my boss makes me wear her clothes, eat her food, and say I’m grateful for my job

A reader writes:

I was hired about six months ago at a small business. I’m in my mid-20s and this my first professional job after completing grad school. It’s just me, the owner/director, and a part-time assistant. Because we’re such a small office, I spend a lot of time one-on-one with my boss. Sometimes she’s a lovely person, other times she’s quite difficult to handle. She’s very particular in how things get done and likes to micromanage, but I understand that this is her business and happy to comply with her instructions. But one problem I haven’t figured out how to deal with is her expectation that I be more grateful for the job.

She constantly remarks things like “this is such a good job,” “I give you such great pay/hours,” “You kids don’t appreciate how good I am to you,” and “No other job would treat you this well.” I always respond I’m grateful for the opportunity, but if my answer doesn’t satisfy her expectations, I get a lecture about how I need to be more grateful/thankful. (Also for reference, I work 9-5 5 days a week, and make a $35,000 in New York City.)

Boss claims she likes to mentor young women, which I do appreciate, but most of the time it’s just mothering. For example, constantly reminding me to watch my purse on the subway, wear a helmet when I bike (which i always do) or explaining to me how to wash my hands properly (!) She’s constantly bringing in food, and then offering it to us multiple times a day. “Why don’t you eat a banana?” “I brought you some good soup,” “Take home this beet salad.” Etc. Whenever I politely decline, she gets offended. So I’ve taken to choking down food I don’t want/secretly throwing it away. She caught me doing that one time and I was subjected to a tirade of how ungrateful I was.

Boss has also brought me her old dresses and jackets, makes me parade around the office and then asks that I wear them on certain days. Most of the time I comply, because it’s easier than turning her down and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but it makes me uncomfortable.

I almost got fired last month. On my way to the store to pick up dog food before work, I fell through a loading hatch on the street, broke two ribs and hit my head. I was in a daze the whole way to the hospital and by the time I was finished with my MRI, it was 45 minutes after I was supposed to be at work. I called Boss as soon as the doctor let me out and she was very upset that I didn’t call her right away. I got home, went to bed on painkillers, and sent her an email that evening detailing the whole story. I understand that she was worried when I didn’t show up, and apologized profusely and assured her I would be at work the next day. When I came again, she berated me for failing to call, accused me of not being grateful and not caring about my job, and actually posted my job on a hiring site and made me beg for her to take the posting down.

We’ve moved on from that incident, and I am trying to tough it out for another six months before I start job hunting, and there are aspects of the job that I like. But now I’ve run into a new problem. When I received my tax documents, I got a 1099 instead of a W-2. I am definitely not a contract employee. I am expected to work 9-5, 5 days a week, I must be at the office, I receive a salary check weekly, etc. I want to approach this with her, but I’m afraid I’ll just get another lecture about how I’m ungrateful, this is a good job, and that if I push the issue, I’ll get fired. And if I do get fired, I won’t be eligible for unemployment because I’ve been classified a contract employee.

How do I best approach this with her while assuring her I’m grateful for the job? I’m still new to the workforce and have no experience handling these type of situations. Any advice on how to navigate this would be greatly appreciated.

First, start actively looking for a new job. Do not wait six months. Do not wait one month! Start now.

Working for a three-person business with a boss who expects constant supplication, demands that you wear her clothes, and responds to your serious accident by putting up a job ad that she makes you beg to remove is not doing you any professional favors. None of what you described is normal, and it’s not okay. I’m really skeptical that you’re picking up great professional skills there, and you’re at the very start of your career and can easily have a short-term stay on your resume without it harming you.

So stop delaying the job search. Get out ASAP. (And target larger companies when you do; tiny businesses like this are just too rife with problems.)

As for her treating you as a 1099 contractor rather than an employee (and thus not paying your payroll taxes), that’s illegal. Not maybe illegal, not a little illegal — entirely illegal. And really unfair to you, since it means you’re now responsible for the payroll taxes and Social Security she should have been been paying on your behalf. (By the way, pay attention to your pay stubs! If she’s been paying you as a contractor this whole time, you should have seen it on your pay stubs when no taxes were coming out.)

The way to address it is to be incredibly matter-of-fact: “I got my tax documents and it looks like I’ve been paid as a 1099 contractor. We can get in a lot of trouble for that, because federal law is very strict about who can be treated like a contractor versus an employee. Can we redo this so the tax forms are correct and the company’s share of my payroll taxes are taken care to?” If she pushes back by telling you you’re not sufficiently grateful for your job, you can say, “It’s not about being grateful or not; it’s about what the law says we have to do. We could get in legal trouble for this, and so I want to make sure it’s fixed.”

If she doesn’t fix this on her own, you can file with the IRS asking them to resolve it (here’s the form to submit, and here’s info about how to handle the whole tax situation). You also don’t have to do this now; if you’re worried she will retaliate against you, you can wait until you’ve left this job and do it then. You have up to three years to amend your tax return and get back the money you shouldn’t have had to pay out.

But the most important thing here is to focus hard on getting out of there. Working for a toxic boss can really mess with your head, and you can carry the dysfunctional habits you form there with you to future jobs. That’s especially true when it’s your first professional job and you’re still forming your ideas of what’s normal and what you should and shouldn’t accommodate. So — you can deal with the tax situation later if you need to. Right now, make your top priority a new job.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 732 comments… read them below }

    1. Sleepytime Tea*

      Right?! Holy crap! OP, please get out. Now. Do not worry about the fact you’ve been there less than 1 year. I know that’s a benchmark people concern themselves with but getting away from this craziness is more important than anything else. This is beyond insane.

      1: Address the 1099 with your boss ASAP. And don’t get in a big ‘ol fight over it. If she gives you a hard time, then just address it with the IRS.
      2: Job hunt. NOW. You unfortunately probably won’t get a new job in a week anyways, so don’t concern yourself about the 1 year mark situation.
      3: In the event of her firing you because she’s a nut bag, file for unemployment anyway. When you do, state you were a W2 employee and she improperly classified you as a contractor. PARTICULARLY if she fires you after you bring it up, you should be able to make this argument with your unemployment claim and while I don’t know what state you’re in or the laws surrounding unemployment there, I would think that you would not be prohibited from receiving unemployment because she fired you over the fact she classified you incorrectly. In fact, I’d consider an attorney.

      Do not be grateful for this job, do not prostrate yourself to this crazy lady and thank her endlessly for the opportunity, etc. You are basically in an abusive relationship with a controlling partner.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        And keep your receipts. Now is the time to download all of your time sheets and pay stubs.

        1. The_Jessica*

          & document every conversation you can either with notes or via email. But make sure you have a personal copy of everything!

      2. LDSang*

        I echo everyone else’s response to get out. What I would like to add, however, is you need to do what you can to prevent Crazy Boss Lady from finding out where you end up. We’ve all heard too many stories about wacko employers who actively attempt to sabotage their former employees in their new positions.
        Get out! Stay away! Avoid all contact! Change your social media settings! Good luck.

    2. Busy*

      Do you remember the ex boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris) the main character, Amy, in Gone Girl ends up hiding with while on the run and ultimately kills? That is the this woman!!!! Haha maybe bad example since she is herself pretty manipulative, abusive, and a murderer, but I cannot help but be reminded of Neil Patrick Harris’s character here!

      This is a seriously abusive person, OP. Run away right now. Like I would say if you had enough money, to not even worry about finding another job before leaving – that is how badly you need to leave this situation!

        1. Jennifer*

          I was thinking the same thing, maybe they should even quit today and go to a temp agency while they look for a permanent job. $35k in NYC isn’t so amazing.

            1. Les Cargot*

              That isn’t even peanuts in NYC! Rent in a decent neighborhood would likely eat up most of it.

            2. Sally*

              I agree. I was making that in NYC in 1995! And it was “just enough” then because I had three roommates.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  In ‘98 I took home just over 90K and was barely making it in Manhattan. I wasn’t clubbing or living large or otherwise being spendy. It’s just what it was…

          1. Tom & Johnny*

            I survived on $40k in NYC by the skin of my teeth.

            I had a roommate, lived in an outer borough, my commute was 1.5+ hrs on three subway lines, and I still got up at 6:00 am on Saturdays in order to beat the neighborhood rush to wash my laundry. I could do nothing ‘cultural’ or whatever reasons people move to NYC because it was a 3-hr round trip into and out of Manhattan. It was a nightmare.

            And that was *ten years ago.*

            $35k in NYC is so far from a livable wage it’s appalling.

            I cannot imagine how OP is surviving, unless she’s receiving help from family (nothing wrong with that). In which case I can’t imagine why her family isn’t telling her to GTFO this situation. Even by out of date, vintage employment standards this is appalling.

            1. Emily K*

              And I’m guessing you stretched your budget just far enough to get by, leaving nothing left to save for emergencies, retirement, or anything else.

              It really gets my dander up how hard it was to find a decent-paying job in my 20s, only to reach my 30s and be told what a mistake it was to not have started saving for retirement in my 20s, and oh, the compound interest I missed out on, what a shame!

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                It’s hard especially when you’re making poverty wages.

                I hear/read people complaining about “burger flippers” wanting $15/hour.

                Dude…maybe in Podunk you can get by on $2/hour but here in Seattle, it’s poverty time.

                But yeah make sure to save 6-12 months’ income while you’re at it.

                1. many bells down*

                  Yeah the McDonald’s in Bellevue is advertising starting wages of $14/hr. That’ll make you $28k a year at best. “Middle class” for Bellevue starts around $75k.

                2. Scarlet*

                  See, that’s crazy. The problem isn’t the wages, the problem is the cost of living! Like let’s put a cap on these things, people! $15/hour should be PLENTY for anyone, anywhere to live. Geez.

            2. Jen S. 2.0*

              LW doesn’t actually mention struggling on the salary (s/he mentions that it’s not great, but not that it’s a problem and s/he is rationing ramen to survive), so this salary is likely not the only cash flow in the home. S/he mentions kids, so there may be a spouse or child support or similar.

              The pay is lousy and the boss is bonkers, but it sounds like LW is not fully dependent on this money to live.

              Not the point of the letter, though.

              1. Julia*

                She doesn’t mention kids, the boss just calls “kids these days” ungrateful. And even if the OP had a spouse to rely on, she still deserves to be paid fairly.

              2. Jen S. 2.0*

                Oops. I read that as “YOUR kids don’t appreciate how good I am to you,” meaning the LW wanted to go home to her family, but the boss thinks LW needs to stay at work and revel in the wonderfulness of the job.

            3. Candace G*

              I could barely survive (2 people) on an income of $100k in NYC. No car, lived way far out in a bad neighborhood in Brooklyn, etc. Housing, food, utilities, transportation, health insurance ate up almost everything. We did spend 2 hours each way on the subway to see some of the cheap/free cultural amenities, or there’s no reason to live in NYC. But after a decade – 7 years of it with no raises at my university – we left, moved to middle-of-nowhere in the Plains. For a $90k raise, in a place that costs way less. OP this woman is doing you NO favors. Get out!

          2. FairPayFullBenefits*

            It’s not just not “so amazing,” it’s paltry! And OP has a Master’s degree!

        2. Mini Wage*

          Minimum wage would be $31.5k
          Min wage is $15/hour that’s $16.80 an hour.

          Yeah, you’d almost certainly be making more at a NYC Starbucks.

        1. Thistledown*

          If you read Captain Awkward, she just ran a column about someone’s “mom friend” who was treating the LW like this. It was a doozy as the LW kept adding comments to explain the situation, it kept sounding worse. By the end everyone was basically saying she needed to call a domestic abuse hotline and a lawyer to make a safe plan for getting this lady out of her house.

          When I read this letter, I immediately thought “Hey, Mom Friend” has a business.

          The really scary thing is that this will continue to escalate. What the LW is doing to placate her will never be enough, she will continue to push boundaries as far as she can. This is a dangerous situation and the LW needs to get out ASAP. Abusers also escalate when you separate from them, so LW needs to be prepared for that shit storm. (Don’t let her know where your next job is, lick down your social media in general and block her specifically. If she harassed you, block her number by phone. You can sort out the contractor issue by mail if necessary.)

          1. seller of teapots*

            This is so, so important:

            The really scary thing is that this will continue to escalate. What the LW is doing to placate her will never be enough, she will continue to push boundaries as far as she can. This is a dangerous situation and the LW needs to get out ASAP. Abusers also escalate when you separate from them, so LW needs to be prepared for that shit storm.

            It’s 100% true. LW, for your boss this is about control, and she’ll never have enough control to be satisfied. It will continue to escalate; you cannot win this game. Please get a new job as soon as possible, and also consider therapy. You seem to think some level of this is acceptable (that’s how abusers work, they convince you this is normal/acceptable/deserved) but I suspect that it would be useful for you to have some space to unpack this bananas toxic situation.

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            I’m glad I’m not the only one whose brain went straight to the “Mom friend” letter.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Agreed with all these people – your boss is literally an abuser! She is doing all sorts of “but I’m so nice” actions that you don’t need or want, so she has plausible deniability, and then she forced you to beg for your job the day after you were in a serious accident.

        I know everyone’s screaming to leave now, but I know reality intervenes and you have rent to pay and so on. Fix up your CV immediately and hold out as long as you can.

        One more time – your boss is terrible.

        1. PollyQ*

          Absolutely agree–this ticks multiple boxes on any abusive relationship checklist.

          LW, get out as soon as you can, and good luck!

        2. That Work from Home Life*

          This is so true! I graduated right into the recession and wound up taking whatever I could for work, which meant I had 2 jobs in those early years with absolutely batshit bosses, although one of them was markedly worse than the other and in retrospect he was a classic abuser. It absolutely impacted how I viewed the professional world. When I eventually got a job at a “normal” company, it took me literal years to stop having anxiety attacks when my totally well-adjusted, regular boss asked me to do routine tasks.

          OP, get out before this sticks in your psyche! You live in NYC. This is NOT the only job out there. I’m so so horrified on your behalf. Fix up that resume and RUN.

        3. Wendy Darling*

          If you are a person lucky enough to be able to have emergency savings, *this is the emergency*. This is the thing you were saving for.

          I say this for the version of myself that is sitting in LW’s position going “But I’m not DYING so it’s not REALLY an emergency.” NOPE IT COUNTS. If you can’t afford to eat/pay rent without this job obviously you gotta stay until you find something else, but this is a “get out as soon as you can do so without becoming homeless” situation. YIKES.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Ohhh yes, I remember Neil Patrick Harris’s character! He reminded me of the one ex I had, who started our relationship with “I want to make you happy” – I should have run right then! Boss is being wayyy codependent, just like that character!

          1. Lee*

            Do you want to get run over? B/c I know a guy…minor cuts and bruises, major dollars and cents.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Jean Ralphio is my personality goal lol
        Seriously they need to teach a class in high school about workplace norms! So much of this grief for new workers could be avoided. My heart goes out to OP – OP you might be able to make just as much in a service position until you find another job in your field, and please research the market rate for that as well. In NYC I it would seem like most any field would be over $35k.

        1. Teapot Librarian*

          I feel like most people qualified to teach a class on workplace norms wouldn’t even dream of the crazy stuff that gets shared here, and thus wouldn’t have examples of “this is NOT a workplace norm.” (I mean, unless they taught using AAM as the textbook.)

            1. Julie*

              High school teachers are not necessarily experts on workplace norms, or on abusive behavior.

              Actually, these sound like great topics for podcasts or videos. If you come across good ones, share them with any young adults you know.

          1. General Ginger*

            Hah, this is kind of the only negative thing I can say about AAM — sometimes the completely horrendous stuff that people bring up here makes “regular” dysfunctional-but-not-completely-bonkers offices look perfectly fine by comparison.

            1. Rob aka Mediancat*

              It’s been very good at making me realize, one, how good an office I work in, and two, how much of a spectrum there is of dysfubctionality — from “a bit off, but probably livable if this is the only issue” to “this is troublesome; start looking for a new job as soon as practical” to “this is horrendous; get out immediately even if you have to gnaw off your own limb to do so.”

              1. Rob aka Mediancat*

                — the OP is clearly in “gnaw off your own limb” territory, incidentally.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                “…get out immediately even if you have to gnaw off your own limb to do so.”

                Love this!

              3. ChimericalOne*

                “Gnaw your own limb off” = perfectly put.

                My own toxic workplace was not (quite?) that bad, but yes, AAM definitely shows you the whole spectrum!!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          >a class about workplace norms.
          We should all suggest that as an after-school or summer program to our local YMCA and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and 4H and FFA and BigBrothers/BigSisters and Parks&Rec and whatever other grass-roots organizations exist in our neighborhoods to work with kids. And a version for Adult Ed through our local community colleges.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This woman is seriously terrifying. This is so deeply unhealthy and textbook abusive, and I worry that OP doesn’t realize that that’s the dynamic. She’s trying to destroy OP’s psyche by controlling her through financial and emotional threats. That’s not ok in personal relationships, and it’s even more inappropriate in a working relationship.

      Add on all of the illegal craziness and the low compensation, and this is not a job you want to keep. $35K is just barely above NYC’s minimum wage ($15/hour), and it’s much much lower once OP has to withhold payroll and SSN taxes. I suspect it’s lower still for someone with OP’s degree background, although it may vary by OP’s industry and sector. Because OP is misclassified, she’s probably taking home less net pay than someone being paid minimum wage. And is there even paid vacation or sick leave benefits? I suspect not, because of the 1099 misclassification, and because OP showed up the day after breaking 2 ribs and suffering a head injury (!) only to have to beg to keep her job (!!!). What the actual motherloving F.

      This is not a job you want to keep. It’s not a job you want to ask a reference from. It’s not a job you even want to list as work experience. OP needs to get out now now now. Six months is way too far away.

      1. Sharrbe*

        Exactly. She’s NOT going to get a good reference from this woman. Better to leave sooner than later so she can omit it from her resume entirely.

      2. Ms. Afleet Alex*

        Right?? And OP, I hope you’re healing up well. That kind of fall sounds just awful.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        YES : It can take time to find a good job after grad school — just leave off the bad one and apply for jobs as if you’re fresh out of the degree program.
        Do what you need to to pay the bills, of course, but dang… She reminds me of the most boundary-crossing boss I have had, and he fired me. Coincidentally or not, the “financial issues” arose shortly after I started pushing back when he was out of line with non-work-related orders. (Once a month for the late night deadline? Fine. Drive my own car to make a delivery in another town and not get paid for mileage? Only once!)

    4. MommyMD*

      Good gawd. All this abuse for 16 dollars an hour??? Find another job NOW and start as soon as possible. She’s insane. Are you supposed to call her from the MRI machine?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Truly. I just poked at Google and WalmartNYC is offering $15/hour for delivery drivers. And dollars-to-donuts they’re not classifying their drivers as 1099 contractors.

        (I’m still shuddering at 6 months on a 1099 — I had one direct-hire temp job that did that to me for a much shorter period of time and I still had tax penalty to pay the following year. “Contractor” was logical when they hired me for one day to schlep boxes for a company move. But then they had me stay on as an admin and didn’t reclassify me. After the third pay cycle I shrugged and signed up with a BigName temp agency. But I didn’t know enough to file estimated taxes OR to fight the classification for the month+ I did work.)

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not sure what you were looking at but we don’t have Walmart in NYC. I double-checked to be sure one hasn’t opened here and the nearest ones are in NJ.

    1. Lance*

      Yes, immediately, ASAP, now. There is no saving this, there is no salvaging this; I have zero doubt in my mind that this woman is a poor manager with poor workplace habits that you do not want to be getting used to any more than absolutely necessary.

      Nor are they likely to be a good resource to you in the future.

      Get out now, while you still can.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Your boss doesn’t want a grateful employee (uhhhhh, “contractor”), she wants a Mini-Me. Since you are not actually her, she will always find something to threaten you over.

        This is so beyond basic office norms that I wouldn’t be surprised if she escalates beyond this too. The clothes thing made my skin crawl. Work temporarily at McDonald’s if you have to, but get out.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        And not a good mentor, either. I feel like we’re all watching a horror movie and telling OP, “The call is coming from in the house!”

            1. MsM*

              I feel like the bees would be better bosses. At least they know they need to cover worker benefits.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I like the analogy, although you don’t want to be a drone when winter is coming.

            2. Just Elle*

              Have you seen the Netflix series The Magicians? Because, there is literally a bad guy that is a suit full of bees. OK, ok, of moths. But they’re evil moths.
              And the imagery of the way they kill people by flying out of the suit and swarming people and smothering them to death… is such an accurate metaphor for this boss’ behavior.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            OMG I love this variation on a house of evil bees.

            The boss is ABSOLUTELY full of evil bees!

    2. Mama Bear*

      Not just get out, but prepare to not have a good recommendation from her (you will get through that) and take any evidence of the tax issues as well as any writing or other portfolio examples now. You must expect the hammer to fall the moment you give notice. Anybody who makes you beg for your job after a legit accident is unstable.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Very good point on documentation and portfolio. OP make sure you have these at home and in the cloud.

        1. Ro*

          Yes! If you have anything in writing where she is dictating how, where, when you must work, tools you must use (especially anything she provides as the employer) save copies and take them home. This will help greatly when you need to challenge your employment status as far as the IRS is concerned. Good luck and get out as soon as you can!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And if you don’t have it in writing, and you’re feeling brave, you might send her an email. Now that I realize I’m a 1099 contractor, and not an employee, I’ve decided to make some changes to my schedule. I’ll be performing more of my work off-site and at different times of day from now on. Her reply, if it’s emailed, will most likely make it clear you are not a contractor at all.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        And be sure, OP, that you’re not standing near any stairs, streets, or railings when you give Evil Boss your notice. Seriously, don’t be any place where she could push you off of or over anything or into traffic. She might be crazy enough to do just that.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Letter Writer shouldn’t resign in person. This is one of the rare situations worth quitting without notice or even ghosting.

          I’d be tempted to FedEx her my resignation letter in a box full of her clothes – billed to receiver, if course….

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            And don’t put your return address on the box, either! You don’t want Ms. Crazy to stalk you.

    3. Just Elle*

      Seriously. I cracked up when I saw Alison’s heading for this post because its so perfect. I was like “Well, when you put it that way.” And you do need to put it that way. It is that way.
      I can see how each of these situations, taken individually, could be justified if you tried hard enough. “She has good intentions.” “I like some things about my job.” “My field is hard to break into.” “Hey, the rom-coms always feature a similarly bad first-job-in-NYC experience, its just less fun when its happening in real life.” “She wasn’t being an abusive control freak, she was worried about me.”
      Do not justify them. They are not justifiable.

      This is one of those boiling frog metaphor situations. You put a frog in water and slowly heat it up and pretty soon the frog is boiling to death but the situation has escalated so quietly and slowly that he’s still all “This is fine” a la the dog in front of the fire meme. You are the frog. GET OUT BEFORE YOU’RE BOILED ALIVE!

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Seriously, OP. Go to a temp agency on your way home tonight and get yourself an in-between job while you’re looking. You need to get away from this horrible made-of-evil-bees woman as soon as you possibly can.

      And send in an update when you’re able to quit. We want to know you’re okay!

      1. Radio Girl*

        Yes. Yes!

        None of this is normal, professional, or healthy, OP. In fact, it’s creepy.

