2. MommyMD*

      No. Boss has the potential to derail her career if left to run amok. This is very serious. This is not a minimum wage position being discussed.

    3. Tired of Bad Boss*

      I absolutely agree, on top of it all, this is my DREAM JOB, and knowing my boss he is going to do everything he can to get in the way of things.

      I was notified today by my new employer that the boss has increased the hourly billable rate against them, the found out about it when they got and invoice and the numbers didn’t match up. I am so excited to leave this old company and never look back.

      1. MuseumChick*

        It sounds like your new company understands that your old boss is insane and not pinning any of this on you, which is good.

        At this point he’s just making himself look really bad, not you.

      2. Observer*

        That sounds like a good way to shoot himself in the foot. I’m sure that the new job is going to just roll over and pay that bill

  37. ilikeaskamanager*

    This is so wrong it isn’t even funny. If it’s his idea of joking around, it’s horrible. If he’s serious, it is even more horrible. I think you would have a possible “hostile work environment” claim under EEO.

    1. Observer*

      Highly unlikely. “Hostile work environment” only presents a legal problem if the hostility is based on a protected characteristic, like if the boss were doing this because the OP is of a particular religion or ethnicity. Furthermore, she is leaving.

    2. Candi*

      Dictionary hostile? Yes.

      Legal hostile? Nope.

      And since he’s the boss, it’s unlikely there are any enforceable company policies that apply.

  38. MommyMD*

    Boss is a troublemaker. Shut this down immediately with a letter from an attorney. I hope you have a signed employment contract with new company. They may balk if Boss creates trouble.

  39. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    If I were an employment attorney, I’d take this one pro bono for the sheer entertainment value of working out on this clown.

  40. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

    So I did some quick reading online, and remembered why we don’t usually see offers to pay to get out of a non-compete:

    The very basis of a non-compete is predicated on the idea that money is not an acceptable remedy for the harm caused to the company.

    We generally just ask people to pay money instead of do stuff or not do stuff (e.g., if you have a contract to paint someone’s house and breach that contract, we only require you to pay money, not to actually show up with a paintbrush), and it’s only in limited circumstances that we actually put limits on people’s freedom. Those circumstances are generally when there is no other alternative than to require the person to do, or not do, something.

    If your boss wants to basically say that a breach of the non-compete does not require equitable remedies, because 20% of your salary would be appropriate… then let him say that. He’s telling you that it’s not enforceable.

  41. Anna*

    I love this column so much. It makes me feel so much better about my job when I read these things yet at the same time afraid for humanity. What in the world is wrong with people.

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