      2. Smithy*

        I want to support the temp agency suggestion so hard.

        Not only can it serve to allow you to quit immediately/sooner than a proper job hunt – it may also help you collect a few interim references. Because this woman is both highly unlikely to give you a good reference – or if she does it’ll be under continued negotiation.

        Though not at all as bad as your boss, I had a boss for 3.5 years who was certainly similar around bad boundaries. Every time I’ve had to ask her to be a reference there’s begging involved. Sometimes it’s quick, she gives a great reference and it’s over. Other times it can be weeks of pleading with her and her saying she’s busy, English is hard (it’s not her first language), and then my favorite “can’t you just do it for me?”

        There is no preserving this woman as a reference in a positive way – so just get out quickly.

        1. Busy*

          Personally if I were OP, I would just hit a hard reset on everything. I would take a new job as soon as possible, and never ever list the job again.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Agreed. This is something both early enough in her career and short enough duration to just leave off.

            Boss will never, ever be a good reference. I know OP is trying to be professional, that’s laudable, but with people like this you really can’t be.

            This is a quit on the spot (two broken ribs and head injury but has to beg…BEG… to keep her job?!) situation if I ever saw one!

            OP get out, get out, get out!!!

        2. Essess*

          This! I left a horribly abusive job and went to a temp agency for a 50% pay cut just out of desperation to get out. I was out of work for 2 whole days before they found a position for me and each place they put me tried to hire me because I worked hard, was reliable, and had strong office skills. I had a permanent job in about 3 months and paid better than my original job.

      3. church lady*

        2nd the temp/staffing agency. You can make way more temping in NYC than whatever $35K broken down into hourly rate is, and the agency will pay SS and payroll taxes for you. That will buy you time while you look for something in your field. This woman is crazy. None of this is normal. Please take Alison’s advice and update us on what happens.

      4. Lizzy May*

        I agree so strongly with this. A temp agency can have you making money very quickly and you’ll be able to build up references from people who aren’t this woman. Please take care of yourself both personally and professionally by getting away from this toxic situation as soon as possible.

      5. Gazebo Slayer*

        You can also do gig economy type stuff, which in my experience gets you working faster than temping and they don’t care if your work history is spotty, poor, or practically nonexistent. I make about $35k a year in Boston doing that, more than I usually did temping – I tend to work like 50 hours a week so it’s not ideal but it’s SOOOO much better than your situation!

  1. LGC*

    LW, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Captain Awkward, but is your boss named Mary? I’m hoping she is because otherwise that means there’s more than one and I can’t live with that information.

    (I HIGHLY recommend reading that letter. And the comments.)

      1. LGC*

        I’m linking it in a separate reply – it’s in moderation now.

        (Bonus: Alison makes an appearance in the comments!)

        (But seriously, the letter is BANANA CRACKERS. AND IT BURIES THE LEDE. You will be SCREAMING.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh holy shitballs.

          This is WAY too resonant for me; I’m unable to read all of it. *shudder*

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Oh geez, I hadn’t even seen that. For those wanting the more detail, she lists herself as “LW”, so try searching on “LW said:” – the first one is about 2/3 of the way down the page.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            It was posted 6/10; depending on the state/city/etc. she probably has to give at least 30 days notice for termination of the housing agreement. I wish her well, as she’s going to need ovaries of steel to deal with this mess.

        2. ChimericalOne*

          The details in the comments reminded me sadly of a friend’s situation, wherein her mom is totally great to those who don’t live with her but a nightmare to everyone in the house. Her dad (who is unfortunately on a green card or something, without a lot of sophisticated conflict management experience, and without a lot of options for leaving) was basically driven nuts by this kind of gaslighting & controlling behavior and eventually broke down and hit her mom, or something, and now she’s terrified her parents may split & she may be forced to live with her mom because her dad’s been labelled “an abuser” / forced to go to anger management classes, etc., when really her dad is fine in literally every normal human encounter and her mom is the one it’s soul-destroyingly awful to be around.

          Not saying this is necessarily the case with Mary (who knows, maybe it was her relationship with her ex that somehow changed her for the worse), but it does set off alarm bells to hear that she left claiming a “bad situation” and LW’s now seeing her make all sorts of false claims about *their* living situation (saying that LW was upset when it was Mary that was throwing a tantrum, etc.). Like, 99% of people don’t lie about abuse. But Mary is showing who she really is here. I hope that, if her ex really *isn’t* abusive, that she isn’t able to get him labeled as such or otherwise hurt him. “Believe women” should be our first instinct, but “watch for conflicting evidence” and “do your due diligence” has to come on its heels, or we end up right back at Rolling Stone magazine.

          1. Observer*

            Well, if your friend is an adult she can move out today. No one can force her to live with her mother.

            If she’s a teen then it gets a bit more complicated. But in a divorce there is often a child advocate appointed by the court, who is supposed to hear her out and figure out what would really be the best thing for her.

      1. irene adler*

        I had to turn away.
        It was too much….

        Where do such controlling people come from??

    1. Rebecca1*

      I came to the conclusion that Mary must be a truly exceptional five-star-level chef for people to put up with her. Like Betty White’s character on Mary Tyler Moore.

      1. LGC*

        Honestly, I don’t think she’s even that good of a cook, it’s just that Mary and the LW ended up as a package deal (by Mary’s design).

    2. The Rat-Catcher*

      I came here to say tell OP that THE HOUSE IS FULL OF THE MOST EVIL BEES, GET OUT.

      1. SbuxAddict*

        I know, right? I have a tax return to get out, dangit! I don’t have time to go down this rabbit hole – I say as I fling myself into the abyss to read all of it…

  2. Fiona*

    I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to your mental health to normalize this stuff at the beginning of your career. And for 35K in NYC? Get out ASAP.

    1. Eric*

      Minimum wage in NYC is $15/hour for companies with 11+ employees. So OP is barely making more than she would entry level at McDonald’s.

      1. AKchic*

        She’s getting about $16/hr right now, and she got a 1099, but there’s no guarantee if the boss actually did take taxes out (maybe she deducted a fee for those clothes and the food and called them taxes on the checks, which is why LW never noticed).

        Either way – a receptionist or office assistant can make better money than that and I think this “boss” is highly manipulative and purposely short-changing LW.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          As an accountant I would so love to get my hands on those books. It would be a festival of discovery, I’m sure.

          1. klew*

            So would I. I’ve had to deal with the old contract labor is really employee bs before and it is infuriating. The arguments the employer will have with me about this…

            1. VictorianCowgirl*

              Ugh those are the worst. We’re not making the rules, the IRS is! Ah, public accounting.

              But I do love the problem solving and figuring out just what they did.

          2. A tester, not a developer*

            Do you mind if I start using ‘festival of discovery’ instead of ‘sh1tsh0w’ going forward? :)

          3. TardyTardis*

            This so reminds me of the logging contractor who put his long-term loans into the asset section of his ‘financial statement’ (you do not want to know how many multiples of the actual value of his equipment were enshrined in those loans, nobody was doing due diligence *anywhere* along the line). I told the people who wanted to invest, NO NO NO NO NO RUN AWAY FAST!

            But of course they didn’t listen, I didn’t get paid for the audit I did, and everyone went bankrupt (well, except me, but that bozo still owes me a few hundred bucks).

    2. irene adler*

      35K minus all payroll taxes.

      Thought indentured servitude was no longer legal. My mistake.

      1. Annie*

        Well they did get a 1099 instead of a W2, so taxes haven’t even been taken out of their paychecks.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but if that’s her only income, isn’t that in the range where she’ll be paying a penalty to the IRS in April if she doesn’t pay estimated taxes now?

    3. Amber T*

      When you’re first job is all sorts of messed up, you start learning that awful things are normal and acceptable. OP, none of what you’re describing is normal, or ok, or fine for a work place. I figured some pretty ridiculous things were “normal” at my first job, when they absolutely were not, and it’s a tough lesson to unlearn sometimes, even years later. GET OUT!

      1. LadyL*

        Not to get all divisive, but sometimes I think that all the “millennial/gen z/young people are so ENTITLED” stuff makes young people particularly ripe for victimization, outside of just their inexperience.

        I at least have definitely felt the pressure to prove I’m a hard worker who can sacrifice and doesn’t expect to be treated like a princess, and it’s only as I’m entering my 30s that I’ve started feeling more comfortable creating firmer work boundaries. I used to do work off the clock every week, I would accept first offer of any job with absolutely no negotiation, had many toxic bosses that I would just acquiesce to, and just generally felt I ought to be grateful to have any job, no matter what. Honestly it’s only because of this website that I started realizing what things I was legitimately *entitled* to.

        I’m really glad that Allison does so much to unpack workplace norms, and to lay out what entitled workplace behavior looks like (negotiating for a better job offer? appropriate! interns demanding the dress code conform to their comfort? inappropriate!) It’s a crime that we let young people enter the workforce without getting that kind of stuff broken down for them.

        1. Anon Middle Manager*

          This. My first full-time job out of law school was in 2009 (the depths of the Recession) and I was subjected to the following: a two week “working interview” competing against another candidate (I worked the mornings and he worked the afternoons) then they picked their favorite at the end; and I was paid $12/hour as a 1099 contract employee, so no benefits. Did I absolutely know that the interview setup was bonkers and that $12/hr was a shit wage for someone with $160K in student loans? Yes, I did. But my friends were literally waitressing and bartending with their law degrees, so the rationalization was at least it’s work at a firm in the legal field.

          1. Officious Intermeddler*

            I remember this feeling so well. I graduated shortly after you did and felt like I was holding on to my fist legal job with white knuckles for about three years before I loosened up and realized that 1. you can look at other jobs 2. the market favored employers when I got out, so I was way underpaid and 3. I had value to the firm. It’s so hard to graduate into a rotten economy and then have to change your mindset from one of oh-crap scarcity to I’m-worth-it confidence.

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          Yuppppp. “You young people tend to be entitled and need to learn the value of hard work” coming from an employer — especially in any hiring communications, interview banter, etc — is the reddest red flag for me that this is a toxic work environment. It’s also a good litmus test for figuring out if your current work situation is toxic.

        3. BlueWolf*

          Yeah, both myself and a friend of mine were “independent contractors” at our first jobs out of college (and realized eventually that we were definitely not). After a few months I told my boss to start paying me correctly and he did. My friend was eventually promoted from “independent contractor” (aka intern) to a full employee, but the state eventually audited the company and the company paid a fine and my friend was able to amend his tax return (actually the company’s accountant did it for him) to get his money back for taxes he shouldn’t have paid. Misclassification happens way too often (especially at small businesses).

          1. BlueWolf*

            Actually, now that I think of it, both of our bosses gave us hand-me-down clothes also, but they didn’t demand that we wear them or anything. My friend’s workplace was really toxic in other ways too, though. Mine wasn’t quite as bad, although there were certainly some not-ideal things about it, which is why I got what I could out of it and then left for something better (at a much larger company).

        4. Rockin Takin*

          Agree so much. My first career level full time job I would take on every task, take any overtime, and just accept it and never complain. We would sometimes end up working over 18 hour shifts and I would get sick from exhaustion.
          I only now am setting firm boundaries about work for myself, only after changing jobs and working in the industry for 5 years.

        5. Gazebo Slayer*

          I think the “young people are so entitled” BS is often pushed as deliberate anti-worker propaganda by “pro-business” right-wing media outlets. And sadly, it’s been quite effective, especially during the recession. Wealthier older folks who like to feel superior hear what they want to hear, cheap or abusive bosses feel justified, and people just starting out question their own worth and feel like they have no right to anything.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes out that there was some kind of deliberate campaign by an Edward Bernays-like evil genius behind “entitled millennial” becoming such a cliche just as actual wages were declining.

        6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I don’t think it’s restricted to millenials etc. There is a certain amount of this attitude in my field because we tend to have multiple short contracts and a pervasive lack of job security that has been going on for decades. I have occasionally run into “be grateful you have a job and don’t bring up any problems” and I have heard stories of people being fired or let go because they complained* about sexual harassment, unpaid overtime, etc.

          *side note: I hate using the word complained for this kind of thing because for me it’s loaded with connotations of whining or unjustified demands. Is there a better word?

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Here’s two thoughts for you:
            “Objected to” if brought up within the offending company.
            “Reported” if sent to an outside person or agency.
            “Blew the whistle” if it was egregious enough to get news coverage.

      2. Fiona*

        Exactly – I remember shifting careers when I was in my late 20s and entering a semi-toxic-workplace with a bunch of folks fresh out of college. They had no idea how toxic some of the stuff was – and why should they? They had never worked anyplace else. It can get really bad.

    4. BRR*

      For $35k in nyc I might recommend the LW take any job even if it’s not in their chosen field. They can likely avoid a salary hit and the mental trauma is going to just get worse.

      1. Triplestep*

        This is what I came in here to say. LW, start reaching out to temp agencies. If you’re living on $35K in NYC, you can do it on a temp agency salary. Plus you can more easily job search as a temp than you would be able to in this job. (You know this woman will never give you the privacy or flexibility you need to secretly job search.)

        I would also not bother to approach this woman with the 1099 vs. W2 info. Just collect any documentation that proves you’re a full time employee, find a temp job, and report her.

        I am so sorry this is happening to you!

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          Yep, For what it’s worth, OP, I used a temp agency when I first moved to NYC (8 years ago) and they placed me in a temp-to-perm role as an administrative assistant at around $50k, so you can definitely find work relatively quickly at a better salary. Start looking now.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Oh man, I wish I had known about this temp agency back in 2005 when I was making $25,000 as an administrative assistant for a NYC real-estate firm. My net paychecks were around $784 every two weeks. I did not always have enough money to eat.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      I make more than that in a low COL area and I’m underpaid. That much in NYC? Ridiculous.

  3. londonedit*

    This is, to coin a phrase, bananapants crazy.

    OP, none of this is normal and none of your boss’s behaviours should feature in a normal working environment. As well as the fact that the whole tax thing is apparently totally illegal! Good bosses don’t make you beg for your job, they don’t expect you to constantly be grateful, and they don’t try to force you to eat/wear/do things you don’t want with the threat of recriminations if you don’t. This is not support or mentoring, this is insane.

    1. Marissa*

      I so agree! And OP, do not feel bad if you didn’t know how far from normal your working environment is. You’re new, and you might be thinking these just fall under “annoying boss habits”, but they don’t, they are so far from acceptable and appropriate. No boss should ever, ever punish you for being unable to contact them during a medical emergency. Don’t let this boss convince you that any of her behavior is ok. I also like Alison’s suggestion of a bigger office, just so you can calibrate what is and isn’t toxic with other people.

    2. Lindsay Gee*

      Hard agree. From my own experience from toxic crazypants boss- nothing you do will ever be good enough. All of the grovelling, ensuring her you truly are grateful, wearing her clothes when and where she says…it doesn’t matter what you do because she will constantly move the goalposts. You could be following all of her unwritten rules, and she’ll just change the rules and it’ll be about something else.
      Get out. I guarantee you’ve already picked up some sort of imposter syndrome, work related anxiety, bad workplace practices, or poor expectations of what a workplace should be. Get out of there and start fresh. I stayed in my toxic job 6 months longer than I should’ve and my mental health suffered greatly for it.

    3. Iris Eyes*

      Exactly! Gratefulness is faithfully executing your role in the company, and saying thank you for a bonus or raise ONCE when it happens. She isn’t doing you a favor by employing you, you are selling her your time doing tasks in exchange for money. This is a business deal not a boon.


    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely. In all of my crazy work experiences, I have never had to work with this level of batshit. This is truly an outlier toxic work experience. It’s going to skew OP’s sense of what’s normal because now someone who’s more “middle of the road” crazy toxic is going to look like a massive improvement over bananapants.

      OP has to make like Daniel Kaluuya and get out!

      1. Busy*

        I’m not even sure, with all the bananapants places I have worked, that I have encountered someone who crossed boundaries this bad or was this mentality abusive.

        “Bow to me and show me your fealty for not making your accident all about me!!!!!” No thanks.

      2. emmelemm*

        Same. I’ve had a few doozies, even had a boss who gave me clothes (never mind she was 8 inches taller than I am), but I’ve never had anything this bad.

      3. WasabiMom*

        I recommended this site to a friend. I also recommended your comments specifically. Although saying Princess Consuela Banana Hammock was surprisingly difficult

    5. Mike*

      Not only is the 1099 thing illegal, but she’s technically being paid less than minimum wage because of it…!

    6. smoke tree*

      I’ll bet the only reason this person has been able to get away with acting like this is by hiring people with no or little professional experience to compare it with.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      There was recently a BBC comedy show by the team from Horrible Histories and Yonderland called Ghosts. In episode 1, one of the Ghosts tries to get our protagantists to leave by repeating “Get out, get out, get out, get out, getout, getout, getout, getoutgetoutgetoutgetoutgetoutgetout” (it doesn’t work, but it is rather funny).

      With all of the best intentions OP, I’m saying the same thing to you. This *isn’t* funny – quite frankly, it’s terrifying to read what you are going through. Please, for the sake of your mental health, and possibly physical health, and certainly for your future career:


      1. Lena Clare*

        I absolutely loved that show and I am desperate for a series 2.
        Did you see the outtakes? They were really funny.

    2. Maggie*

      And when you’ve made all the readers of AAM hold their collective breath with your story, there’s not a second to lose.

  4. The Original K.*

    OH NO. OP, update your resume, contact your network, go on job boards, do all of this right now, today. Don’t “tough it out” for six months, there’s no reason to. Actively, aggressively look for a new job so you can quit this one, because (sing it if you know it), your boss sucks and isn’t going to change.

    And do not let her bully you into treating you as a contractor.

    1. ursula*

      Honestly, OP, if you have the ability to do so, I really think you should consider quitting immediately even if you don’t have something else lined up. I realize that isn’t an option for lots of people, and typically you want to wait until you have another offer, but this is not normal. Based on how much this person keeps you under the microscope, it may be next to impossible to job search (going for interviews during daytime hours, taking private calls, etc) while you’re still in this office. Also, start getting a practice script ready for why this boss (your most recent) isn’t one of your references – and do not use her, at any cost, because there’s no way she won’t sabotage you.

      Good luck, OP. This is not a good job, or even a normally okay job. Those are out there and you’ll find one.

      1. The Original K.*

        Or at the very least, be prepared to take the first job you get even if it doesn’t align with your career aspirations, and then keep looking for stuff that DOES align with your career aspirations and will treat you well. Temp work (which can be good money in NYC; I’ve done it), retail, restaurant work … there’s no shame in a survival job. All work is work, and odds are excellent that you’ll get more out of working a survival job than you will out of working for this abusive loon. If NOTHING else (and this isn’t nothing, it’s a big deal) you’ll learn about professional norms.

        Please just keep repeating to yourself that this is not normal and you deserve better.

        1. Lizzy May*

          You’ll get more out of a survival job than working for this woman because at the very least a normal survival job will give you a good reference when it’s time to move on. There’s no way that someone who makes you beg for your job after a major accident will do that.

      2. Forkeater*

        Yeah, quit today and go walk into a temp agency if you need money for bills. This is so abnormal it’s terrifying. I would just ghost her and block her everywhere actually.

        1. Phony Genius*

          This is one of the very rare situations where I would agree that ghosting the job is appropriate. If you don’t, she will keep trying to contact you and guilt you into coming back. Make sure that she can’t find you. I’d even consider changing phone numbers.

          1. Zillionthed*

            So much of what’s going on here could be categorized as abusive that treating it as such makes sense to me too.

          2. C*

            This was my first thought. Not a fan of ghosting, but when LW is ready to leave, I would AT MOST leave a VM during off-hours and then block her boss’ number & email address. Do not give notice. There’s no way that will turn out anything but spectacularly awful for LW.

      3. Amber T*

        This if you can swing it. Six months after grad school is not an entirely long time, so you could even leave this job off potentially (your boss doesn’t sound like she’d give you a good recommendation with you being “ungrateful” and all).

      4. Magenta Sky*

        Not only that, but I wouldn’t wait to contact the IRS. If a review of the pay stubs shows that she’s been deducting income tax, and the IRS says she hasn’t been paying it (which I suspect is exactly what’s been happening), it’s beyond “illegal” and into “criminal.”

      5. sunshyne84*

        Agreed. All the gratefulness talk is just a way to manipulate your mind into think it’s true when in actuality it is not even in the slightest. She put your job online when you BROKE YOUR RIBS! OMFG

    2. LGC*

      I’m local to her and I was almost about to reach out to her if she needed a job to crash at for a couple of months!

      Like, I know my job has LOTS OF ISSUES but at least we know the difference between a W-2 and a 1099. (Thankfully, so does the LW.)

    3. Clorinda*

      Yes. There is literally no benefit to staying in this job. This woman is not going to give you a good reference. The best thing she’s given you is a clear, rational answer to the question of why did you quit so soon? “Because they misclassified me as a contractor when I was really an employee.”

      1. The Original K.*

        The longer she stays, the more she’ll internalize all this f*cked up behavior and come to see it as normal. Staying is actually damaging, in my opinion.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        “Why did you leave your last job?”
        “My boss made me beg her not to fire me for being hospitalized after an accident.”

        1. Essess*

          Just saying “My boss threatened to fire me if I didn’t wear her clothes to work” seems pretty reasonable to leave. Adding in the accident would make any place want to hire you just to help get you out of there!

      3. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yeah, that’s the only upside to the misclassification thing, the clear answer to “why are you looking for a job so quickly?” OP could add to the answer that she is looking for someplace to stay and grow at, too.

        This is a level of crazy I don’t think we’ve seen since the Hellmouth letter. OP, best of luck getting out, like, yesterday.

        1. PJs of Steven Tyler*

          That’s what I thought too – this one is right there with the Hellmouth for sure.

        2. Coder von Frankenstein*

          I feel like Hellmouth is more of a hurricane, a vast swirling storm of horrible people and insane situations. OP’s job is a tornado; all of the craziness is localized in a single devastating vortex-boss. The tornado is more destructive to its immediate environment, but not nearly so hard to escape.

    4. irene adler*

      Might even get in touch with whatever career services/job services departments at the school where you graduated from. They should be able to help with finding something immediate and something suitable career-wise.

    5. crochetaway*

      I quit my first job out of college after 5 months. It’s doable and you’ll survive. I agree with going to a temp agency. My first 3 jobs in my big city, I was placed there by a temp agency and they turned out to be really good gigs. I also don’t think you need to put this job on your resume or ever use your boss as a reference. I think even leaving without a two weeks notice would be completely acceptable, because if you give it, she will make that two weeks a living hell for you. It’s not worth putting yourself through the stress.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Contact your college’s career counselling program — undergrad *AND* grad. Many times there are ways they can also help alumni. Especially recent graduates.

  5. Jennifer*

    Oh. My. God. Normally I think people are too quick to suggest LWs quit their jobs here, usually, the situations are salvageable. But not this time. Get a new job. Go directly to Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

    If you have parents or friends that are willing to take you in for a bit, I’d even consider taking a retail or restaurant job while you continue your job search. I worked for someone similar when I was fresh out of school. It was a two-person office. There is a reason why people like this work in such small offices and hire very young people.

    I’m sorry you are dealing with this. Chalk it up to a lesson learned.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yep, I bet $5 that she’s counting on the OP’s youth and relative inexperience to take advantage of her.

      1. Wrong Target*

        I’ll literally PayPal the OP $5 if this boss has ever hired someone over 25 years old.

    2. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      Yeah, this is a case where I would say if at all financially possible, quit immediately with no notice. Possibly via text message saying, “Yesterday was my last day and I am never coming back because you are a legitimate horror movie villain.”

      1. Officious Intermeddler*

        Did you ever listen to Dear Sugars? Like, OPs boss obviously hasn’t, so she never heard Cheryl Strayed ask someone who wrote in to consider whether whether that person (or whoever they were writing about) was acting like a villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie. This LW’s boss is acting like a villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie.

        1. MsM*

          As others have said, we’re past Reese Witherspoon and into Kathy Bates in Misery territory. Right down to taking advantage of an injured person.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yes she has surpassed Miranda Priestly too. I said below she’s in Joan Crawford territory.

            1. Lars*

              Yeah, an unholy combination of Joan Crawford and the psychotic texting weasel from the most recent season of Aggretsuko.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Is THAT where the phrase comes from? I’ve seen it in an advice column but can’t right now figure out whose.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      FFS, she could walk into her nearest Starbucks and be making equal or better money within the week.

    4. Mr. Shark*

      I agree, Jennifer. I think that AAM comments usually recommend bailing on a job too quickly. But this woman is manipulative and controlling, and is not healthy in any way mentally, and is just going to drag the LW down with her.

      The LW needs to get out of there NOW!

    5. smoke tree*

      To be fair, I don’t think commenters here often suggest quitting unless it’s something egregious like this. They often do suggest starting a job search, which isn’t the same thing. A job search just gives you a sense of what your other options are, to weigh up against the current situation.

  6. Kara*

    If you’ve been misclassified as a contractor, that typically does not make you ineligible for unemployment benefits. She can fire you, and you can file with your state. Let them know you were misclassified, and if you’re at all eligible for benefits (in my state you have to have earned a certain amount of income during at least two quarters of the four quarters in the base period) it’s possible you can still get them. The burden of correctly classifying workers is on the employer, not you, and her acting illegally does not disqualify you from receiving benefits. Talk to someone at whatever state authority manages unemployment benefits claims.

    1. Olive Hornby*

      OP, yes, file with the state! New York in particular takes this very seriously. I’m linking to information about this in another comment below!

    2. sunny-dee*

      The 1099 thing wouldn’t be the main concern; I think the bigger issue for unemployment is the length of time she’s been working. Unless she had steady work through grad school, she probably won’t qualify with only 6 months of work history.

      1. Natalie*

        In New York state you only need to have been employed for two quarters of the past year to be eligible for unemployment.

    3. Holly*

      Usually someone is not eligible for UI if they quit but this might make a very good argument for constructive discharge…. the work conditions are so unbearable it’s essentially like forcing someone to quit. I’d file and make this argument.

  7. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    First of all – I’m glad you’re okay after your fall!

    Second of all – This is not normal. No part of this is normal. Repeat that to yourself, every day if you have to, until you can get out of there.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Forgot to add: if you have any emails, texts, etc. from her detailing the crazy/illegal behavior: save them. Preferably on your personal computer or phone or whatever.

    2. tink*

      The part about LW’s accident and the boss’ immediate behavior hit my “absolutely horrified” quota for the week.

  8. Mujj*

    This sounds eerily similar to a place I interviewed when job hunting for the first time. Thankfully I read the horrific glassdoor reviews and noped out of that. I used to read stories like this and think “This can’t possibly be true!” Sadly it very much can be. I hope you find another job in a healthy environment quickly!

    1. sofar*

      Came here to say that this woman sounds eerily like my sister’s first boss out of school. Down to the last detail. She preys on young people who are new to the work environment.

      Either way, you dodged a bullet.

  9. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Thank god you wrote to Alison. Please read her advice. Then read it again. Then GTFO of there.

  10. Matilda Jefferies*

    Okay, this goes beyond toxic and into outright abuse. These are some of the things that abusers do – they try to control your clothing choices and your food, and they tell you that you should be grateful because no one else will treat you as well as they do.

    OP, say this to sentence out loud: “I had a serious accident on the way to work, and my boss responded by making me beg to keep my job.”

    That is not normal, it’s not okay, and you do not deserve it. You do not need to be grateful for this POS. Please, please get out of there as fast as you can. And keep us posted if you want – we’ll be thinking about you.

    1. Just yikes*

      Honestly my first reaction was that this sounds a heck of a lot like the grooming /controlling behavior of an abuser. OP, if you have a safety net (family or friends who can offer financial or emotional support, folks in your network who can help with job leads, coaching, and references) consider asking for help while you get out of this job. Do not be ashamed that you ended up in this situation in the first place. Do not minimize this persons bad behavior. Find another job ASAP and give yourself permission to put this behind you. This person is gross.

      1. MsM*

        And if said family and friends come back at you with “oh, everyone’s first job is terrible,” repeat what Matilda said above and keep right on walking. Good first jobs are possible. I had one (the pay wasn’t great, but I was officially an exempt employee with benefits). My sibling’s still at theirs, almost a decade later. More importantly, terrible first jobs should never be this terrible.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      Also, the bit about her sometimes being a lovely person? This is also an incredibly common tactic of abusers. They have to be lovely sometimes, because it’s important that you recognize their good qualities so that you feel conflicted about leaving. If she were horrible and toxic all the time, it would be easy to see her for what she is. But on the days (or weeks, even) that she’s lovely, you start to think to yourself that maybe it’s not all that bad, and maybe she doesn’t mean to be so awful to you on the other occasions. Then you get confused, and you get stuck, and you stay.

      Whatever else you think about her, please keep this in mind: she is not a lovely person. She is a vile, manipulative, abuser, and she is deliberately taking advantage of your inexperience. She knows full well that she has to be nice to you sometimes in order to keep you “grateful” and compliant. Please do not stay in this job any longer than absolutely necessary, and do whatever you need to keep yourself safe. <3

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, if abusers were abusive all the time, no one would stick around long enough for them to abuse.

          The loveliness isn’t the abuser’s underlying personality shining through, and it’s not a rare exception to their abuse – it’s an integral part of the abusive machine.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        I want your comment to be highlighted, multicolored with flashing lights so everyone can see it. THIS is how they get away with it!!! Thanks for your comment, I hope OP is reading these.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely this. It’s textbook, tbh, and OP should be very wary. I would intercede and come down hard if my friend described this in a romantic relationship. In a work relationship, it’s just as dangerous, unacceptable, vile, and horrid.

        1. Roja*

          That was my thought also reading through the post. Textbook abuse case–I’ll control everything that you do, and then tell you that you’re not worth anything else and should be grateful.

        2. Mutt*

          And speaking of romantic relationships (not sure if anyone has pointed this out yet, didn’t get too far) it would be worthwhile to take a look at the other relationships in your life. If you’re accepting this kind of treatment in the workplace, it’s possible it has hidden within other areas as well. Parents/family, SO(s), friends, regular little random daily interactions with other humans.

          I think although your situation is not romantic, you could still really benefit from reading a book called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bundtcroft (sp?). It may help you identify some different types of strategies abusers use. Once you’ve cracked the code, things will become much easier to spot and therefore deal with (Captain Awkward is a wealth of good scripts and strategies), but frankly, I agree with the people who are telling you to quit NOW if you could afford to. This is some messed up shit.

          Others have discussed Captain Awkward’s recent post, but just in case no one else has, I wanted to also highlight her archives on boundaries and whatnot to help you see what is normal/not normal in the rest of you life. Im sure someone has already mentioned these, but some terms you might find helpful to research are JADE, DARVO, and gaslighting.

          Like others have said, would appreciate an update if you are so inclined. We are all worried for you, and hope you are totally healed from your fall! Best of luck!

    3. Beebs*

      Yes. This 100%. There’s something sick about the way this woman is treating you, OP, that goes beyond normal toxic job syndrome. It’s really, really, not normal or okay. Please get out today if there’s any way you possibly can.

    4. Emmie*

      I second all of this. I think she will have a difficult time with your departure. When that happens, resign anyways. Do not let her pressure or manipulate you into doing work after your resignation. You are also free to resign with little notice if you think she will be difficult during your resignation period.

    5. TSG*

      Oh my god, yes. This honestly doesn’t even read like a toxic boss, it reads like an abuser who is grooming someone. OP had to literally BEG to keep her job? The boss’s level of control here is so unsettling and she’s relishing in OPs subjugation in a way that’s honestly making me physically uncomfortable just reading about.

    6. Working Mom Having It All*

      In isolation, I would take the food and clothing stuff as annoying quirks but not necessarily red flags. Maybe yellow flags depending on the boss’ exact behavior and whether the issue is needing to grow a bit of a backbone about these things vs. the boss truly having unreasonable expectations.

      When I was entry level, I frequently was offered things like leftovers from catered lunch meetings, “take the rest of this birthday cake home, for your roommates!”, people offering up the extra salad someone ordered and then didn’t eat, etc. Sometimes I took it home. Sometimes I said no. Sometimes if politeness demanded I would take it home and then throw it away privately, but that was usually because I didn’t want to be a bother, or the person who offered was at a status level where I didn’t feel good saying no. Not because I was being bullied into it! Also, I always felt like that food was mine to eat or not once it had been given to me. It wouldn’t have been reasonable for the person in question, no matter their level of status over me, to express an opinion on what I did with that food.

      Re the clothes, I worked one on one for someone’s small business (actually very similar to the OP’s setup) and she would sometimes give me her old clothes. Usually as first pick before she dropped things at goodwill. I sometimes took something and sometimes didn’t. She never asked me about the clothes afterward or opined that I should wear them or anything like that. It’s fine to give; it’s wrong to use it as a tool to bully someone in the way that OP’s boss is doing.

      The abuse here is in the behavior around the gifts of food, clothes, etc, not in the act of giving them.

      1. valentine*

        The abuse here is in the behavior around the gifts of food, clothes, etc, not in the act of giving them.
        It’s all of it. She’s not giving; she’s foisting. In general, offering basic provisions is odd, especially when the obvious move is proper pay.

    7. Lucille2*

      Came here to say the same thing. My first reaction was any boss who makes it a point to tell you over and over what a great job this is is trying to convince you the job is better than it actually. But that’s merely red flag #1. Reading on and my mind went to – this boss is abusive. Remove the word boss and replace with spouse/boyfriend/partner and we’re talking about a classic case of an abusive relationship.

  11. Anonymous Poster*


    This is not normal nor okay. Highly dysfunctional places are less dysfunctional than this. There are no professional boundaries, and the owner is throwing tantrums 2-year-old children would be envious of. And your salary is not good, especially since she’s trying to de facto cut your pay by making you responsible for her tax bill.

    Maybe you like the work, so go search for that kind of work – but there’s no reason you have to be doing that kind of work under this individual. This is seriously not okay, you have serious tax implications to be concerned with and this person is not mentoring you, she’s manipulating you worse than the most narcissistic relatives you could ever imagine.

    Please start searching today for a new job.

    1. Moray*

      And in addition to searching for a new job, the fact that you’re basically 9-5 means you can look for some evening or weekend work to begin right away–coffee shop, retail, restaurant, hotel clerk, library page, something like that.

      It’s stressful to work 2 jobs, but padding your income for a little while will make you feel more secure, and even the weirdest retail/customer service jobs will (by comparison) add some normality to your working life.

  12. Ramblin' Ma'am*

    The title of this letter kind of buried the lede. “Boss gives me old clothes and constantly makes me express gratitude” made me expect a letter about handling quirky bosses who don’t understand boundaries. Not great, but not a “OMG, QUIT THIS MINUTE” red flag.

    “Boss punished me for getting in a serious accident” is horrible. “Boss underpays me and has me classified as a contractor” is literally illegal.

    1. rando*

      Honestly the title freaked me out too– the wording of it sounds exactly like the surrounding behavior abusers/predators have. I was horrified at the other details, but I can’t say I was exactly shocked. I had no illusion that this boss wasn’t at least in the beginning stages of grooming a victim.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, with the clothes (because she said “requested I wear them at specific times”) I wondered if it was professional wardrobe stuff – like, she wants you to wear a jacket for meetings, and goes as far as to give you a jacket in case you don’t have one. Weird but whatever. The contractor thing is a HUGE, huge deal. OP you are probably too young and new to realize what a massive issue this is, and likely a huge headache to you for a long time if it doesn’t get resolved. First assume it’s some kind of mistake and ask her to fix it, but I’m skeptical this is going to end well. You will likely end up needing a lawyer. Perhaps there is a service for low income workers involved in wage disputes that you can contact – try Legal Aid.

        1. Blunt Bunny*

          Yes I think if they were of the opposite sex this would be viewed as sexual harassment.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          Yeah, if Boss were a man, I think it would be more obvious how outrageous this is. Yes, even with professional clothing.

          LW: do not be grateful for this job. Do not worry about your boss thinking you’re not grateful. “Grateful” is for gifts and favors and stuff. A job is not a gift, it is not a favor, it is an exchange of labor for money, to both parties’ benefit. If the job market in NYC is anything like the job market in the SF Bay Area, there are plenty of other jobs out there – go get you one.

  13. SarahKay*

    OP, she’s not a lovely person, and she’s not a good boss.
    I was horrified and chanting “No, no, job hunt NOW” in my head, and that was before I got to the bit where she made you beg for your job after you suffered a serious accident.
    Please, leave as soon as possible.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      100% this. She has a highly abusive personality. LW, I’m pretty sure all of us here would be willing to serve as a reference for you. (If only that were possible.)

    2. General Ginger*

      Yeah, this. She is horrible and abusive. She is a horrible boss, and she is taking massive, massive, massive advantage of you.

  14. Spreadsheets and Books*

    Oh dear.

    $35K in NYC is pennies. It’s like your boss is trying to brainwash you into believing that’s an acceptable salary with all of her damaging behavior.

    Get out get out get out.

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Adding on to this – in my experience, outside of the known toxic atmospheres (investment banking, medicine, big law, etc), I’ve found conditions in NYC to be better than anywhere else I’ve ever worked, likely because there’s SO much competition and so many companies that if employees aren’t happy, it’s not hard to leave. I’ve never had to job search for longer than a month since moving here and my friends and family back in the Midwest are consistently shocked by the benefits and perks I get here that are unheard of there.

      Trust me. This is not the best you can do, especially in this city.

      1. Eillah*

        Add administrative work to that list– not enough companies give a shit whether the people (usually women, usually WOC) who help them get their jobs done can eat & get medical care.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          Sure, but on the other hand, in admin in NYC you can leave tomorrow and have another job by Thursday. Also in my experience, while the admins typically don’t get the level of amazing perks that execs do (example, I recently found out that the president of our division of the company gets a comped Uber to work while I, an admin, am of course still paying to put gas in my car), if it’s a large company that offers standard health and retirement benefits, admin staff usually have access to that. In my experience working in NYC and LA, the difference is more the size and type of company you’re working for, and less the status of admin. Whereas biglaw, finance, etc. tend to be toxic across the board regardless of your job title.

          1. Eillah*

            That’s generally all true, I think my bad luck in that regard is coloring my comments….

          2. sam*

            also, while admins at a larger company like mine aren’t gonna get rich, they make significantly more than $35K/year, get benefits, overtime, and don’t get weird nonsense like this 1099 crap.

            1. Eillah*

              Honestly? It depends. Admins at the hedge fund I left earned only a few k more than the reception team (who were also highly skilled & underpaid & undervalued).

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                hedge fund: investment banking. It may be the industry more than the position…

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              And would be allowed a paid sick day when they’re hospitalized for broken ribs!

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, I made 35K at an entry level job in NYC …. in 2004. And it was for a nonprofit employer that was notoriously under market average.

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Also since she is misclasdified, she’s effectively earningveven less.

      *I* hire and mentor young women. I do not tell them how fortunate they are that I do. I buy food for the staff, I don’t force them to consume it. My lowest paid employee (W-2 employee) makes 42K…in Seattle. She is 20, has no degree, and this is her first non-fast food job. OP’s boss sucks.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Right? And part of that mentorship is also helping them advocate for better pay and benefits, commensurate with (or competitive with) the prevailing norms in the market. It’s the opposite of mentoring to try to brainwash someone into thinking $35K as a contractor is a “generous” wage.

      2. MsRedPanda*

        That’s great you treat your employees well. I make about 38k in nyc as an Admin Assistant but I have experience as a manager…

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Thanks. It was always “how would we ideally want to be treated” when we started this.

          Fair/good pay, benefits, perks, reasonable (paid) PTO, real work/life balance, and being treated as human beings not just cogs. We structured everything around that philosophy.

  15. Tigger*

    This is not normal at all! Please run far far away. Also you are stronger than I am for going back to work the day after you broke 2 ribs. Take care of you.

  16. KHB*

    Your letter gave me flashbacks to my abusive ex, who was always demanding that I tell him what a wonderful nice guy he was, and how grateful I was to have found someone who would put up with my $h!t.

    I can only tell you what a friend told me, that finally motivated me to get the hell out: You deserve so, so much better than this.

    1. Eillah*

      They did this on BLL and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head: imagine someone you love in these conditions. Is it still ok?

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        YES! That is such a good metric for those of us whose tolerance levels are too high.

        1. KHB*

          Very true. But sometimes – like when you’re 18 years old and in your first relationship (like I was) or just out of grad school and in your first professional job (like OP is) – it’s less a matter of tolerance levels being too high, and more a matter of not having enough of a basis for understanding how things are supposed to work in the first place.

  17. Ginger*

    I’m so glad you wrote in to Alison to get the right advice on what to do. Update your resume TONIGHT and apply for new jobs TONIGHT (not saying today because I assume your boss would catch you doing that). Look on LinkedIn, reach out to grad school alums, look at companies you admire and see their job openings. Find some titles that fit your role and apply, apply, apply. Look at Alison’s posts about cover letters and resumes. You’ve got this.

    Prepare to say you have doctor appointments to cover for job interviews.

    But most importantly OP, know that this is not a situation you can fix and this is not normal. At all. No boss should be telling you to wear their clothes and or make you beg for your job. This is a toxic, abusive relationship. Not a professional, career job.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      After 2 broken ribs and a head injury doctor’s appointments should be highly believable!

    2. Ginger*

      Ugh, to clarify, I wrote “not a situation you can fix” meaning you can’t fix this level of crazy. This isn’t a “wear headphones” or “go to HR” type of work problem.

      But OP CAN address her personal situation by getting a new job.

  18. Will's Mom*

    This is heartbreaking. Leave now! I said a prayer for you. Please know this is NOT normal

  19. iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii*

    This boss sounds like they’re trying to induce stockholm syndrome in their employees.

  20. Amber Rose*

    This is crazeballs. It’s bananacrackers. It’s a can of worms mixed with a barrel of monkeys. There’s nothing remotely normal about any of this. Get the heck out of there! Go straight to the exit door and escape while you still have any of your sanity and dignity left.

    You do not have to be grateful to someone who treats you like garbage. You should never be grateful for any job. Your job is a straight transaction of services for money, not a friggin favor. You can be grateful for opportunities and guidance and mentorship, but trust me on this, your boss is not doing anything remotely similar to any of those things.

  21. LENENE*

    LW, this is an emotionally abusive boss. As soon as I read that she said “no other job will treat you this well,” I knew you had to get out. This is manipulative behavior. I had a boss like this once, who convinced me that my job was the best that I could do, I wouldn’t do better anywhere else, I should be grateful, etc etc. I stayed for 2 1/2 years before he called me a c-word because he “thought I was laughing at him” and I finally snapped out of it. I didn’t realize how stressed out I was from always trying to keep him happy until I got out. It’s not worth it! It will wear you down and erode your confidence. Quit now if you can, and if not, start looking for a new job.

    1. Slartibartfast*

      Mine told me I would never get a raise, ever, because he could hire anyone off the street to do my job for $11/ hr. Took all I had to not reply “Well that just PROVES you have no idea what I actually do”

  22. BethRA*

    LW, your boss is not a “lovely person” – this is not normal and this is not ok.

    None of it. Not the crap pay, not the constant requests for “gratitude” (for the job, or the crap she gives you that you don’t need or want), not the clothing, not the constant pushing you to eat food (even if you did want it? still not ok to push constantly). She is crossing boundaries that is really not healthy for you professionally or personally.

    Get out as soon as you can.

  23. Wrong Target*

    Run run run run run.

    Save what money you can. Make sure your housing situation is rock solid, whether you quit or stay (please quit). I spent a very short amount of time with a boss like this. Another employee was kicked out of her parents’ house and the boss “generously” took her into her own home. It became an absolutely horrifying situation.

    I left quickly, so I’m able to leave this job off of my resume and otherwise forget about it. The other employee, though, was there for much longer. She lost many other opportunities because of it and experienced huge financial setbacks.

    1. KR*

      I’m imagining her threatening to fire OP and OP just calls her bluff, but obviously not everyone can just quit their job. A girl can dream though

      1. Wrong Target*

        Imagining OP replying to a bunch of outrage with “ok bye” is pretty satisfying.

    2. Wrong Target*

      By the way, as a point of comparison: I actually work somewhere with good management, pay/hours, and great opportunities now, which your boss claims to provide. You know what that looks like? Working with nice people, who are reasonable about time off, who pay competitively, and who help me improve. They provide great training and other resources. I don’t need to be told to be thankful here!

  24. Probably actually a hobbit*

    This is horrible! Honestly, these behaviors are abusive (and I do not use that term lightly). Insisting that someone be grateful for poor treatment is just typical of abuse.

    Look for jobs today!

  25. KR*

    Oh my God.
    OP try to remember that even though she is mothering the heck out of you, you two are just two adults working together. When she starts lecturing you or freaking out, you don’t have to feel bad about it. You don’t have to grovel. You are working for her. She isn’t giving you anything – you are earning it. She is the one who should be grateful here that she has such a great conscientious employee. She is the one making things terrible and awkward here, not you!

    1. Samwise*

      She’s not mothering, either. Halfway decent mothers don’t act like this. She’s abusing the OP.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I thought of the OtherMother from Coraline…. seems nice on one level, and then you notice the buttons.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          I used that sentiment once in a fanfiction I wrote, when a character just found out her mother was a genuine villain.

          “Such scorn in the way you call me mother.”

          “Would you rather I used both words?”

  26. Jennifer M*

    This is not normal. This is not okay. Subjecting yourself to another 6 months of this before you even start looking will not be a long term benefit to you. Start looking right now, because it may take you a few months to find something. Use the resources that Alison included in her reply and file with the IRS if she won’t fix it herself (wait until after you leave though). Moving forward, keep an eye on your paystub to see if things are being properly handled and then ask her to fix because “you’re just so sure she’s making an honest mistake”. But before all else, get away from her!

  27. gbca*

    Agree with Alison and the other commenters. Also, if you’re worried about other job prospects, I just read this morning in the WSJ: “Job openings in April outnumbered unemployed Americans by 1.625 million, the largest gap on record back to 2000.” It’s a great market out there. Get out get out get out!

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Shit, if she’s worried about other job prospects… she could literally be making more money at McDonalds.

    2. scarydogmother*

      This is what I came here to say, in case OP needs some encouragement about job-hunting. NYC’s unemployment rate is near its all-time low for the series going back to 1990. Labor is in HIGH demand and we’re nearing the end of the business cycle. OP, this is exactly the right time to find another job, and it’s not going to last forever. Under no circumstances should you wait to move on! Go, go, go!

  28. 2 Cents*

    As someone who dealt with her fair share of “only in NYC” crazies, get out as fast as you can. Nothing this woman is doing is normal, and it’s hurting you! Even if that means taking a temporary job at a coffee shop or something. No sane person would hear this experience and think “huh, OP should’ve stuck it out.”

    1. londonedit*

      That’s a good point – I know people are scared of ‘job hopping’ and having short stints on their CVs, but the benefits of leaving this horrendous situation far, far outweigh any worries about that. No reasonable employer is going to hear ‘My boss illegally classified me as a contractor and threatened to fire me after I had a serious accident’ and feel anything other than sympathy.

  29. A Nonnus Mousicus*

    Wow, I feel this. About 10 years ago I worked as an assistant for a very toxic boss at a two-person company. Said boss also once demanded that I express my gratitude for the job before she would let me leave for the day. So many boundaries crossed, so much dysfunction. I stuck it out for 2 years because I was very new to the workforce and kept convincing myself that it would get better. OP, take it from me, do not wait to leave. Start looking now. The awful experiences with that particular boss followed me for years (both literally and figuratively).

  30. Naomi*

    I read the headline, and was already saying “Nope nope nope, this job is full of evil bees.”

    Also, it was an immediate red flag that the boss is constantly saying how good the job is and how lucky OP is to work there. The thing is, if the job were really that good, she wouldn’t have to tell you so all the time! She has to keep saying those things to convince you that you couldn’t do better elsewhere… because I suspect that the moment you start job searching, better options will appear. Like, at minimum, options where the boss treats you with respect and follows the law, but probably better-paying options, too.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Like, at minimum, jobs where when you have an accident and end up with broken ribs and a concussion, your boss responds with care and concern for your well-being, rather than making you beg for your job humiliating you. This isn’t even a minimum standard for a boss, it’s a minimum standard of a human being.

  31. TeapotDetective*

    Just adding to the chorus of “RUN DON’T WALK OMG OMG OMG” because this woman is just… I’m sitting here bug-eyed at my desk praying you’re exaggerating and knowing you’re probably not. You deserve better. Please starting looking for better today.
    OP, in a few years, after you’ve put some distance between you and this banshee, write a book about it bc you could make some good cash off telling these stories.

  32. ohno*

    reading this makes me want to cry :( this is SO, SO wrong. her behavior is awful. you don’t deserve to be treated this terribly!! please please get out ASAP, OP.

    1. ohno*

      i forgot to add: 35k in nyc even as a recent grad is INSANELY LOW. not normal at all. i graduated from college in nyc 4 years ago and i & all of my friends started at at least 45k, most of them more. that is way closer to normal for a new grad in nyc.

      1. VermiciousKnid*

        Eh, depends on the field. I’m based in a more expensive area of NJ and my first salary 10 years ago was $34k. That was pretty standard. Students graduating in my field still expect between $35k and $38k for first gigs.

        1. londonedit*

          I’m chuckling because I don’t make a heck of a lot more than OP (in £) and I live in London and graduated 16 years ago. Sigh. It is just about enough to survive on, and my industry is notoriously poorly paid (my salary is pretty standard, nothing egregious for my job title), but still. My salary was £14,000 a year in my first job in 2003. Fun times.

        2. Ella*

          Just because businesses haven’t increased salary with inflation over the past ten years and get away with paying $35K doesn’t mean it’s a good salary. It would barely be a livable wage in less expensive city, much less NYC.

          1. kristinyc*

            Yeah.. I live in NYC now. I made $32k in Indianapolis in my entry level job… in 2007. For people calling $35k a livable salary in NYC: My annual rent cost is $30k, and I live in Queens. And that’s just rent.

        3. MissBliss*

          10 years ago was the height of the recession, so probably not the best starting wage for comparison for someone now.

          1. VermiciousKnid*

            I’m not saying it was a livable wage even then (I supplemented my income with serving for the first five years of my career), I’m saying it was standard. And when I was applying to entry-level jobs in NYC, they were lower—$28-$32k. Totally untenable with the commute. Maybe I’m cynical, but pay is notoriously crappy in my industry and it wouldn’t surprise me if wages were still that low.

            1. Ella*

              Wages that low certainly exist now, but anyone who says it’s a good salary for a high cost of living location (or even just a decently livable one) and that you should be grateful for it is both lying and being horrifically manipulative.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            And that’s *BEFORE* she realized 1099 means she has to pay her own payroll taxes.

  33. Heidi*

    Hi OP. Please do not buy into the idea that you’re getting great hours and pay. The schedule is totally normal and the pay is not high for where you’re located. You’re not being treated well with the constant threat of firing hanging over you. She is hammering this idea of this being a great job into you because it is not a great job. There are real professional boundary problems here, and this boss does not sound like the type who takes negative feedback well. If there is any way to do this financially, you might even consider leaving before you have another job lined up. It’s risky, but this is so far from normal that no one here would blame you. Sometimes we feel that we have stick these things out to show that we can make it in the world, but sometimes the right thing to do is to recognize that this is not tenable and get out for the sake of your own health.

  34. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    Dude, please get out ASAP. I totally understand if you need to find another job first, but your boss is nightmare and nothing you described is okay. Not just not okay for $35,000 in New York City, not okay for $200,000 in Bismarck, North Dakota. I’m worked for an unhinged boss, and it messes with your head in terrible ways and will do you no favors later in your career. Yours sounds particularly abusive and awful and weird. Do everything Alison suggests and get out as swiftly as you can.

    1. Drew*

      I can think of no stronger argument than that someone who works ON THE HELLMOUTH and is toughing it out is saying “You have to go. Right now. Like *this minute*.”

    2. Frustrated In DC*

      If Hellmouth is saying it’s wrong, you KNOW it’s wrong.

      Seriously though, I agree wholeheartedly with every single person : GTFO of that job right now.
      I used to work in NYC and when I started in 2001 I made $40K and lived in Queens with a roommate. You can do *so much better* than what you are doing now.
      If you need any contacts with recruiting agencies there, I still have contacts of people I’ve worked with and I can give you the agencies (they’re mostly in the legal world) but you can honestly get a job temping over the summer pretty much immediately – people are on summer vacations all the time. And you’ll get paid more than what you’re making now, no one will make you wear their hand me downs or eat their leftovers and you won’t have to beg and grovel about how much the job means to you before you’re allowed to leave at the end of the day.
      Just make sure you have any and all communication with Crazy Lady in writing stored on your phone or home computer or thumb drive or something. You’ll need all of it.
      Get out. Leave now. Seriously.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ll take 37 Squirrel Army’s and 97 bugged offices over wearing someone’s old clothes and being made to BEG for my job after falling through a grate and busting ribs all while paying you as a contractor. Seriously!

  35. Murphy*

    My jaw is on the floor. Everything Alison and everyone else said x1000. Wow.

    And I hope you’re OK after that fall!

    1. Luna123*

      Oh God, I got to that part and just … oh nooooo, I hope the LW gets out and finds a better place. I feel like almost anything would be better than that.

  36. Eillah*

    35k a year in NYC and this asshole has the gall to say you should be grateful?? Job search immediately, and know that you deserve much better than this!

    1. Eillah*

      Also, why is it always the most controlling, shitty bosses that pay you so little that they can essentially control your job search? Fuck bosses who treat vulnerable employees this way, seriously.

  37. VermiciousKnid*

    RUN! RUN NOW AND NEVER LOOK BACK! This place is bugf*ck crazy. Don’t even wait for another job in your field. Get a job that covers your bills (serving, retail, whatever) and job search. You’ll be in a much better position when you’re actually hunting and actively interviewing if your mental health isn’t completely shot.

  38. Erin*

    Oh good Jesus, this is one of those letters that makes your heart rate increase as you read it. Please follow the advice to a T and then send back an update for us. Good luck!

  39. RUKiddingMe*

    Am I the only one that heard “puts the lotion on its skin..,?” Just me? Ok then.

    OP ruuuuunnnnn! Seriously that’s a *suck* job.

  40. Neosmom*

    After you leave, please post about your experience with this employer on Glassdoor very matter-of-factly and truthfully. No one else should go into an interview with this abusive loon unprepared.

    1. irene adler*

      And on
      And with BBB
      And anywhere else where reviews are submitted.
      Let the local schools know about her too.

  41. mreasy*

    hello! joining the chorus to say GET OUT as soon as you can! yes, you are being hideously underpaid, but in certain industries that’s the norm, even in NYC, early in your career. the problem here is that your boss is teaching you behavior responses that could take you years and years to unlearn. take it from someone who had an abusive and controlling boss with some similarities to yours in my first “professional” job – and it has taken me years to get over some of the fear and anxiety that I learned to bring to professional interactions, and that includes TONS of therapy. please get yourself out of this terrible situation. you deserve to be treated so much better.

  42. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    OP, please leave this job immediately if you can. I’ve had bad jobs, and none were as bad as this. I live and work in NY and you can absolutely find a better job (that pays you properly!). None of this is normal and none of it is okay.

  43. Ra94*

    Oh wow, are you working in my office? 3-person office, crazy narcissist boss with no boundaries, misclassifies her employees…also, from the beet salad and the general work environment, would I be totally off the mark in asking if your boss is from an Eastern European origin? (As am I, and my boss, and I know our community’s norms can be…wacky.)

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Beet salad is a pretty trendy food. I don’t think OP’s boss is of any particular ethnic origin, nor do I think that matters.

      1. Ra94*

        I’m asking as a person from that ethnic group, who knows that boundary-stomping, toxic work environments are often the norm in our community. It doesn’t matter in the long run for OP- who should obviously get out ASAP, as everyone is telling them- but the possible cultural context did make me curious, and could affect OP’s boss’ mindset in ways which might be relevant until OP manages to get out.

        For example, my boss operates the way she does with ZERO inkling that there’s anything toxic or wrong in her behaviour. Sure, she knows misclassification is illegal, but every other employer in her professional network misclassifies their employees, and she used to be misclassified herself. That context doesn’t make it any less awful, but it does inform the strategies I use to survive in my nutty workplace until I can escape.

  44. The Ginger Ginger*

    OP, I second everything AAM and the other commenters are saying, but want to add, did you ACTUALLY go back to work the day after cracking 2 ribs and getting a head injury that required an MRI? Because if the job (boss/pay/whatever) made you unable to take time off after an injury that serious and then THREATENED YOU WITH UNEMPLOYMENT about it…..that is so, so bad. This job is a threat to your physical health, OP. Start job hunting now.

  45. Marion Ravenwood*

    What’s the job equivalent of Dan Savage’s DTMFA? Because that. A thousand times that.

    This is how horror movies start levels of bad juju. OP, start job hunting now, and get out as soon as you can. You’re young enough that you can chalk this up to a bad experience – and now you know what *not* to look for in your next job!

    (And I’m glad you’re all right after your fall.)

    1. Lynn*

      How about TTJASI (take this job and shove it)? It is a classic-and ever so appropriate in this situation.

  46. Ella*

    35K might be an acceptable (not great, but acceptable) yearly wage in lower cost of living cities, but it is essentially poverty level in NYC. Certainly low enough to qualify you for affordable housing, at the very least. And anyone who thinks a yearly wage that leaves their employing relying on government assistance for a place to live is “great” is delusional. And that’s if the business was paying your taxes and social security as it should. If you have to pay those yourself it’s not only illegal, it also drops your wage even farther below a livable income. And that’s beyond the other bizarre, hurtful, and frankly immoral stuff she’s done to you.

    Like Allison said, get out, and get out now. And report her to the IRS as soon as you are able.

    1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      OP first, please know that what the overwhelming majority of commenters are telling you is true. This is an abusive as heck situation and none of the described behaviors are normal or fair. If it is within your power to do so, leave as soon as possibly can and don’t worry about leaving this person/company in a lurch. You have no obligation to this woman or her business!
      Secondly, @Ella is totally correct. $35K gross a year in NYC doesn’t quite qualify as poverty level, but it is considered “Very Low Income” and would most likely qualify you for housing assistance per the U.S. HUD FY2018 Median Family Income and Income Limits Report for NYC. In all honesty, $35K a year on a 1099 isn’t super feasible where I live in ‘suburb of prominent Texas city’ and we’re nowhere near NYC rental prices!
      I know the thought of job hunting is daunting and exhausting, but please don’t let it keep you from finding a healthier situation. You can do it!
      P.S. Despite my username, I think hugs might be warranted in this situation, so I’m sending you digital hugs and thoughts of encouragement!

  47. CommanderBanana*


    Seriously. NONE of this is normal or remotely ok and a lot of it sounds downright abusive. Please, please start looking for another job, because this one is bananacrackers and none of this is okay.

  48. blackcatlady*

    Are you way to young to never have watched The Devil Wears Prada? Get another job ASAP! You can be professional and give a two weeks notice but sadly, it will be hell on earth.

    1. Another Alison with 1 L*

      OP Here, I used to love that movie. When I tried to watch it a couple weeks ago it started to give me PTSD.

      1. Sarah M*

        Yeah, that’s the last you need right now. I know there are a ton of comments to get through, but I hope you can read them all. They are really supportive of you and your situation, and there’s some great advice in here as well. Best of luck!

      2. Quandong*

        I’m not surprised!

        I hope you can extricate yourself quickly from this abusive situation. You might consider calling or texting a helpline to get support as you leave, and for your recovery afterwards.

        Best wishes and keep following your instincts to get to a safer environment. You deserve better than this.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is after the abused has declared they are leaving or has left. Being professional is politeness, abusers don’t get polite.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Even in that movie, she makes reasonable money, it’s a prestigious job for a large company where people tend to move up quickly (you pay your dues with the boss from hell for a year and then get a promotion and move on), and she is able to make good money selling the free designer clothes she gets from work.

      OP should be comparing her situation to something out of Dickens, not frothy chick lit.

      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        The starting salary at Conde Naste when that movie was made was 24k. It was still 24k in 2008. Ask me how I KNOW.

  49. SometimesALurker*

    Good for you for trusting your gut enough to write to Alison for advice. It’s hard to know what norms are when you’re new to the workforce.
    (Now, I’ll second all of the people saying “get out of there!” If you can afford to quit without a replacement job lined up, now’s a fine time to do that.)

  50. Sara without an H*

    OP, the only thing I can add to the excellent advice Allison and the commentariat have given you is: document everything. Save all emails — you may want to forward them to your personal account for safekeeping. (Your email program will probably let you set this up as an automatic option.) Keep all your employment related stuff (pay stubs, insurance records, whatever) at home, NOT at work.

    Your boss has a seriously warped sense of boundaries, she is doing you no good whatever either personally or professionally, and you need to move on as quickly as possible.

  51. Phony Genius*

    She constantly says, “No other job would treat you this well,” and makes you repeat similar praise? And there are only 3 people working there, including her? It doesn’t sound like a job. It sounds like she’s running one of the world’s smallest cults.

    You can easily make more than $35,000/year in most other jobs in NYC, even those that would be considered bridge jobs while you look for something more permanent.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I guarantee you most jobs would treat you that well. My *worst* jobs treated me better than this.

  52. CouldntPickAUsername*

    wow this manager. she’s treating you like garbage and grooming you like an abusive relationship and she’s got her hooks in you. You’re defending her for berating you for your broken ribs after an accident. This is not a criticism of you op, you’ve been normalized to this toxic behaviour and you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s not your fault. She’s manipulated you, positioned herself to control you. This will only ever get worse. This is the kind of boss people write books about that involve the word “prada”. You are worth more than this and I don’t just mean the money.

  53. WKRP*

    I’ve lived and worked in NYC for 20 years. 35K for 9-5 job is not so fantastically wonderful that you need to put up with crazy. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this is a pretty standard entry-level salary and honestly, maybe even a little lower than normal (and I work at a non-profit). I have no doubt that you’ll find a job that would pay the same (or more) they wouldn’t mess with your employment status, force you to wear someone else’s clothes, or throw a temper tantrum because you were injured. Your boss is delusional and is taking her delusions out on you.

    My first boss had tendencies like yours and she certainly messed with my concept of professional reality, something that I’m still trying to work around. Please don’t get entrenched in a toxic, ridiculous environment while you’re still developing your career. It will just make it more difficult down the road and you deserve better.

  54. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    OMFG, this woman is a horrible abusive POS. I won’t even try to be nice about it. She’s pure evil.

    You are paid like dirt and treated even worse. This is not how functional business owners treat their employees. I hope you get out soon. She is NOT a mentor and is not someone to look up to or take anything from. She’s just awful in every way.

  55. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    “I fell through a loading hatch on the street, broke two ribs and hit my head. ”

    OMG. This is almost an urban legend nightmare accident in NYC, “don’t walk over those hatch doors, you’ll fall in, it happened to (vague, distant social connection.)” I grew up getting those warnings from my mom, never heard of it happening to anyone until now.

    I hope you’ve recovered well, that sounds terrifying.

    1. The Original K.*

      My grandmother used to issue those warnings too. I had the same thought – “Yikes, that really happened!”

    2. cmcinnyc*

      I warn my daughter about it all the time. It’s right up there with “never start a land war in Asia.” I’m going to add, “And watch out for being misclassified as a contract worker!!”

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        And never get into a battle of wits with a Sicilian, when death is on the line!

    3. RachelM*

      When I first moved to NYC I worked classifying civil cases in the NY court system and this happens all the time! I was shocked. I thought it was a joke too. I read 2-3 cases a week that were about this!

  56. DaffyDuck*

    Those times when she is a lovely person? That is the skill that allows mental abusers to survive in society instead of getting thrown in jail. They specialize in making people think the behaviour is normal and you should be so thankful because you won’t do better. People “outside” the inner circle probably think she is charming and a wonderful person. Her behaviour just screams of a self-centred, overly controlling, and slightly sadistic. Start looking for a new job ASAP and file that tax complaint on the way out.

  57. voluptuousfire*

    Hoo boy…35k in NYC as an independent contractor (which is 100% illegal) is shit. Absolute shit. As it is, your pay is only a few bucks above minimum wage in NYC for a business under 10 people. With paying your own taxes, you’re likely well below minimum wage.


    GET.OUT.OF.THIS.JOB.ASAP! Temp, retail, bartend, waitress–this is a horrifically toxic environment. I hope you have some savings after taxes to float yourself if necessary. This woman is evil…e-VILE.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      I had a similar role back in the mid 00’s–worked for a small business and made $10 an hour as a 1099 in midtown Manhattan. Totally misclassified and the only job I ever quit without notice. My boss was an asshat and I had the longest tenure of any assistant he had–a whole 5 months. The last 3 after me lasted a few days to a few weeks.

  58. Eillah*

    WhiteCap Search in NYC. A wonderful recruiting firm that actually listens to clients and puts effort into finding a good match. I am so incensed on your behalf, OP. This is so, so, SO aggressively wrong.

      1. The Original K.*

        When I was temping, I worked most often with an agency called Clarity. I haven’t worked with them in years now (I just Googled to make sure they were still around), but they were easy to work with and got me consistent temp work for a while when I needed it.

        OP, I don’t know if you’re in a creative field but if you are, I’ve worked with The Creative Group and Creative Circle a lot, on both sides of the aisle – I’ve hired people and been hired through them. They have offices all over, including NYC.

        Also, someone else said this elsewhere, but reach out to your school’s alumni office – I’d bet they have career services options available to you.

      2. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Clarity Staffing ( is who I used about 8 years ago and it was a really great experience.

      3. voluptuousfire*

        I liked Atrium–they were the only agency to get me a temp gig back in 2015 when I was last looking. Also try Clarity recruiting.

        1. WKRP*

          I did Atrium maybe over a decade ago as a freelancer. A few of my clients used them for temp services, so they would have me sign up as a temp through them. Back then if you worked a certain number of hours, you even got some health insurance. Not sure if it’s still the case, but I liked ’em!

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I once interviewed with their Boston office… and that health insurance was horrifically unaffordable. Like, $500 a month for a for a single relatively healthy 30-ish adult, with positions that paid like $13 an hour. And taking any job they offered me would have made me ineligible for the pre-Obamacare state-subsidized insurance, which was the only insurance I could afford – because by its rules having a job that offered health insurance meant you “had health insurance” no matter how expensive it was in relation to your pay.

            (Declining a job offer from them would have rendered me ineligible for unemployment, too, so all I could do was hope they never called me. Fortunately, they didn’t. I despise the US healthcare system.)

            Maybe it’s different now. Maybe the NYC office is better. But seeing “Atrium” just made me cringe.

      4. Carrotstick21*

        Yes – Custom Staffing, ask for Ellen Nadien for temporary work. Custom can also help with a perm role but the temp work will cover while OP searches. I’m horrified at what OP has been enduring and want them to get out without staying one more day.

  59. Coffee Owlccountant*

    LW, you do not have a boss, you have an abuser and she is not a lovely person. I expect that she can be very pleasant at times because that is how abusers operate; if they were horrible to you 100% of the time, from the very beginning, nobody would ever struggle to leave an abuser.

    I am going to echo the chorus of thousands that say “Job hunt NOW” but LW, please know that leaving will be hard. You will be guilt-tripped, you will be belittled, you will be insulted, you will be begged to stay, you will be told that you’re not good enough to stay and she should have fired you long ago anyway. Please be absolutely steadfast in your No and WALK AWAY. Do not feel pressured into giving more notice – in fact, if you are a in a position to leave without a notice period, this is a situation where you should do that and feel no remorse.

    I promise you that this stint will not reflect poorly on your future career. When interviewers ask why you left your last job, just watch their eyebrows climb to the ceiling when they hear you say “My boss attempted to illegally classify me as a contractor rather than an employee and forced me to beg to keep my job after I had a serious accident on my way to work one day.”

    LW, please leave your job as soon as you can.

    1. Oranges*

      Yes, the extinction burst will be horrific in this one. Do not feel guilty. Just like a woman who leaves her abuser shouldn’t* feel guilty. Just run then block her ass.

      *A significant portion of abuse victims do feel guilty based upon purely anecdotal evidence. I am fully willing to bow to superior knowledge though.

  60. kristinyc*

    This is horrifying.

    OP – I live in NYC, am very well-connected, and would gladly help you find something else. None of this is normal or healthy.

    1. Copier Company Admin Girl*

      I was hoping someone would comment this. I’m in the Midwest but would happily pitch in to keep OP on their feet!

    2. Christina*

      Same, OP. I am in NYC and would be happy to help!

      Do everything everyone on here (and Alison) has said:
      -Find a new job
      -Fix your taxes
      -Take care of those ribs and the rest of yourself.

      1. Christina*

        And one more addition echoing others:

        Start taking your things out of the office slowly. Both personal items, as well as files, documents, pay stubs, etc.

        1. fogharty*

          Totally agree.
          Be prepared to leave the very second you tell her you’re quitting. As in, keep your coat on and have nothing left in your desk. (and I wouldn’t give her two weeks notice, that would be two weeks of hell)
          Please take care of yourself. Be prepared in case she gets physical with you… I have a bad feeling she might lash out.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Same, OP. I may not be super well-connected but you have internet friends in the area who are happy to help you however we can!

    4. A Nonnus Mousicus*

      I am also in NYC with several helpful connections. Would be more than happy to assist the OP in getting out of this terrible situation.

  61. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Also she’s sending you a 1099 because she’s probably not set up as a business that has employees and doesn’t want to pay insurance. You have no workers comp insurance in this instance! If you get hurt on the job, you won’t have any access to that insurance.

    So you’re making 35k, while listed as a contractor. That’s even worse.

    You don’t approach a rabid beast, you just get away from it. There is no reasoning with someone who makes you act like she’s a wonderful being for employing you.

    1. Natalie*

      Although, on the off chance something does happen to you (or anyone else in a similar situation), don’t just assume you’re SOL. Check with your state – employers may be required to cover ICs and/or your state’s workers comp bureau may pursue misclassification issues separately from Wage & Hour and/or IRS.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Good point! But it will still be one of those “pay out of pocket and then hope to get reimbursed”. Since the doctors aren’t going to sit on a bill just because of some shady employment nonsense =(

        1. Natalie*

          Very true, I was definitely thinking of the extreme situations where you have to get medical care, or have lost your job because of a work injury, so you’re experiencing the harm no matter what.

  62. Linzava*

    Hi OP,

    She’s not a lovely person, she’s nice to you when you’re behavior is that of a good dog, it’s just her using manipulation to get you to conform. This training behavior she’s using on you is incredibly harmful to you long term. When a person uses their power to cross boundries and manipulate your sense of self, the victims can end up walking away with anxiety, depression and sometimes PTSD because the abuser has been targeting the victims self trust and judgdment. The next time you are horribly injured on your way to work, you brain is going to tell you not to seek treatment, but to get permission from your boss to seek treatment and your brain might reinforce what a wonderful person they are for allowing you to live. See where I’m going with this?

    Please please walk away and don’t be angry with yourself when you get some distance, actively keep your anger directed at her and don’t feel sorry for her, she’ll pull the victim card too, but she’s really just a human monster.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It also makes you more susceptible to future abusers. They can smell that you’ve been groomed to such manipulation, it’s absolutely the beginning of the cycle.

      1. Linzava*

        Very true! The best defense against future abuse is recognizing the tactics. Once you see the pattern, anyone who uses them is repulsive to you as a protective mechanism. If a future abuser senses that, they move on to someone else.

      2. Wrong Target*

        And you can second-guess your gut instincts about them, thinking that surely you are just distrustful and unfair because of previous experience. :/

      3. Camellia*

        And I hate to have to say it, but my first thought on reading this is that OP has already suffered this in their life and the boss was able to recognize it and chose the OP because of that.

        I speak from the experience of a horrifying childhood and it took many years of therapy and self-help to overcome it. One way that I knew I was healing was when I first realized that fewer abusers were ‘choosing’ me – as an employee and as a friend – because I didn’t ‘present’ as a victim as much as I used to.

        OP, I hope this is not your situation/background, and Linzava is right; get out now before it does become your ‘new normal’.

  63. Natalie*

    So you make ~16.75 an hour, minus ~$1.25 for the payroll taxes you’re covering, meaning your actual hourly rate is about $15.50.

    Minimum wage in NYC is $15. You could work *literally anywhere else in town* and make essentially the same amount. Go do that!

    1. OG Karyn*

      It’s even worse – federal payroll taxes for self-employed people are 15.3% of income, to account for both the employer and employee portions of Medicare and FICA (believe me, I know this pain…ugh…). So if she’s being paid as a 1099 employee making $16.75 an hour, she’s actually only netting about $14.20, and that’s not counting any federal, state, or local income taxes. Your point stands, though – literally any other job will do.

      1. Natalie*

        I didn’t include employee FICA or income taxes because she would be responsible for those costs as an employee or as a contractor, and the rates are identical. As a self employed person, your total FICA rate is a little lower than 15.3% because you can deduct half of it above the line, making the effective rate 14.13%. So that actual *additional* tax is 6.5%.

        (Now, they often come as a surprise for newly self-employed people, or misclassified people, because they’re accustomed to having the amounts deducted over 26 or 52 increments and think of the face value of their check as their take home pay. But that’s psychological, it doesn’t actually mean you’re paying more income taxes than an employee.)

        1. OG Karyn*

          Ahhh, I see what you did. I didn’t realize you were looking at the rate after the above-the-line deduction. That makes more sense!

    2. vampire physicist*

      I was going to say – my roommate (in NYC) made about this much at Starbucks. Also, if you have a grad degree and can tutor, you can make more than this in NYC while working full time if you need to quit ASAP and support yourself during a job search.

      1. Any other job*

        Yes, this. Private tutoring can start as high as $35/hour in NYC if you work for a tutoring company that does the legwork of finding students and maintaining office space for you. I highly recommend going that route with your graduate degree while you look for work in your field.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      It’s even less–if a business has under 10 employees, it’s permissible in NYC to pay them $13.50 per hour for a minimum wage. OP is only making a few bucks more than that.

  64. I mean seriously folks*

    RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN THIS IS SO FAR BEYOND ANYTHING NEAR NORMAL!!!! I almost had a panic attack just reading this. OP, find ANY other job.

  65. Little Tin Goddess*

    When you leave (quickly please), dont give her 2 weeks. Just take your stuff and go. Go work at a temp agency until you find something permanent. She’s not right in the head. What she’s doing is highly illegal regarding your taxes. You need to leave and tout suite.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yeah, if I were the OP and reading this from work, I would stand up, gather my things, and leave. Permanently. Without even discussing it with anyone. Just, like, “Hey, where’s Arya, I want her to try on this blazer!…. oh, she’s…. gone? oh…”

      It’s not like you’re getting a reference out of this person, anyway.

      1. Essess*

        I agree with this. She wants you to come back, let HER beg for you to keep the job…. to an empty room.

  66. Colorado*

    Sometimes I just read the title and scroll to Alison’s first sentence. This is one of those times.

    1. Phony Genius*

      This is one of those times when I knew what Alison’s first sentence would be before I read it.

  67. A Person*

    I am not understanding why you think you need to stay another six months in this job where you are being paid illegally. People like this will not give you a good reference. In fact it might be better to leave this job off your resume altogether. You’d probably get paid better by a temp agency anyway – after taxes.

    Be prepared to pay those payroll taxes out of your tiny paycheck if you stay. Leave and immediately report her to whoever you need to get her to pay the back taxes on your salary so you don’t get stuck doing it. But take copies of all the documentation that shows you’re an actual employee with you in case she fights it.

    1. Alton*

      Yeah, staying in a horrible job can have risks that may outweigh the benefits of putting six months or a year in. The longer you stay, the harder it can be to leave without creating an awkward gap on your resume or in your references. There’s no way I’d trust someone like this to give me a reference.

    2. pamela voorhees*

      I promise you she will not give you a good reference. She will not be supportive, she will not say kind things. She will continue to be the person she has shown herself to be all throughout your time here. When someone shows you who they are, the hardest but best thing we can do is believe them. You need to protect yourself and get out.

  68. Wing Leader*

    Ohhh booyyy.

    OP, sounds like your boss is a master manipulator. All of the extra crap–the clothes, the unwanted food, etc.–seems like just a buffer to make you feel guilty for, I don’t know, asking for proper wages! And she keeps throwing up this grateful crap to cut you off at the pass and make you feel guilty BEFORE you even get a chance to question the awful treatment.

    You boss is toxic, and you need to move on.

  69. glitter writer*

    There are dozens of very good temp/staffing agencies in NYC. One placed me into a great full-time job several years ago after I was let go from another job that was toxic. Walk out the door immediately, do not pass go, and start assignments through them. Dear god.

    1. Yvette*

      I don’t know if it is against the commenting rules but if not, can you name names for the OP?

      1. glitter writer*

        I don’t know if it is either, but the one that placed me (a decade ago, so grain of salt) was called Atrium, and I found them great to work with.

        1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

          Seconding Atrium!

          Will also add Artisan Talent and Lynne Palmer and Professional for Nonprofits.

          Not sure if this will get taken down for naming specifics, my only stake is seeing the OP get out today and start working somewhere else next week.

    2. tallteapot*

      My advice exactly, You make much better money per hour, aren’t a 1099 employee and very often, they can lead to permanent employment in interesting fields. It’s a great stopgap measure and can also provide solid references to help your job search.

  70. Another Alison with 1 L*

    Hi OP Here,

    First of all, I wrote this letter mostly as a sanity check. Thank you Alison and commentators for verifying that this is not normal. I’m still at the job as of now, but I’ve been doing some freelance work and am trying to make the transition to another career path in the near future. I have a very promising opportunity lined up with a friend which would double my salary and include benefits.

    My therapist is also strongly pushing me to find another job, but in the meantime she’s suggested I treat the whole situation like Jim from the Office. Don’t internalize anything or take it personally, recognize it’s not normal, and hopefully I’ll have some excellent book material down the road.

    A few updates: soon after I wrote this letter the other assistant rage quit. And since Boss can’t do anything with a computer beyond sending an email, she literally can’t fire me. So that’s greatly reduced my anxiety. She’s also cooled it a bunch with food and clothes, which I greatly appreciate. Boss has also taken to working from home a lot, which makes my job go much smoother, as I just send her my draft, she edits and returns it. I’m not subjected to a lecture about every minute detail she’s changing.

    I brought up the contractor thing, and she reacted exactly as I predicted. She gave me a lecture about how hard she works, what a great job this is, how I actually benefit because my salary is higher since she’s not withholding taxes. When I mentioned this was illegal, she said this is the way she’s always classified my job in the past. So yeah, I’m reporting her to the IRS as soon as I move on.

    Once again, thanks everyone for the support. I’m sure I’ll have ridiculousness to add to an update in the near future.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hi! I want to make sure you understand the tax implications here — you’re not getting more, you’re getting less. That’s because you need to pay not only the normal income taxes you’d pay on this money if you were an employee, but you also need to pay the share of taxes that would normally be paid by your employer. She is making you take a significant loss by doing it this way.

      Once you leave, have the IRS reclassify you and then amend your taxes; you should get some of this back in a refund eventually but you’ll have to do a bunch of paperwork to get it.

          1. valentine*

            OP/Another Alison with 1 L: I’m hoping salary is just a figure of speech. Your job is probably classified hourly/non-exempt and Joan should be paying you an hourly wage and proper overtime.

      1. Arctic*

        I think the boss is implying the LW shouldn’t even file. Thus, making more by never paying taxes.

        Which is obviously both illegal AND stupid. As it’s very easy to get caught nowadays.

        1. Natalie*

          Indeed, given that 1099s are filed with the IRS it would be fairly obvious if the OP didn’t file this year, or did file and didn’t include this income. Now, no one is going to chase them down, but they would start accruing interest and penalties, and those add up.

        2. JamieS*

          No I think she was saying she’s passing the savings onto OP so would’ve paid OP less if she paid payroll taxes.

      2. emmelemm*

        Yeah, if she’s only worked there six months, she’s not yet filed a tax return for this job. I don’t think she understands that she is going to get hit with a huge tax bill ALL AT ONCE when she does her taxes. (Happened to me first job out of college – I had no idea what a “1099 employee” even was.)

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          She got a 1099, probably for a month or two in 2018. The 2019 bill is going to *SUCK*.

          OP, you’re looking at 15% of every paycheck from this person needing to be paid in taxes. You will be in a better position to get the refund if you’re paying down the amount she has illegally set you up to owe.
          – Try to set something aside if you can.
          – When the tax bill hits, remember that you can set up a payment plan.
          – When you get a new position, you can have them take extra $$ out each paycheck, above just the 0 exemptions. Have the new job do that for a few months. You can change the W2 any time, once you think you’ve got the tax bill covered.

          Get into that new job ASAP – as long as you’re in this job, your boss is putting you in debt to the IRS. It’s part of the abuse.

          And don’t be fooled by the current calm. Your boss is abusive, this is just a honeymoon phase to try to keep you around longer. You deserve better and can get it easily.

          1. Catsaber*

            This situation happened to my husband back in 2007 when he started a new job – it had a 3 month probationary period, but they set him up as a 1099 when he should not have been. We got hit by a surprise tax bill. The IRS was very willing to set up a payment plan that made it manageable. It sucked, but we were able to pay it off without too much hardship.

        2. LadyCop*

          Yeah I totally think this is ignorance on the part of boss vs maliciousness…which only marginally makes it better…

          She clearly doesn’t understand that the OP isn’t getting -more- money. Hell, I can claim 20 on my W-4 and nothing would probably come out of my paycheck, but that doesn’t mean the taxes aren’t due.

          I also would like to hear the rage quit story. *readies popcorn*

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Oh, I think the boss understands it *just fine,* and is handwaving at the OP in order to make her think she is getting a better deal. Smoke and mirrors.

      3. SpellingBee*

        Also, since you’ve been thinking that you were an employee and not a contractor, I’m guessing that you haven’t been paying estimated taxes since you started. Not only has she not been paying the employer’s portion of payroll taxes, she hasn’t been deducting and paying in your portion either. You should check into this ASAP to make sure you don’t get dinged with a penalty for not having paid enough of your taxes by the end of the year.

    2. I edit everything*

      Hey, OP–

      I’m so glad you have something promising on the horizon and that things have semi-improved. In case your promising opportunity doesn’t pan out, I hope you noticed that a few people upthread (kristinyc and others) have offered networking assistance. Best of luck to you!

    3. voluptuousfire*

      Glad you’re doing well, OP!

      Sounds like your (hopefully soon to be former!) boss has a good chance of being Ask A Manager’s Bad Boss of the Year. :) She’s definitely the front runner, IMO.

    4. ChachkisGalore*

      Hi OP – one more thing that might help alleviate some anxiety. If your boss does fire you you can still file for unemployment (assuming you would otherwise qualify). You’ll have to prove that you were misclassified and it will probably take longer than usual for benefits to kick in. In my case (in NYC, several years ago) I just had to fill out an additional questionnaire about the nature of my work and then I think it took about 6-7 weeks to start receiving benefits (but I did receive benefits back dated to cover those 6-7 weeks).

    5. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*


      Alison with 1 L – please do whatever you can to keep yourself mentally safe and financially secure. I’m in the UK and know nothing about US taxes, but what I’ve read here scares me because of the potential to really screw you over. If you can’t getoutgetoutgetout as fast as we’re all hoping you can, get working on the best FOF (f***off fund – I believe it was originally meant for relationships, but this situation definitely qualifies) you can afford.


    6. Andy S.*

      100% report this to the IRS if she will not change your classification. I had to do this myself several years ago; I taught part-time for a large online college (don’t want to name names) that classified its adjunct instructors like myself as 1099 contractors. Unfortunately, I lost out on several years worth of self-employment tax because I did not report this until a) the educational institution itself changed our classification (but not retroactively, mind you) and b) my local commission of revenue came after me for back business license tax. Before you quit, make sure to save off any documentation that will serve as evidence for the IRS to apply their 20 point test – e.g., emails showing how you were given a specific schedule, directions from the employer on how to complete work, etc. I sent a literal box full of documentation to the IRS to prove my case.

      If you live in the USA, you may also want to report this to your state’s employment commission. You can use the same evidence and statement.

      Finally, IF your commissioner of revenue hounds you about business license tax, you may have to go through the same thing with THEM.

      So yes, this is a massive pain for you – I’m sorry!

    7. R2D2*

      Stealing a comment from below, to make sure you see it:

      “OP, totally forgot to mention, the New York Bar has a free night with real live lawyers where you can show up and get help with this exact thing and they will tell you exactly how to make a case against your boss.

      “It’s called Monday Night Law and they have helped loads of people I know with bosses and landlords who are doing illegal stuff:

      “Call and make an appointment!!!”

    8. Oranges*

      Your boss has cooled it because she knows she NEEDS to. She is constantly measuring how much abuse she can get away with based upon her own personal calculus. The calculus WILL change and not in your favor.

      Abusive Behaviors:
      Favor shark (do “nice” things that create an implied social debt).
      Mask all my controlling behavior as “concern”.
      Lie about abilities to grind down your sense of pride.
      Lie about how “good” I am to you until you believe it.
      Be just the right amount of “nice” so you don’t leave.
      Grind your psyche down so the amount of “nice” can be less and less.

    9. Carrotstick21*

      I just want to agree and emphasize that the longer the OP stays in this situation, the greater the tax hit will be at the end of the year when she files. From my perspective I really cannot see why staying one more day would be appealing. Go ahead and pull a rage quit of your own and do not look back. I’m in NYC and work in HR and would be happy to give advice if needed. Call Ellen Nadien at Custom Staffing for temp work to cover while you search – she’ll take care of you.

    10. RabbitRabbit*

      If you’re checking back on responses – kristinyc and others offered to help find you positions. Search on that name in the comments. And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, she’s going to ramp up the crazy again, especially if she thinks you’re going to leave soon!

  71. A Nony Mouse*

    Since you are not going to be able to trust her to use her for a reference anyway, and a two week notice period would be fraught with drama – you get to take the most emotionally satisfying method of departure when you leave and just ghost her! You can call or send an email warning about her withholding your final pay, but it might be better to just block her one day and move on.

    1. linzava*

      The idea of ghosting a job is crazy to me, but not as crazy as quitting face to face with a person like her boss. The high level of emotional abuse here is shocking, I would absolutely ghost this job as well. She’s not getting a good reference from this boss either way, in fact, this boss will likely lie about her to anyone who calls.

    2. Courageous cat*

      A bad idea, sure, but I sure would be tempted to quit by simply sending her a link to this post then vanish from her life.

  72. sofar*

    As a side note, Allison’s advice about tiny companies rings so incredibly true, to the point where I won’t even consider working at one anymore.

    I temped at one (a staff of 5) and saw some of the most messed up things at work I’ve EVER seen. Among other things, I strongly suspect the company president couldn’t read and hid that by terrorizing his small flock of employees and making them do things like read emails out loud to him.

    My in-laws also run a tiny family-run business, and it’s a Bluth-family level of dysfunction and oddities.

    1. AKchic*

      Family-owned businesses, especially small ones, are some of the most dysfunctional places to ever work. Unfortunately, they are also very prevalent in Alaska, which is why I have so many stories of short-term jobs (and yeah, the dysfunction is why they are short-term). It took a while before people were willing to give a young, single mom with a GED (high school drop-out at 15) a chance, but once they did, my work spoke for itself. It was rough getting my professional footing, especially with a chaotic personal life. Especially when you’ve got small-town mentality going on in a conservative state.
      Now? Well, now nobody seems to notice my personal life when it comes to my professional one. Yeah, they’ve “heard”, and they are “aware” I’m “involved in extracurriculars” (a standard euphemism for my volunteerism, acting and activism) but as long as I keep it away from the office, it’s not a big deal. (Except to my mother)

    2. KayEss*

      Yup. Not sure if 20-ish employees counts as “tiny” or merely “small,” but that was the worst experience of my life and I will forever filter out all companies smaller than 100+ in subsequent job searches.

      OP’s boss reminds me a bit of the company owner in that hell-job… but worse, which is something I am truly shocked to be able to say. Mine tried to foist clothes, food, and unwanted useless gifts off on us, and privately seethed about our gratitude performance not being sufficient, but at least she followed tax laws.

      1. sofar*

        I feel like, “I can’t get in trouble with HR if there’s no HR!” is a huge reason some of the worst people end up running their own businesses.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          OMG, yes. I suspect a lot of awful people start businesses mainly so they can indulge their desire to be tyrannical assholes unchecked.

    3. Jeny*

      100% agree with this, I won’t work for a business with under 100 employees or any company that describes themselves as “like family” because you always end up with power-crazed, self important incompetents at the top because Daddy gave them enough money to start a business.

  73. Jaybeetee*

    What everyone else has said – this is an abusive boss, and this is not something you should hang on another 6 months for if you have any other options.

    I’ll also say this, OP, speaking as someone who is slightly older than you and learned this too late, from hard life experience:

    Genuinely awesome people generally don’t tout how awesome they are. Genuinely nice and kind people don’t talk about how nice and kind they are. Genuinely great employers don’t tout how great the job is. People who are actually “good to you” don’t remind you that they are, in fact, “good to you.” And *most of the time*, genuinely great people to be around don’t leave you feeling constantly stressed and upset (even if you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel that way).

    Whether it’s jobs, dating, friendships, family, or whatever else, always watch out for people who talk about how “good” they are, in some way or another. If they really were, they wouldn’t have to tell you.

    Also, google “Sick Systems” at some point. You might find that article… very prescient.

    1. no more toxic job*

      I found Sick Systems through this blog and remembered sending it to my coworker and both of us reading it and realizing how horrible our boss really was.

  74. Been There*

    Alarm bells started ringing in my head when reading what she’s telling you. “Nobody will ever treat you as nicely as I do, nobody will love you like I do, you don’t know how good you have it” is what my emotional abuser said to me, and your boss is doing the same to you. As others have said, she is grooming you to be complicit to unethical business practices and, I’m sure, on a power trip. Get out, now. Today.

  75. A Simple Narwhal*

    What. WHAT.

    There are too many horrible things outlined in this letter to say other than holy hell get out of this bee-filled office.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Also, people have been making references to The Devil Wears Prada, but at least in that movie Andy was actually learning skills and making good connections, plus there was pretty much a concrete guarantee that the job would be able to launch her career after a relatively short amount of time.

      1. OG Karyn*

        Also, it seemed like there was at least SORT of a human underneath Miranda’s designer clothes – particularly the fact that she sent what was, for her, a glowing recommendation to the next place Andy applied to. No way will OP’s boss do the same.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*


          Totally off topic, but in hindsight, Andy was a terrible employee. I don’t care if you don’t like fashion, don’t scoff at your boss in a meeting, and don’t walk around like you’re better than everyone else because you happen to find the core function of the business to be frivolous. Also her friends suucked.

          And this was def a movie I saw pre-working life and pre-economic collapse because I remember thinking “omg she has to suffer through this job for a whole entire year???? That’s soooo horrible” and now I’m like “wait she has to put up with a not-fantastic job for just one year and then she is all but guaranteed her dream job wherever she wants? Sign me up!”

  76. SueBee*

    Not only is it against federal law, New York State in particular has been really aggressive about going after businesses that use 1099s when they shouldn’t. State labor audits are a pain in the butt and she WILL be fined and it WILL be ugly.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      And OP–don’t hold back because she’s “lovely” sometimes. She is not lovely. I’ve been through a 1099 scam and it’s YOU that end up paying (and your Social Security too). I ended up making about 40% of my gross from that fiasco. Lovely people do not cheat people making $35K out of 40% of their earnings.

  77. RandomU...*

    OP, since this is your first professional job. Please trust everyone when they say this is bad. To provide something to measure to, I’ll use my career as an example. 35 years including after school and part time jobs:

    # of times a boss has told me I should be grateful for the job: honestly, a couple of times, but always a mutual joke, along the lines of “You should be grateful to work here, where else could you be “Queen of the Paperclip Sorting” or some other not desirable but necessary task.
    # of times I’ve had a boss bring food: Lots, lunches and treats are a good thing
    # of times I’ve been forced to eat food: 0
    # of times I’ve been berated by a boss: 0
    # of times I’ve had a boss call me ungrateful: 0
    # of times I’ve been given used clothes by a boss: 0
    # of times I’ve been told what to where and when: 0 (does not include part time jobs with uniforms)
    # of times I’ve been made to beg for my job: 0
    # of times I’ve been misclassified as an employee: 0
    # of times I’ve had a paycheck screwed up: 3 that I remember. All straightened out within 1 day of notification.

    I’ve worked in some sketchy places, with some weird bosses. And what you are describing is the equivalent of an abusive relationship. You really do need to put your effort into finding a new job. This job isn’t fixable. It’s not worth your effort to try and fix.

    Good luck in your future (and in the short term before you find something new). We’re all pulling for you!

    1. Marie*

      I agree with this, and will add my numbers to show this is legit. I was in the workforce for 10 years, quit to go back to school, got my AAS, and got back into the work force. In all that time:

      # of times a boss has told me I should be grateful for the job: 0, truly
      # of times I’ve had a boss bring food: Often
      # of times I’ve been forced to eat food: 0
      # of times I’ve been berated by a boss: 0
      # of times I’ve had a boss call me ungrateful: 0
      # of times I’ve been given used clothes by a boss: 0
      # of times I’ve been told what to where and when: 0
      # of times I’ve been made to beg for my job: 0
      # of times I’ve been misclassified as an employee: 0
      # of times I’ve had a paycheck screwed up: 1, and just like the previous person it was corrected very quickly.

      OP, if you are able to, don’t even go back. That may not be reasonable for your situation, so if you do have to go back, get out just as fast as you possibly can. I live in a low-cost area, and I started my first job out of college (again, with a 2-year degree, not even close to the amount of schooling you have to offer) making more than that.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’ve been given clothes by a boss exactly 1 time in my ~20 year career, and even that was a loan. I was up for a promotion and I didn’t have a suit to wear to the interview, so my boss loaned me one of hers.

      Nobody I’ve worked with has ever made me eat anything I didn’t feel like eating, and when I was injured in an accident on my way to work, my boss responded with “Of course you need to go to urgent care and take a few days off! Call me once the doctor tells you when you can come back to work.” Because that’s what normal bosses do when their employees need medical leave.

  78. Rockin Takin*

    Your boss is controlling
    -what you wear
    -what you eat
    -your outside work habits
    -what you think

    She is gaslighting you to think this is a good job and that she is an ok boss.

    She makes you beg for forgiveness for things that are not in your control.

    She doesn’t care if you are injured, she makes situations about herself rather than yoh.

    This is not ok. This isn’t ok for a boss, significant other, friend, or family member to do. This is not ok for anyone to do to another person.

    Get out of there!

  79. None Of This Is Fine*

    Ahhh yes, any time any employer tells you that you should be grateful for your job, it’s a red flag. Everything else in this letter is flat out abuse!! Please run NOW.

    When I quit my old job, I posted how excited I was to start my new job. My old boss’ wife was mad and messaged me that I should be grateful about how my first boss “took a chance” on a new college grad. That job was all sorts of toxic and awful. Because my industry is small I never deleted her off my social media. But I did not accept when my old boss recently requested friendship on social media.

    So now I cringe any time anyone mentions you should be grateful they hired you.

  80. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This woman is giving me flashbacks to the week I spent training for a similar person, I swear I started thinking it was that woman as I was reading. The office was in a cabin outside of her house, that was in the middle of nowhere. And when we went to get the mail the second or third day, she had received some kind of uh, vaginal cleaning device? So she opened it up and showed it to me and the woman training me. That was bad enough, then I found out she was a screamer. I quit via text, I wasn’t going to the middle of ef’ing nowhere to listen to her scream at me for deciding that I’m not getting paid $16 an hour to be yelled at or shown weird home medical devices for whatever is wrong with her lady bits.

    So this is probably why I’m having a meltdown with this letter. I want you to be safe, well cared for and actually learning valuable professional lessons. My other owners have been quirky weirdos, my first job was in a tent in a warehouse FFS but the owner really did adore me. Never raised his voice. Mistakes were brushed off as “we all make mistakes, we just learn from them.” he also taught me the most valuable thing EVER that has kept me safe my entire career. “Some people are just bad. It’s never you. They’re just bad on the inside.”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      LOL “my other owners” reads horribly, they are small business owners, they don’t own me.

    2. RandomU...*

      “…he also taught me the most valuable thing EVER that has kept me safe my entire career. “Some people are just bad. It’s never you. They’re just bad on the inside.” ”

      I think this is sound advice outside of the workplace as well as within! Shout out to good first bosses. I had one, I learned a lot from him and he really did help me get my career started on the right foot. Yes he was also the one that used to joke about letting me be “Queen of the paper clip sorting” and it really was a running mutual joke in the office when he knew he was going to assign one of us a crappy task. He never outside of those jokes told me I should be grateful… but ironically I was :)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m lucky that all my bosses taught me something valuable, even old Beelzebub. He taught me that I was smarter than I gave myself credit for and that he cannot bring me down by his poor business mind. Take that, bro.

        If they don’t teach you something, they’re not a mentor and teaching doesn’t include “how to praise the boss and cower in their shadow.” You’re just a business owner, they’re a dime a dozen, not a monarch ffs.

    3. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      “Some people are just bad. It’s never you. They’re just bad on the inside.”
      I really wish someone had told me this early on. Also, I am really having to restrain myself from just going berserk in the comments because everything in this letter feels SO UNSAFE. I want the OP to be out of there yesterday.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Seriously! If I weren’t 3000 miles away, I would be tempted to just go rescue the OP myself. I would take her to the DOR, then the employment department and the police if this hosebeast wants to try anything even crazier.

  81. Krissy*

    OP, I hope you take this advice to heart and get out of there. This is in no way normal. There is a better job out there for you but you have to actively look for it. Please send us an update and let us know how you’re doing.

  82. LKW*

    When you resign, be prepared to leave the office immediately. She would definitely take this personally. Be prepared also to have to go to the labor board for your last check. Having had to do that myself, my experience with the NYC labor board was actually highly efficient and satisfying.

    Get out. None of this is normal. I’m honestly surprised she didn’t add up those clothes as part of your pay and try to get a tax benefit for herself.

  83. AKchic*

    As a woman, as a working woman, as a formerly naïve working woman, and as a mother… I am going to give you some advice:

    R.U.N. Run now if you can. Run fast, run far. Use all of Alison’s very good advice. Stand up for yourself. When she starts “mothering” you – that’s manipulative abuse. Stand up to it. “This isn’t professional mentoring, please stop.” If she continues “I already have a mother, and this is not professional, I asked you to stop, can you do that?” If you need to, use her own tactics against her “I’d be grateful if you’d stop pushing, thanks” and see what happens.

    Start taking your personal stuff home slowly. If she notices, tell her that you’re swapping stuff out for a change (seasonal change, redecoration, whatever). When stuff doesn’t come back, tell her you’ve decided that you like the minimalistic look right now, and you haven’t quite figured out what you’d like in it’s place, but you’re still planning. You’ve had your eye on a couple of cute picture frames… whatever. Make sure everything personal is out. Including personal paperwork and digital files.

    Get that resume looking great and job hunt. Do not wear her clothes anymore. Ever. When she brings clothes in for you, look at her bizarrely and ask her why she would want to dress a grown woman up in a professional setting like a child. Remind her that you aren’t her child and that is not a standard mentor/mentee relationship and that you are keeping things professional. When she brings up you not being grateful, throw it back at her – “I think you’ve confused grateful with groveling, there is a difference”. If she pushes, ask her point blank if she is willing to lose you over this.
    You are welcome to ask “are you willing to lose me over this” at any time she pushes you to be “grateful” and you don’t show enough to satisfy her, because right now, she wants groveling peasants. Check to see if NY allows single-party consent recording, because if it does, I’d record the conversations just for your own benefit.
    I will also note that I’m older, and I am not a nice person and long ago gave up any pretense of rear-kissing.

    As others have said, you can make the same money working fast food. She is paying you very little for what you do, and expecting a lot of emotional labor besides. It’s time to stop. She is manipulating you, emotionally abusing you, and twisting you into thinking that her toxic behaviors are supposed to be somewhat normal in an office. They aren’t. Get out. You can do so much better.
    I hope you will update us soon with better prospects. Good luck!

    1. OG Karyn*

      “Start taking your personal stuff home slowly. If she notices, tell her that you’re swapping stuff out for a change (seasonal change, redecoration, whatever). When stuff doesn’t come back, tell her you’ve decided that you like the minimalistic look right now, and you haven’t quite figured out what you’d like in it’s place, but you’re still planning. You’ve had your eye on a couple of cute picture frames… whatever. Make sure everything personal is out. Including personal paperwork and digital files.”

      THIS SO MUCH. When I knew I was getting laid off from my last job (they weren’t exactly subtle, and my layoff wasn’t for performance, but still), I started slowly taking home my personal stuff, and I made sure all my personal paperwork/personal digital stuff was taken out of the office. I also did it when I was planning to leave my crazy ex-boss’s office. The key is to have all of it out before you give your notice because you know damn well this woman isn’t going to go to any great lengths to give any of it back to you after you’re gone.

    2. JSPA*

      This is a bit film-script-y, but I briefly wondered if boss had been threatened by other ex-employees (or anyone else she’s been playing illegal games with). In which case…wearing boss’s clothes isn’t just weird, it makes OP a target. And then I said, “but that’s not really possible, is it?” And then I decided that, given how inconceivable all of the rest of this is, that this isn’t much more of a stretch. So, FWIW: OP should not ever wear those clothes.

      And, quick google says that New York is indeed a “one party consent” state for recording.

      1. JSPA*

        *except for telemarketers, apparently, who now must disclose or effectively disclose if they’re recording (since 2017).

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Honestly… I would leave things behind if necessary. In five years, you won’t remember the $8.99 pencil cup you had to sacrifice to make a clean break from this job.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        The dollar store has many office supplies and things that could be used as desk decorations. So do thrift stores. If you don’t want to leave your desk bare, you can swap out things you actually care about for things you are not attached to as you take things home because you “want to change things up a bit”. I never bring anything breakable and emotionally significant to me to work, so all of my work mugs were dollar store mugs before I switched to travel mugs that I fill at home and bring back home every night.

        Of course, in this case it wouldn’t surprise me if most of the Desk Clutter is also hand-me-downs from the boss rather than things the OP brought from home, in which case they can leave it behind when they go.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      About the personal stuff… I have been known to purge everything personal from my office and bring in “fake personal” stuff. Postcards you received that you don’t plan to keep. Extra copies of a family photo. Some trinkets and silk flowers from a garage sale. The chipped mug you’ve decided to pitch.
      It deflects and protects. Good luck!

  84. voyager1*

    Two things:
    1. To me the W2 vs 1099 thing is a big reveal into what kind of person this boss is. That isn’t an oops wrong form, that is deliberate.
    2. What is the actual job you do for this lady?

  85. OG Karyn*

    OP, your boss is grade-A banana sandwich. You’re making $35k a year in NYC, BEFORE taxes? A $300,000 job wouldn’t be worth this kind of abuse. I worked for someone like this once – not nearly as bad, but still bad (the last straw was when I had to wait at her ice-cold house at 4am for the furnace repair guy because she was on vacation – did I mention I was a paralegal?). I’m still in therapy for it. You can find another job, any job at this point.

    For what it’s worth, if you need a way to explain the short-term stay at this job, you can always say something like, “I was hired to do X, but ended up doing Y, and it just wasn’t a good fit,” or “I decided that I would like to work in a bigger organization because of X, Y, and Z.” I explained my short-term position with my own personal banana sandwich as, “I’ve been working for a very small organization with a lack of structure, and I’ve decided that I’d rather work with a company like this that has an existing corporate structure.” I landed that job, and nobody even bothered to call my ex-boss.

    I wish I had more helpful, constructive advice to add, but for now, please know that I am sending a bazillion job-hunt good vibes to you and please know that this is NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR and doesn’t reflect on you.

    1. JSPA*

      I like, “they had cash flow problems and were in major trouble with the IRS for misclassifying workers,” myself. Which will be the case, soon enough.

      1. OG Karyn*

        Unfortunately, if you say that and they find out, you open yourself up to a slander suit (unless the IRS already sanctioned them, of course). At the point where the OP is, you just want to get as far away from this lunatic as possible and pretend they don’t exist!

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      6mo job, right out of college? OP can leave it off the resume. She should NOT try to get a referral from CrazyPantsBoss.

  86. Jellyfish*

    OP, go now! I was in a very similar situation in my first professional job out of college. It was a large company, but a very small satellite office in a different state, and there wasn’t much oversight. The same as you, I thought it would look bad on a resume to bail too quickly, and it made interviewing difficult.
    You’re not supposed to badmouth your boss in interviews, so I had trouble figuring out how to frame my answer when interviewers would ask why I was looking to leave. (It’s okay to be honest, if diplomatic, in telling a potential new employer that your boss is super sketchy.)

    It took years to untangle the bad habits & mindsets I learned, to start recognizing my own skills and worth as a worker, and to recover from the depression I didn’t even realizing I was sinking into. Yes, steady office hours are nice, but they’re 100% not worth this.

    This boss is not looking out for you – she does not have your back in any way. She is a toxic manipulator, and I fear you will be worse and worse off the longer you stay. Please go!

  87. Amethystmoon*

    That is messed up. What if you couldn’t fit into her clothes? Would she force (er, strongly encourage with threats of being fired) you to starve yourself enough to fit? What if you tried and you couldn’t? What if it was the opposite and they were too large, would you gain weight purposely to fit them at her request? It’s one thing in families with hand-me-downs, for siblings to wear each other’s clothes, but to make people do this at work is just too much.

    Seriously, start looking for another job now. Be discrete, but please do yourself a favor and look. And if you find something better and they give you an offer, and your boss gives you grief for leaving, you are allowed to leave. You shouldn’t have to stay in a bad job forever.

    1. AKchic*

      I think the “solicitous” feeding may be an effort to fatten LW up, yes. The Mother Hen routine could work if I actually felt like this woman were actually trying to be motherly. This isn’t warm mothering. This is abusive mothering. This is “I will remake you in my own image and keep you beholden to me” mothering.
      Everything said and done is very much abusive relationship vibes. Everything is done to reinforce the boss’s “power” and authority over LW. Everything done for, everything given to her… it’s done with a price, with strings attached. Even refusing is costly.

      Boss is both Rumpelstiltskin and Cora from Once Upon A Time.

      1. scribblingTiresias*

        Yeah, this whole situation gives off some serious r/raisedbynarcissists vibes.

        Your job should not give you r/raisedbynarcissists vibes. Get out get out get out get out get out.

  88. tallteapot*

    If you have basic office skills, you can start working temp office work in NYC making more than that ASAP. Leave now. Go sign up with a few temp agencies and job hunt while temping. Leave this crazy black hole of narcissism and toxicity, LW!!

  89. Jana*

    Adding my voice to the chorus shouting, “get out now!”

    OP, your boss is abusive. Don’t worry about looking like a job-hopper right now–that’s unlikely to happen given where you are in your career, and it’s just not worth the lasting psychological effects of working for someone like this. I once had a boss like this and I made it 6 months, but the impact that her behavior had affected me well after I left. Start applying for jobs NOW, go to a temp agency, and have the tax conversation with your boss. Then give your notice. (My guess is that she’ll call you ungrateful and ask you to leave immediately.) Then NEVER look back. Your boss is the type who will contact you after you quit and ask you to come back, to work on a project, to freelance, etc. Don’t answer her calls or texts.

    1. RandomU...*

      Agreed, as a hiring manager I expect 1st jobs to last 6mo-1yr. I’m also fine with short stints on jobs when the applicant can describe some of the things that went wrong… bad fit, bait and switch, etc.

      I’m bringing in a candidate that was interested in my open position 6 months ago that reached out because he noticed that it was still open (technically it’s a new posting, since we were back filling person A then and now Person B). He took himself out of the candidacy because of another job offer, and it sounds like things aren’t working out for him there. Doesn’t bother me a bit to bring him in to talk and I’m certainly not going to hold it against him if his current position isn’t a fit.

      1. LKW*

        What about if the candidate told you all the things they learned but then said they left when they had an accident, broke two ribs and ended up in the emergency room and their boss threatened to fire them because they didn’t call the office until after they got to the hospital?

        Kinda serious here – in this situation could a candidate be relatively honest about the issues that drove them out?

        1. RandomU...*

          I think this is one of those times that the candidate can practice telling a story without saying all the words.

          Interviewer: So tell me why you’re looking for a new job?
          OP: (Smiling) There are several reasons actually. I realized that working at a small organization, I’m one of 2 employees, that I’m not going to have the opportunity to grow and expand like I would in a larger organization like yours. blah blah insert more business type reasons here blah blah. For the more personal reason, I think I stumbled into the text book example of a dysfunctional work environment. There are many examples I could go into, but I don’t want to dwell on that. I’m more interested in learning from it and moving forward.

          If pressed the OP can give some examples, but even though it’s a clear cut case of the crazy with the boss, I wouldn’t get too far into the details.

      2. Jana*

        That’s a good point! I think a lot of people have “must stay at least one year” ingrained (I know I did!), but a lot of hiring managers will completely understand that sometimes jobs don’t work out. Granted, if you have a 5-year career of 6-month stints, that’s a problem, but a first job out of grad school lasting 6 months is reasonable.

        And OP can give a potential employer valid reasons for leaving without having to say, “my boss was abusive”. I mean, being reclassified as a contractor without notice is certainly a good reason for leaving a job!

  90. cmcinnyc*

    I don’t know what your field is, but you’d be better off temping. This is a garbage job for garbage pay working for a terrible person who is actively undermining you financially with this tax crap. If the agency wants to know why you’re leaving, you can honestly say “I discovered the business was involved in an illegal tax scam and it’s impact on me was not zero. I’m looking to work for a larger organization in my field so I can learn more in a genuinely professional environment. I’m inexperienced and I missed the red flags at this business.”

  91. Wednesday of this week*

    Ok, I have a longstanding question about the “we could get in trouble” approach to being mis-classified as 1099.

    I was in exactly this situation several years ago at another tiny, dysfunctional company who was clearly mis-classifying all of us to avoid taxes and unemployment liability. I presented a table showing all the ways in which we were non-compliant with the classification system, citing/linking the IRS website and other very obvious legal authorities. It doesn’t work when your bosses don’t care, and are simply hoping nobody reports them, which with such fear of retaliation most people won’t. Our jerk “CFO” just kept making arguments about why I was wrong, with no citations and no actual answers to the points I had raised.

    After 1099 taxes, OP’s take-home pay is going to be more like $20k. I hope she can even live on that in NYC, but she may accrue debt just covering her expenses while she waits out a legal resolution. Is there any more workable, real-time approach to being mis-classified in this situation?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If “we could get in trouble” gets this kind of result, you step up the hunt for another job (which OP should be doing anyway, because fixing this one problem doesn’t make this a reasonable job AT ALL), and you don’t file the audit-triggering forms with the IRS until that job is in your rear view mirror.

      1. Wednesday of this week*

        Right–but this still leaves her the issue of a potentially non-livable wage and its fallout for all the time before it’s resolved. I guess the answer to my question is no, there is no more effective or prompt solution.

      2. A Person*


        In this case it sounds like the most “workable, real-time approach” is for the OP to get another job, any job, as quickly as possible, with a employer large enough to have a $15 minimum wage and that doesn’t misclassify its employees.

        1. A Person*

          Meaning, stop digging the hole of being responsible for the 1099 taxes for this job immediately. Dealing with the IRS and having the horrible boss investigated about the classification for the time already worked can happen later, after the OP is getting paid properly somewhere else.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      When you’re dealing with the unreasonable, afraid nonsensical people you have found yourself dealing with in the past, there is no approach.

      If they’re ignorant of the laws or misinterpreting them, then they will take the bait on “Hey I found out that this is illegal, we should fix it!”

      However there are tons of “business owners” and their [dimwitted] hires that think that they can get away with doing these kinds of things and will play it up like you’ve experienced if you point it out. They think they’re “smart” and are usually complete narcissists who believe you’re just a peon who could never bring down their big ol’ plans of being rich rich rich off the backs of the “little folks”.

      So yeah, the answer is that when dealing with these people, you will never change their minds. I honestly rarely think you should take the approach you did and try unless you know they’re sort of ignorant and “new” to the business game. It’s rarely not on purpose and just disregard for the law/IRS.

      The thing is that you have to file your taxes. The IRS has that 1099 and they will know you should be filing taxes, so if you suddenly just don’t file taxes that year. It may throw a flag. They say to pay up and then they’ll refund after their investigation process, which is a double stick in the eye to someone wrongly classified. Since seriously, if you’re bringing home 35k a year, in NYC, or really even in podunk USA, you aren’t saving 25% away for taxes unless you have no expenses and perhaps live in a rusted out RV by the river :|

      1. AnotherKate*

        Eh, rusty RVs are probably $2500 a month. That riverfront property is so coveted! ;)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I see you’re not from the PNW :(

          We have RV villages everywhere [that’s not residential zoned], they’re not paying rent, needless to say.

          Seattle is trying to condemn some of the worst ones that end up getting towed that don’t move when tagged. They sell them at auction for a few hundred bucks.

  92. Been there*

    OMG please get out of this job. All you are learning from it is how to navigate toxic behaviors that you don’t actually have control over, and hopefully you will never need those skills again. I hate seeing young people taken advantage like this, but it happens so much (including to myself). Trust Allison and the comments – you are going to find better than this. $35k in NYC AND being responsible for your own payroll and self-employment taxes is insane and not even close to a living wage. She has screwed you by not being clear about this and now you’re about to owe a large tax bill. She is clearly breaking the law by paying you as a 1099 contractor – your position doesn’t even come CLOSE to borderline on that.

    Also, I’ll let the actual HR experts confirm or deny this, but I believe it is also illegal to post a job while someone is currently in that job and has not given notice or actually been fired. But that might be a local/state law. Regardless of that, posting your job *was a super manipulative move*, designed to make you beg for it and appear grateful to her, and to stick there in the back of your mind as a reminder of how she can break you if you cross her. Really, a boss who genuinely cares about her employees having good food and clothing (not just as a performance), would not have acted that way when you were injured.

    One thing it takes many years for some of us to learn, is that the most toxic and manipulative workplaces/bosses often claim they “treat employees like family” or talk a lot about how much good they’re doing for their employees and obsess over gratitude. It sounds nice to think of a boss “taking care of” their team but in reality this is a Serious Red Flag that signals narcissism, where a person takes advantage of people and does unnecessary or low-cost “helpful” things for them and then brags about it to cover up that they’re barely even paying fairly. Almost always, getting out of these positions by resigning includes the boss acting out and throwing a fit, or making it hard to leave with guilt or manipulation. Be prepared for that tantrum and don’t get sucked into it or bargained with. Do not believe what she will tell you about yourself when you quit. You are going to find a better place, that you deserve, and it will feel liberating when you do.

    1. JSPA*

      I’d guess boss posted the job because it would be normal for OP to walk out on her with no notice. And then guilt-tripped OP as a CYA move.

      That would confirm boss is knowingly manipulative and completely without scruples, not just batshit crazy and confused about little things like the law. (Could be both.)

    2. LKW*

      Agreed, I worked for a small place that “were like family”. What that meant was the boss and the engineers would yell at the Admin that she was stupid. Every. Day. I asked her why she stayed and it was because she had been there so long and they helped her with braces and were flexible when her kids were younger. I told her she could walk down the block to a major bank’s HQ, double her salary, improve her benefits and never be subjected to that kind of abuse again.

      Eventually I got fired (I already had a new job lined up) but she stayed. She’s probably still there, 20 years later.

  93. Gen2NYCer*

    Ahahaha, this sounds like my Ukrainian relatives. Not acceptable as a manager, but it could partly be motivated by a cultural difference if your boss is an immigrant to the US.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I lived in NYC for 12 years and don’t think this is a “cultural difference” thing.

      Also… it doesn’t matter. This is illegal. Period. For all people of all cultures who are doing business in the United States.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      No. It’s not a cultural difference. This woman is actively, deliberately harming the OP. I don’t know your relatives of course, and they may behave in a similar way with gentler motivations. And I’m certainly not accusing them of being abusive. But I *am* accusing OP’s boss. The thing about abuse is that it thrives on the benefit of the doubt. It’s exactly that kind of reasoning that leads people to stay in horrific relationships like the OP’s – because maybe it’s a cultural difference, maybe they don’t mean any harm, maybe things will get better. Maybe, maybe, maybe, and then years go by and you’re in the hospital with broken ribs and a concussion and your boss is threatening to fire you for it.

      The thing is, OP, it doesn’t matter what her motivation is. It doesn’t matter if she’s motivated by love (she’s not) or by the desire to help you in your career, or by cultural differences, or who cares. The fact is, she is hurting you. And it’s not okay. It doesn’t matter why she’s doing it, the fact is she needs to stop. And the fastest and safest way to get her to stop hurting you, is to GTFO that office as soon as possible.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Forgot to close my italics. But that’s okay, I’m angry enough on the OP’s behalf that I can use all of that emphasis, and more.

      2. Jackalope*

        This has been one of my most helpful life realizations. It doesn’t matter what the other’s motivation is. They could have the best and kindest of intentions, but if they are harming you it’s still okay to act in that.

    3. Sarah M*

      Sorry, no. It doesn’t matter if boss is an immigrant from Ukraine or anywhere else. She lives *here*. She owns a business in NY, and she employs people in NY. If she can’t handle playing by the rules she should just close up shop, because she’s not competent enough to run a business. Breaking the law and repeatedly abusing employees are not charming cultural quirks that OP should just shrug and smile at, regardless of where Crazy Bosslady might or might not be from.

  94. zobretem*

    You were seriously hurt & she made it about her, going so far as to punish you for not making contacting her your top priority after getting hurt? This is not someone who cares about you. Also, yes, some jobs are better than others, but a job is an exchange of labor for money & that is all. Why must you constantly be grateful?

  95. HRTwinCities*

    OP Please get out! As someone who had my own crazy, toxic boss questions answered on here “My boss is out of her gourd and threw a tantrum about my coffee” RUN! I stuck around and still ended up getting “laid off” aka fired because she did not have grounds to fire me. Working a such at toxic environment is STILL messing with me almost two years later despite having a great job and employer now! You really start to normalize the crazy and bring your insecurities brought on by a bad/crazy boss with you and its a lot of work to get rid of those but its possible. I still have some PTSD from that place. Nobody has the right to feel like crap everyday and it really sounds like you self esteem is low from this horrible person. You deserve so much better and it IS possible to get out and move on and find something much better. Please start looking now!

    1. JSPA*

      Your coffee was the grounds to fire you? ; )

      But, yeah. She’s already inside OP’s head, messing it up.

  96. Four lights*

    Get out. You had to go to work the day after you broke two ribs? That’s terrible.

    This situation is so terrible that even though I am saying the same thing as everybody else, I am taking time from my maternity leave to write this to help reinforce the fact that you really need to leave this job.

    1. LT*

      I third this notion. I’d put her on the same level as the boss who was dating her subordinate’s dad and required her subordinate to go to couples’ counseling with her and the dad

  97. Gypsy pepper*


    I have nothing more to say.

  98. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I was in a similar job situation (though not nearly as bad) in my mid-20s too. Similar as in, it was a very tiny private school with huge staff turnover, the only two permanent figures in that workplace being the owner/school principal and his wife (who was, *of course*, the assistant principal), who had the free run of the place and did whatever they wanted, including treating employees however they wanted. After he made me stay at work until three am in the dead of winter printing documents for him, and then told me to *walk across town to his apartment alone at three am* and drop the documents off in his mailbox (said not to give them to him in person, because he’d still be sleeping), I went home and told my husband that I wanted out of that job. He said “then leave. We’ll figure out the money”. I waited until the next pay day (we got paid in cash), and the moment he handed the cash to me, I told them I was leaving effective immediately. Only time I’ve ever quit a job without notice.

    And this guy did not even force-feed me his beet salad or try to fire me for hitting my head and breaking my ribs! (I audibly gasped when I got to that last one!) Run, OP, run! You know what happened to me after I left that guy? I found a new job way closer to my original field, with far better hours, and for 3-4x what he paid me, within three weeks. If you start looking now, you will have an offer for something better than this job in real short order, because anything is better than this job. Good luck and godspeed!

  99. Anon for this*

    OP, I’ve had this job for this woman in NYC (I’m seriously tempted to run a name by you here). The commentariat is correct: start job searching. This job is only maybe acceptable (and it’s a big maybe here) as a paycheck while you secure something better. No matter what your boss has led you to believe, this job will not be a resume-builder that gets you to your next step. You need to do that yourself and start on that immediately, for your own sake. You are wasting time and risking your health sanity and opportunities every second you stay.

  100. LCH*

    and once you do find a new job and leave, glassdoor the crap out of this woman. no one should ever work for her.

  101. Batgirl*

    “I understand that she was worried when I didn’t show up”

    Uhh, YEAH. She was worried you’d escaped.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      And worried is not the same thing as mad! I’d be worried if an employee didn’t show up, and would only feel terrible for them when I learned they had been in an accident!!

  102. Colorado*

    OP – get out now.
    First – print and/or forward every pay stub you have received to a private email account.
    Second – print and/or forward all documentation you have regarding this insanity. (start quietly cleaning out your workspace)
    Third – take tomorrow off and update your resume then walk into a temp agency.
    Fourth – send an email to her that effective immediately you resign.
    Fifth – contact the IRS.

    I know there are financial implications involved, I’m not trying to be ignorant to that fact but hopefully you can pick up a temp job immediately. If you cannot, still complete steps 1-3 and be ready to jump to 4-5.
    I know where I live the job market is very good right now. I imagine in NYC you would be able to find a temp job ASAP. Good luck and keep us posted?

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Step 2 1/2: If you’re reading this thread on your work computer, delete your browsing history immediately. From now on, everything you do on the internet needs to be protected from her – this thread, any job searching, any other research or correspondence related to getting yourself out of there. Keep it all on your phone or personal computer, or some place she can’t access it. (And I’m sure you know this, but libraries have computers you can use for free if don’t have one of your own.)

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      6th: In the new job, set your W2 to 0 exemptions, and ask for an additional 3 – 10% to come out (whatever you can afford), to pay for the 1099 bill she has illegally stuck you with.
      7th: Either don’t list this job on your resume OR keep ‘I was looking for opportunities to grow and develop that were not available in a 2-person business’ in your back pocket for the ‘why’d you leave’ question.

      Good list Colorado.

  103. Copier Company Admin Girl*

    Just reading the header for this question left me agape. Then I read the letter and WOW WHAT THE F. Please leave immediately. This is so bananas you could stock every grocery store in the US for years. OP, your boss is manipulating and gaslighting you; she is thoroughly toxic, as is the workplace she has created. I’m sure many of us here would be happy to help if you need assistance during your transition out. Keep us updated if you can. <3

  104. ENFP in Texas*

    She constantly remarks things like “this is such a good job,” “I give you such great pay/hours,” “You kids don’t appreciate how good I am to you,” and “No other job would treat you this well.”

    If this were a dating relationship, those phrases would be SCREAMING red flags of emotional abuse. Add in everything else you wrote, and it is 100% evident that you need to get away from this woman. She is dangerous to your emotional and mental wellbeing.

    1. WMM*

      Yes! That was my thought, too. This is emotional abuse, and the times that things run smoothly are just there to keep you sucked in and thinking you can manage her abusive behavior enough that it won’t be abuse.

      OP, you will never be ‘good enough’ for this to work out. Anything you learn here will NOT serve you in a healthy workplace. You are not bad for being sucked in. You are not bad for finding it challenging to make your way out. Pull together your support network, and figure out what you need to put this all behind you.

    2. mcr-red*

      I was just coming here to say, I was emotionally abused by my ex for the entire 11 years of our marriage, and it was only once he cheated and left me (!) that I realized what an f-ed up situation it was, and how I was living was NOT normal.

      So take it from me, OP, as someone who has been there – you ARE being emotionally abused by your boss. The longer you stay, the more you are going to “normalize” this behavior. As someone further up said, it’s the frog in the boiling water – they don’t start you off in boiling water, they do a little thing here, a little thing there, to test you, to put you off balance, to make you start questioning yourself, and before you know it, you are frog stew. And the longer you stay, the more it’s going to affect your thinking long-term across all kinds of relationships. I’m serious. I’ve been out of that marriage for 10 years, and I will still have moments where I have to remind myself the thinking he “trained” me to do, isn’t correct.

      Start applying for everything you can find. Take the first thing you can and start hunting for something you will really enjoy. But please don’t stay there another year plus.

  105. Diana*

    Oh now I know what happened to my first boss! OP, I did exactly the same thing in my first job out of college and looking back I can only shake my head at being made to feel “grateful” for $10 an hour as a “contractor” (so, you know, well below federal minimum wage after taxes) and working for free (!!) on the weekends (!!!). Get out of there immediately.

  106. Jo*

    WTF WTF WTF?!!
    The whole situation is bad, but what shocked me most was your boss’s reaction to your accident, and then posting your job and making you beg her to take it down (!) (My jaw dropped on reading that bit). Seriously, do not wait six months. It might take a bit of time to find a new job, which means you would be stuck there even longer. It’s a pity you weren’t in a position to leave straight away, as it would have been pretty satisfying, when she posted your job, to say ‘That’s good that you’ve got started on a hunt for my replacement, because I quit’ and walk out. Hopefully you find a new job before too long and you can tell her to put that ad back up.

    1. Batgirl*

      No one should have to apologise profusely for being in a terrible accident. I’m picturing my top three worst, scam-artist, soulless, toxic bosses who made me weep on a regular basis and every single one of them would respond to broken ribswith an immediate halting of hostilities, flowers and gushing “Oh my goodness, are you OK?!”

  107. Beth*

    I put up with a similar boss for much longer. 6 years. Like you, it was my first job out of college and I thought a lot of the behavior- the mood swings, the screaming , was just what people had to put up with in order to work. Don’t wait six years. In fact , don’t even wait 6 minutes. Get your resume out their now. Besides being a pig of a boss, she is operating illegally. If you are using her equipment, working a set schedule, you are a w2 employee. Good luck hun

  108. JSPA*

    I know we’re not supposed to say, “is this even real, or the set up for a horror movie”–but OP needs to know that this is so extreme a situation that (absent the ban on questioning the veracity of questions) that would be a reasonable response. This is horrifying in so, so many ways. (And almost luckily, clearly illegal, which should help OP in their resolve to move along, with no worries about staying longer.)

    OP, what’s is going to take? Waking up with a kidney missing? There’s a lot of illegal stuff in NYC that people just put up with even if it’s a bit dangerous (living in a closet tricked out as a bedroom, extension cords in place of proper wiring). But this is all wrong. Not in a, “that’s how we did it in my grandma’s day” way; in a, “this has always been what abuse looks like” way. Your sense of self preservation and of normalcy have already taken a huge hit. You have to get out while you still have a trace of those things left.

  109. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

    OP, I’m not sure what your fields is but I am in NYC and know of a few temp agencies that people in my generalish field source from. Not sure how contacting people works on here if if that is allowed — I have no stake with these agencies or anything, but there are some legit ones I can name if that is permitted. Ones I know are real, with sane processes and clear payroll policies.

  110. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

    Hooooly crap. This could be the worst boss story I’ve ever heard. Grab your documentation and get out – today if possible. None of this is normal and you deserve so much better.

  111. StaceyIzMe*

    You should leave as soon as you can. You should NOT wear her clothes, eat food you don’t want or stick around for any “lectures”. It’s too late to move the needle by very much but you should start acting like an absolutely normal person and let her deal with her own issues. You don’t have to stand there and “take it” when she lectures you (and frankly, if your job is ALWAYS being threatened, how much time are you really buying yourself by tolerating this BS?). If you can stomach her for a little while as you line up a new job, good. (I think? She’s so over the top it’s hard to tell if that’s a victory or a Pyrrhic victory.) But yes, move on. And you might as well start saying “no” now, because she’s unstable enough that it’s not worth your misery to stay there on the off chance that she won’t fire you, in my view.

    I can’t help wondering if you started pushing back by having a conversation with her whether she’d reign herself in? As in “I’m unable to work well with the worry of how you perceive my attitudes about your used clothes that you insist I wear, food you insist I eat and lectures you insist I hear that aren’t appropriate to the context. For example, if I’m hurt and on the way to a hospital, it might be a little bit before I’m clear headed enough to contact you. If you’d like to mentor me in a way that helps me instead of merely pressuring me to do everything exactly as you would, then please pick help me focus on work. My personal life isn’t up for discussion anymore.”

    1. linzava*

      Yes! I once worked for a guy who had a history of threatening to fire people when they brought up basic work requests. I didn’t know this until after he threatened to fire me once. My response was, in a calm manner, “Okay, would you like me to finish out the day or leave immediately?” He instantly took it back and never did it to me again. If I had begged for my job or acted horribly distressed, it would have been his go-to for me from then on like it was with other employees.

      1. StaceyIzMe*

        Yep! Sometimes declining to go down the rabbit hole is all that it takes to save misery. It is, admittedly, a calculated risk. The key to making it possibly work is in not attempting to persuade the other party of the rightness of your views. By merely acting on them, you change the dance and they may find that the cycle they’re used to perpetuating won’t work in this context.

        1. Linzava*

          Agreed. I think it helped that I wasn’t calling his bluff, I was fully prepared to walk out. I knew I’d find another job and he knew my deal-breaker was being yelled at. I kinda wished I’d pretended to cry and ran out at the time and just did the unemployment thing, but it lead to the experience I needed for my current awesome job, so it worked out.

  112. Lauren*

    I was reading, like, okay, all this sucks pretty bad, but this?

    When I received my tax documents, I got a 1099 instead of a W-2. I am definitely not a contract employee.

    I cannot. It is NOT okay. If you’re a contractor, you’d be needing to save up money to pay your taxes. And I presume you haven’t, based on your salary and location.

    I agree with Allison — please look at your pay stubs. Are they taking out taxes? You also can report to the IRS if you believe you have been incorrectly classified.

  113. MuseumChick*

    OP, go out today and apply to Starbucks, McDonald’s, the GAP, whatever. You boss is toxic and you need to get out of there ASAP. Trust me, working a couple of part-time crappy jobs will be way less stress then what you are doing now. Run as far away from this person as you can.

  114. c56*

    jesus I know this is not the point of the letter, but the loading hatch thing, holy shit, always terrified of this when I’m in NYC. Glad you’re ok. Now get the hell away from this terrible job.

    1. drogon breath*

      I live in NYC and thought I was being silly by being worried about hatches so I started walking on them. Now I think I better not! Maybe it was open?

      OP, I’m so sorry you’re having this experience and definitely agree that you should look for another job ASAP. Best of luck to you.

      1. Jan*

        OT, but that would be against health and safety law in the UK and whoever left it open so cavelierly could be sued for millions!

        OP, no, your boss is not normal and you’ve done nothing wrong. Start looking for another job several yesterdays ago.

  115. The Rat-Catcher*

    Not only should you leave, but after you’re safely gone, you should send her this letter so that she may see thousands of people calling her out for her crap. Also review on Glassdoor.

  116. LCL*

    OP, if you are feeling guilty about leaving, don’t focus on boss’ weird behavior. Focus on the fact that her dishonesty with misclassifying you is costing you extra money every day that you work there. She has effectively cut your pay. Sure, you can follow the excellent link someone posted here and hopefully get the money back. But she has now set you up to get entangled with the IRS.

  117. Watry*

    Chiming in with the chorus: if Boss were your significant other, I’d be googling numbers for domestic abuse lines to give you. Please do not wait to job hunt. And leave entirely, if you can.

  118. no more toxic job*

    This isn’t my old job, because I used to work for the government, not a private business, but OP, I have been there. Literally. Making 35k in NYC. Wearing clothes my boss gave me, even though I didn’t necessarily want them. Once telling my boss I couldn’t make a meeting and having her text BEWARE in all caps.

    I have no advice except to just keep applying and most jobs are not like this. I’m in a new one now, and so far, no one has expected me to wear their clothes yet.

    1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Ha as a petty New Yorker my first reaction is: I need more details so I can know if it was a former boss of one of my friends because I could write a book about insane boss stuff from when we were all in our early 20s…WHAT IS THE INDUSTRY….

      1. StaceyIzMe*

        Haha! Some tell-all books have come out of New York, even if some are fictionalized satire such as The Nanny Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada etc…

        1. YouGottaThrowTheWholeJobAway*

          My favorite story involves a friend whose boss at a small architecture firm based in the Empire State building made her go to said boss’ apartment to DEAL WITH HER PARTIALLY FROZEN DEAD CAT THAT SHE PUT IN THE FREEZER, WHERE HER FOOD ALSO LIVES. Now, my friend was a combat veteran who had a high tolerance for crap, so dear reader, she freaking did it, but it still haunts all of our work nightmares.

          I cannot even go into some of the stuff a certain deposed publisher that I used to work for put people through. She held one assistant’s work visa situation hostage, she made another cut up her lean cuisine for her while she was on the phone, snapped at people (like with her fingers), sexually harassed a sales manager, made sweetheart deals with her husband’s outside business interest and screwed up the house’s finances, made arbitrary dress code rules that changed by the week, and so much more. When she was finally fired and escorted out of the building by security, my old boss sprung up on top of a desk like Tom Cruise on a couch and did Rocky arms. Then another beleaguered good manager came into our suite and gave her high five. It was WILD.

  119. Fire and Ash*

    All of this. Leave the job. Resign, ghost, quit in a huff. Just get out, now if possible, soonest if not. And when you do, leave all of the clothes she gave you. Box them up, leave them in the office. You REALLY don’t want them.

  120. Working Mom Having It All*

    Got to “I make $35,000 a year in NYC” for someone who has a graduate degree and is in their mid-20s (so this probably isn’t entry level work) and had to stop and say this. OP IS BEING GROSSLY UNDERPAID. Get out. Almost any other type of employment would pay better than this. This is about a dollar over minimum wage. You could probably make more money as a barista or dog walker or something. Beyond all the rest of the personality stuff, your boss is lying to you when she says this is a great job, you’re lucky to work there, and you couldn’t find better elsewhere.

    I made about this same amount of money in my first entry level job, in a creative field, without a professional degree, straight out of undergrad, 10-15 years ago.

    1. LKW*

      I made more as an administrative assistant 20 years ago. You are grossly underpaid. You could temp at any of the HQs in town and make significantly more money. Get a job as an admin and get more $, benefits and educational benefits.

      1. NKOTB*

        Absolutely! My first job 16 years ago (entry level admin job as a college graduate) paid $30K. Everything about this boss and job is a horror film but the extraordinarily low salary stood out to me as well.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Same. And I was in a way lower cost of living area at the time. So I was actually paid handsomely.

        And my first job was a tiny, less than 10 ppl operation.

        However I recall how I was going to be relocated to so-Cal prior to it tanking. And when I asked about how much the pay increase was, the financial manager scoffed at me. Even at 21, I knew that I couldn’t live off my wage in frigging Southern California, smfh.

  121. a good mouse*

    I’m really glad LW wrote in because this is definitely not normal. LW, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit, and send us an update later.

    But as others said, you could make as much at McDonald’s without all this crap. Definitely something to keep in mind when she makes you proclaim how grateful you are.

  122. Delta Delta*

    Not only should OP quit, but I think OP should probably also round up all the clothing and other things the boss has given her and be sure to return them immediately upon giving notice. That way there’s no lingering connection, and also no way the boss can somehow make accusations that OP stole from her. Which, she may still do anyway, but it seems best to give it all back.

  123. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    Oh my goodness, OP. This situation is BONKERS! Every time I thought your boss couldn’t get more outrageous, I read another paragraph. I worry you’ve been there for too long / too early in your career to see that this is NOT how employers are supposed to treat their employees. (Perhaps that’s too narrow of me; you wrote in for a reason!)

    I second (third, fourth, fifth, infinity) Alison’s suggestion to start looking right away. I don’t think there is any hope of changing the circumstances at your current job.

    Good luck!

  124. Jaid*

    This boss is way up there on the Creepy-meter. Give back everything this woman gave you and bail.

    Best wishes!

  125. OK*

    In addition to what everyone has suggested above, if you are able, I would encourage you to chat with a doctor who specializes in concussions — especially if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms, fatigue, etc. After a concussion, it’s important to take at least a few days to rest (no screen time, reading, etc.) and it doesn’t sound like you had the opportunity to do this. Speaking from experience, concussion symptoms can be tough to recognize when you’re in the midst of them (and dealing with an insanely stressful job to boot), so getting this checked out can help prevent longer term issues. All the best to you, I hope you are able to get out of there soon!

  126. Assistant Manager*

    Find a new job and run away from this madness.

    First off, this work environment is so dysfunctional that I can’t imagine putting up with it for 6 weeks, let alone 6 months before looking for a new job.

    Second, she only pays you 35K? AND SHE EXPECTS YOU TO THINK THAT’S A GREAT PAY RATE? I make more in food service management (assistant department head at a grocery store) in Philly, where our cost of living is significantly lower. Like, dropping down to 35K from what I make now would be a significant enough pay cut that I would need to either have some pretty sweet perks or would need a second job in order to do it. She’s got you all twisted up.

    Third, to echo what others have said, this level of dysfunction will mess with you for a long time afterward. I was at my previous employer for over 5 years and have been here for almost a year. I am still resistant to learning the department head job because I’m not totally over a lot of the crapfest that was my last place (though I at least now rationally know that it will be a much better experience all around). I learned a lot, but that place was so poorly run that I dreaded coming to work most days. Good days where I felt productive were few and far between. My boss didn’t have great boundaries in a lot of respects (and she wasn’t forcing food or clothing on me). I spent a good few years with sleeping problems, constant stomach pain /gastrointestinal issues from stress, constant headaches, and I was a raving lunatic outside of work. I’d fly off the handle. I was perpetually late to work because I wasn’t getting enough sleep or rest outside of work. I was drinking heavily all the time and started to have fears that it was turning into a major problem (luckily for me, once I got out and my stress levels got way further down, so did the amount of beer I was consuming per week).

    In conclusion, RUN. Even if you were getting paid enough to mitigate the level of crazy here — which you most certainly are not — I’d still tell you to RUNNNNN.

  127. Elizabeth West*


    I’ve never wished so hard that I owned a company in my LIFE. She would have a new awesome job in two minutes flat if I did!

  128. Daphne Moon*

    OP as an afterthought in case someone hasn’t already mentioned it-call a temp agency. You can get placed pretty quickly and put that more recent experience on your resume. Not a long term solution but at least you’re bringing home a paycheck.

  129. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    “And if I do get fired, I won’t be eligible for unemployment because I’ve been classified a contract employee.”

    Not necessarily.

    A number of years ago, a program area I handled hiring for at an old employer had some discretionary NPS funds that they, unilaterally, decided to use to hire a “contractor” – they treated this person more like a paid intern, dictated her hours, assignments, etc. They said they were basically giving her a tryout for a job there. (There were … so many things wrong with this.) Anyway, I didn’t find out about ANY of this until I got an unemployment claim. (Large agency, and this was a very small program who constantly went rogue when they did do some hiring, and they were in a separate building so I rarely saw them.)

    Long story short, she WAS eligible for unemployment, despite all of this, because she was able to prove she was improperly classified. I LIT INTO the program manager about all of the reasons why THIS is why they needed to go through HR when hiring, firing, and anything in between. It was a mess.

  130. mf*

    OP, I’m going to amplify what others have said. Your boss is an abuser:

    1. She gaslights you. “this is such a good job,” etc.
    2. She tries to control you by pushing you to take her food & clothes, forcing you to beg for your job.
    3. She exploits you by misclassifying you as a contract worker so she can ILLEGALLY profit off your labor.

    There’s no managing someone like this–your only healthy option is to leave this job as soon as you can. And push back on the 1099 thing right away–if she fires you, that’s good because you can apply for unemployment.

  131. NKOTB*

    Everything about this screams “run now.” Email yourself all proof that your boss is engaged in illegal activity, plus anything else you need, get any and all personal belongings out of the office, and LEAVE. I don’t know what industry or field you’re in, but I bet you can find something you’d want to be doing that pays much more than $35k in NYC. The only way that salary makes sense is if it’s some kind of fellowship, or maybe in a really glamorous industry that’s notoriously hard to break into. My first job in NYC paid $30k for an entry level position…IN 2003!!! The way she reacted to your accident in addition to the tax thing, your awfully low salary, and all her other horrid behavior, is abusive. She’s taking advantage of you. I know of a ton of great temp agencies in the city you can sign up with asap (I’m happy to share if that’s allowed here). Please keep us updated.

    1. mf*

      “Email yourself all proof that your boss is engaged in illegal activity, plus anything else you need, get any and all personal belongings out of the office, and LEAVE.”

      x1000. Document everything and email it to your personal account OR print copies and take them home.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      Honestly, I work in the entertainment industry, and my first entry level job was one of those “notoriously hard to break into” situations.

      I made about $35K.


  132. Lkr209*

    I really wish LW’s could give the names of these companies/bosses, etc. It might save a lot of potential/future employees a lot of trouble!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s a 3 person business, it would be like a needle in the haystack scenario in this kind of case.

      She wouldn’t even be able to do a Glass Door review because most of the time this kind of micro sized entity won’t be listed.

  133. Anonynonymouse*

    I haven’t read all the comments yet OP, so someone else may have already mentioned it. But besides the employee/contractor tax issue, your boss may also be in violation of NYC’s sick leave law. I know your company isn’t big enough for paid sick time, but you may be eligible for unpaid sick time. For which you cannot be penalized, considering YOU WERE HOSPITALIZED.

    Your boss could get into a fair amount of trouble for that job posting BS she did after your fall. And if she’s not tracking your earned sick time.

    Also, as so many others have said already: Get out get out get out get out GET OUT. Everything you wrote about is so clearly abuse I get physically sick when I think about it. You need to get out NOW. (I’ve never worked with a temp agency in NYC but I’ve done temping in my town and it was great; the agency was even a buffer for me when I had a bump with an assignment.)

  134. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    I think we have yet another candidate for Worst Boss of 2019! OP, get out now. This situation is only going to get worse.

  135. NotTheSameAaron*

    This is most certainly a “leave now” situation. Because the next step is her badgering the OP to move in with her, so she can “look after” her better.

  136. Lucy*

    There are lots of reasons people start their own businesses. Sometimes they have a great unique idea, sometimes they need flexibility around hours, sometimes they want to create a legacy, and so on.

    Sometimes it’s because they are shady as all hell and they think the rules shouldn’t apply to them. *hard stare at LW’s boss*

    Speaking as someone who has broken two ribs on two occasions (ie 4 altogether) I would say it doesn’t take a head injury on top of that to make you very confused and disoriented. If she tricked you into making bad decisions in that time, that doesn’t reflect remotely badly on you. Also ribs take a LONG time to heal and may never be right: mine ache in cold weather over a decade later. Be gentle with yourself.

    I agree with other posters that it’s time to get another job, any job. It’s worth considering that a service job could also make job hunting easier, as you could have half or even whole weekdays available for interviews or phone screening. Or take extra shifts and build up your “stuff you, mean boss” fund.

    Very best of luck.

  137. Bunny*

    Oh lord, and I thought my old boss was questionable – I ended up crashing my scooter years ago and ended up in the ER with a concussion, as well as a whole pile of other injuries, and maybe 10 minutes after I got home from a 3-hour visit to the ER, my boss calls me and says “oh, I heard you fell off your scooter and are a little under the weather – do you know where the printed materials for this afternoon’s workshop are?” I had to tell them that I was more than a little under the weather, I had a concussion and a bunch of other injuries, and could barely remember what day it was, and I couldn’t remember what the afternoon’s workshop was, let alone where the materials were.

    Your boss, though? SO MUCH WORSE. I’m going to say the same thing everyone else has been saying and tell you to GET OUT NOW.

  138. Jack Balfour*

    The letter writer is not an employee, she is a character in a horror film. Young lady, get out before your head winds up in your boss’ freezer.

  139. H.C.*

    I’m hoping that LW has found a new job between when she submitted this letter & this posting (I’m guessing a few months ago given her mention of getting tax documents from her boss), and that AAM was able to provide advice on 1099 aspect of it right away . . . before LW filed her taxes.

    But yeah, seconding others to get out ASAP!

  140. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    RUN. Go to the nearest temp agency and get anything (seriously, anything) and get out ASAP. This is so far beyond normal that normal cannot be seen. Your boss is abusive and I suspect that you’ll find that she always hires people brand new to the workforce so she can pull this crap.

  141. Longtime Lurker*

    What is it with small businesses and taking advantages of inexperienced workers? I experienced this myself right out of college, but fortunately for me my boss was merely toxic, not illegal.

    1. designbot*

      Well for one thing, small businesses are subject to fewer regulations than larger businesses. They don’t have to provide FMLA, anti-discrimination training, all kinds of things. Then, they’re much less likely to have an HR specialist, an accountant, and/or a lawyer on staff. So the owner’s worst impulses go unchecked by people who know the actual law.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Nobody “has” to offer anti-discrimination training, it’s suggested by all employment lawyers though, no matter how many people you employ. There’s no size issue when it comes to discrimination/harassment or safety issues. It’s just the additional protections from FMLA and ADA requests and lots of states have lower thresholds for ADA than federal levels.

        1. designbot*

          oh, I think it may be a California law then. I looked it up and we’re required to provide sexual harassment training, but most businesses I know have expanded this to include not just sex-based harassment but a broader view of discrimination against multiple groups.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s because it’s easiest to take advantage of inexperienced, desperate people. Therefore they target and reel in those exact people with their antics. It’s standard for those who take advantage to know who their easiest targets are. They are fast to hire anyone who doesn’t stand up for themselves or know there’s better out there or heck who cannot get a better job, tbh. Since when you’re inexperienced and fresh out of college, you don’t really get jobs thrown at you.

      However it’s not a small business thing. Lots of larger manipulative companies pull nonsense and make you fear for your job security, while doing shady AF, illegal things. Think of all those call centers with questionable practices. The places that lure people into cattle call “interviews” and stick you with a knife demonstration. Big businesses that hire only through temp agencies so they can test drive employees until they toss them away because they don’t want to pay insurance costs. Big businesses often get away with classification issues.

      It’s a business issue, not a small or large thing. You shouldn’t feel safe in a large corporate either. They look at you even more like a number at times and more disposable if you don’t want to dance their dance of lies.

    3. Natalie*

      For some of them, it’s a sort of desperation / entitlement combo. A sole proprietor-type business owner isn’t drawing a salary, their “pay” is whatever profit the business makes. So their attitude towards their employees can get terribly warped into seeing them as expenses – “costing me money” – rather than recognizing that they’ve agreed to pay for productive labor, never mind the many businesses that couldn’t be profitable without employees. There’s a CA letter from a few months back that I found really crystallized some of the attitudes I’ve seen. (link in reply)

  142. bluephone*

    It totally sucks but OP might be better off quitting now even without a job lined up–because otherwise, she is like 2 seconds away from being murdered and hidden under the floorboards (best case scenario). And then her boss would bill her for the cost of the nails and hammer anyway.

  143. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

    OP, totally forgot to mention, the New York Bar has a free night with real live lawyers where you can show up and get help with this exact thing and they will tell you exactly how to make a case against your boss.

    It’s called Monday Night Law and they have helped loads of people I know with bosses and landlords who are doing illegal stuff:

    Call and make an appointment!!!

  144. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    OP. Here’s the thing. You are an educated woman with a certain amount of life experience. With that I think you’ve learned along the way to be leery of both 5 star reviews and 1 star reviews. These extremes tend to be written by people responding out of emotion or undue influence. So I’m sure you’re reading these comments and looking for the middle ground. You want to find the people who say, “yes, she does have a generous side, so she’s not really toxic” and “you are getting valuable work experience that isn’t really destroying your ability to judge workplace norms” and “you will only hurt yourself professionally by job searching now, so give it at least three more months.”
    Well, keep looking, cuz it ain’t me. This situation is nine kinds of wrong, three kinds of horrible. It violates labor laws and the Geneva convention.
    Get out.
    and good luck

  145. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

    Jeez OP, your boss is a horrible asshole.

    Run away and get a job basically ANYWHERE else. You’re basically making minimum wage – go to McDonalds if you have to, but get away from this person.

  146. lilsheba*

    Wow this is all so crazy. One question I have is how any job can justify only paying $35000 a year in NYC???? Rent costs more than that.

  147. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    If nobody posted this already, a little perspective: Minimum wage in NYC is $15/hour. At 9-5, 5 days a week, which is what you are working, that works out to a little over $30k. You say you are getting $35k, but you are getting it as an independent contractor. Independent contractors need to charge 2-3x what they would make as a salaried employee due to the extra tax burdens and overhead, which means that you are effectively getting paid half what you would earn at McDonalds.

    NYC has strong labor laws and good enforcement. Paid sick leave, for example, for people who fall down a loading hatch (my greatest fear). Unless this lady is mobbed up, you can get her on half a hundred things. Go to and look for the labor law section.

    Also, as was mentioned above, if taxes were coming out of your paycheck, then your abusive lowlife criminal boss has been stealing part of your wage, claiming it went to the government, and putting it in her pocket. The government frowns on that.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This is an excellent point. You shouldn’t have a problem finding even menial work that is paid comparably to your current salary relatively quickly if you bail immediately. I normally wouldn’t advise this course of action but, well, this is not normal.

  148. Pub Cheese*

    Reading numerous comments about how OP is making less than people made 10 years ago is bumming me out a bit! I work in NYC in book publishing, where the norm was to start as an unpaid intern (now required to be paid by law, I think, except at nonprofits). For context, in 2012 the editorial assistants at my company made $27k. Another company paid $32k, and as an assistant editor I made $38k. At my job as associate editor last year, I was making $46k. It was definitely not enough to live on personally and I went into debt each year, even with an additional part-time job. I know the arts, galleries, museums, etc. have similar issues thanks to this important recent movement (, to say nothing of food and other industries only just now catching up to the new minimum wage.

    All this to say that the OP may not have felt they had a choice if in a competitive industry where recent grads are willing to make pittance, even nothing, at first, to get a foot in the door — not that that makes it right!! These industries need serious revamping, in pay as well as diversity, and have disillusioned many of my colleagues into branching into other fields. But hopefully these comments are boosting OP to know that other options are out there (to say nothing of that boss, holy crap). OP, best of luck to you and I’m sending good vibes that you shortly get paid what you deserve, in the respectful environment you deserve!

    1. Olive Hornby*

      Yeah, I immediately assumed this was publishing or maybe fashion. That said, even in publishing, this is low for entry level in 2019. OP can do better. (And getting “experience” under someone this crazy, unless they’re one of a countable number of known abusive geniuses, will harm you rather than help you in the long run, because it totally skews your perception of reality/how a normal workplace functions.)

    2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      @Pub Cheese, I remember ugly crying on the R train after an interview because I was trying to leave a $27k book publishing job for a dreamier job at a very famous magazine and it turned out that it paid almost $4k less and the hours expected meant no second job where I could keep my clothes on would be feasible. I now work in a much less glamorous corner of publishing in a more technical role unrelated to editorial or design or production and while it is not exciting, I make more than twice as much money and don’t ever have to work weekends anymore (and back then it was all salaried no matter how bad your pay was so it’s not like now where people can get overtime at that rate). Where I am now, the starting salary for EAs is still just $37k as of this year. 10 years ago it was barely 30k. I moved to NY in 2007, so “back then” is not THAT long ago. Absolutely agree the OP may not have had other offers or that her field might still just pay terribly.

    3. Pub Cheese*

      @Olive Hornby – Ah I hope so! At my previous job this year the entry-level employees were still making in the thirties for sure, and there were so many interns. I truly hope there is a trend to increase salaries to match inflation / cost of living. I know that freelance rates at these companies have also remained stagnant for the past decade…I’m so burnt out on them all around. (And agreed that a toxic culture harmfully damages our norms! My crazy first job became a baseline for all other jobs after, to the point where my colleagues would say “this place is nuts” and compared to my first job, it wasn’t? – so I stayed probably longer than I should have, ha.)

      @YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway – I relate so hard!!! I’m glad you’ve found your living-wage work-life-balance niche!

  149. pentamom*

    Is it me, is the percentage of “what did I just read” questions on an upward curve lately?

    Yes, to what Alison said. Whatever else you do, you must NOT think this is anywhere within the range of normal. In a relationship, this would be high level abusive stuff.

  150. Regina Phalange*

    OP! Is this a company that resells pet supplies? If so, I know EXACTLY who you are talking about — I know three previous employees. If so, GET OUT NOW.

  151. designbot*

    I am convinced that anytime a boss says “You are so lucky to have this job/any job/me!” the situation is 100% the opposite. Because if it were true, they wouldn’t need to rub it in your face, you’d already know it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s classic manipulation tactic. It plays with the victims mind to say “wait…this is a bag of horse sh*t…but yeah I’m lucky to have it…some people don’t have this bag of horse dung…”

      My favorite coworker from years past once told me “You’re lucky to have this job because you’ve seen everything F***’ed up you can imagine. Now whatever you see next will never live up to this level of tomfoolery!” [She was pretty much right, I never saw something so sideways and it taught me to really lower my expectations at times. Not to the point of suffering or accepting malicious behavior but if the heat goes out, just put a sweater on, you’ll fine fine, kind of thing.]

  152. AskAnEmployee*

    I’d recommend consulting with an employment lawyer too regarding the W-2 issue. A first consultation should be free and most work on contingency after that — you only pay them if they win you money. It sounds like the boss is unlikely to fix the payroll issue, and if you are fired, it could be considered retaliation. I know people hate talking to lawyers, but even one letter from an attorney about this could get your employer to pay attention in a way that you complaining on your own won’t.

    And, yes, please immediately find a new job.

  153. CoveredInBees*

    I would report this both to the IRS and the State of New York. LW will also have issues with her New York City taxes, but I don’t think there is anyone to report to at that level.

    You can call the NYS Attorney General’s Office Labor Bureau and leave a message at 212-416-8700 (someone will call you back to talk about your options or email them: You can also report it to the Employer Misclassification of Workers Joint Task Force (google the name for various contact options). Having worked for the former and with the latter, I’d suggest contacting both. The agencies involved are largely staffed with smart, dedicated people who have huge caseloads they do their best to manage.

    Additionally, I would not let this employer’s missclassification of you dissuade you from applying for unemployment benefits, should you need them. The unemployment insurance board is well aware of the issue and even part of the taskforce above. You might get an initial denial, but should get things straightened out in a hearing. There are free resources for helping with that through groups like the Legal Aid Society and NY Legal Assistance Group.

    1. Laura D.*

      Completely true. New York state doesn’t play when it comes to this sort of thing.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        They absolutely do not. I was misclassified (in NYC), was laid off/fired*, filed for unemployment, received it (seriously, all I had to do was fill out an additional 2-3 page questionnaire – questions about my work setup, how I was managed/supervised, how my hours were determined, how my work was assigned and reviewed, etc.) and that automatically triggered an investigation/audit. I didn’t have to do any sort of additional reporting.

        *I was told I was being let go due to lack of work, then months down the line my ex-employer decided to try to contest my unemployment claim by saying I was fired for negligence (my best guess is they hoped that by squashing my unemployment claim it would make the missclassification issues go away). I’m also guessing the the Labor Board or whoever had HAD. IT. with this company, because all I had to do then was fill out another (1.5 page) questionnaire – no other documentation or a hearing or anything required.

  154. Amethystmoon*

    As far as the food– you could suddenly decide to go on a Dr. Recommended diet, or go vegetarian/vegan for ethical reasons, or have been told you have sensitivities to certain foods, (basically, something that would be completely the opposite of whatever your boss usually brings in), and thus be able to avoid it that way. But be sure to be consistent about whichever story you use, and bring to eat at work until you leave that job.

    1. valentine*

      The Joans of the world don’t care about any of that, and this one already demanded work (and begging!) while OP was presumably on pain medication and concerned about concussion.

  155. Yep, me again*

    Are you sure OP is an employee and not a slave? Because it kinda sounds like she’s a slave.

      1. Yep, me again*

        Oh, for F^&I sake, it’s another way of implying her boss owns her. Lighten up!

        1. Eillah*

          There is a very real and ugly history for many Americans about the use of the word “slave.” Valentine doesn’t need to lighten up.

  156. El Esteban*

    I know the annual “Worst Boss of the Year” has some pretty tough competition, but my money is on this one.

  157. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Just for a little perspective: NYC subway conductors START at more than you’re making ($22.70/hour to start, gradually increasing to $32.42/hour, guaranteed 8 hours pay per day).

    Listen to everyone here and Get Out Of There.

    1. Perpal*

      Hm, is subway conductor an entry level job? Sounds a bit stressful/skilled, but I know nothing about it. Agreed though that the salary in NYC sounds barely livable and can probably easily be found elsewhere, with less baggage and stress.

  158. Remote Worker and Dog Lover*

    OP, I’ve been in your situation. In my first job out of college, I was a misclassified independent contractor. I’m not even sure if everyone there knew they were doing it wrong – I remember I got an email once from our board treasurer (!!!) asking me to explain the difference between a contractor and an employee. I had to work 9-5 five days a week. I had to get time off approved by my boss. I had a desk of my own, everything. My boss was really hard to deal with, emotionally manipulative, micromanager. Supervisor wasn’t much better. Very good at their job but really didn’t offer me any help with my situation and they enabled my boss’ behavior.

    I really recommend job hunting now. Don’t wait. The company is taking advantage of you and you should get out of there as soon as possible.

  159. Laura D.*

    LW, I worked in a similar toxic environment for 11 years. Why did I stay so long? Because I was beaten down. At first, I was threatened to be fired daily. It event went down to once a week and finally once a month. He berated my in public, in the middle of the office or in company meetings. He told everyone else that I was great, but never to me. Promises were constantly broken.
    I eventually left when 1. He refused to give me permission to take classes to better myself and the company on my own time (I had to get permission for reimbursement after I passed the class) and I started reading AAM. I went through some tough times financially, but I’m in a better place. Someone with my years of experience should have certifications galore and I have only one. It has damaged my prospects for future employment.
    Don’t let this happen to you, LW. There are good jobs with good companies out there. There are fewer job seekers than there are positions available. This is the time to strike. Do it for your future.

  160. Mike*

    As someone who works in HR, it boggles me for someone to not realize they’re being paid as a contractor and not W2… But when I think back to my earlier work life, I wouldn’t have known what to look for either. So, to everyone who’s not sure, LOOK AT YOUR PAYSTUBS! Know the difference between W2 and 1099 contractors and what to look for. There are a LOT of employers (mainly small businesses who think they can get away with it) that will try to pay you as 1099 to try and avoid paying taxes. THEY ARE DOING THIS TO EXPLOIT YOU. There’s almost never another reason, no matter how they try to spin it. 1099 contractors are a VERY specific situation, and most of them are very highly paid specialists.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve had people struggle with basics that are second nature to me as HR, that nothing shocks me at all.

      I have unearthed a few payroll issues in the past that would have gone unknown by someone else if I weren’t a decent human who would never recognize an error and bury my head, even when it’s MY error. I’m talking about pretty substantial pay discrepancies, like missing hours or if you overpay, it’s even worse to have to explain to a person why they’re going to be short next time. So frequently, it hurts.

      Whereas if I’m off by 15 minutes, I’ll know.

      The *(@#$ that I worked for before went so far as to shortpay me my last check from commissions they owed me on sales I made right before I left, even though I was the one who drew up the payroll data for them. It was only a few bucks but oh gurl, you know I noticed. I didn’t fight it because they were awful and I was leaving for greener pastures but some people would have been hurt bad by a short pay of $50 or whatever it was.

  161. whatwhatwhat*

    $35K for FT work in NYC is BULLS**T. That alone is reason to leave. And you’re supposed to be grateful!?!?!

  162. Zipzap*

    OP, just want to send you my sympathy and best wishes for a speedy exit and recovery from this totally toxic job. Previous commenters are absolutely right that this job will skew your perceptions of what is normal in a workplace if you don’t get out soon. You can get a temp job lined up pretty quickly, so go for it and then let your boss know when your last day will be. I normally would always recommend giving at least a week’s notice, but your boss sounds so horrendous that I think you’re justified in giving a day’s notice or even quitting by e-mail. If you get a few temp jobs under your belt, that’s enough to put on your resume. I would never list your current job on any resume or employment application. Some very kind NYC commenters have offered their help – I hope you take them up on this. Best of luck to you – I think you’ll be just fine.

  163. Sarah M*

    $35k in NYC??? Are you supposed to live in a subway closet and eat cat food for dinner? Good grief. I suspect all the food and clothing “gifts” are supposed to make up for the lack of reasonable pay. But they don’t.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I mean the boss is “feeding” and “clothing” her!!! She’s saving all that money! *bangs head into wall*

  164. Snickerdoodle*

    I had to read that title twice and then laughed out loud. I cannot BELIEVE the level of ridiculousness here. Get out RIGHT NOW, OP. Little tip: This insane level of dysfunction is VERY likely to blow up catastrophically in your face and leave you without a job or otherwise screwed over. Get out get out get out.

  165. iglwif*

    OMG, LW, get out of there as soon as you possibly can. All of this is not just banana crackers but literally abusive behaviour and you should in no way have to put up with it longer just to be able to say you stayed a year!!

  166. ShwaMan*

    OP, if you are reading this comment by chance, I have one question:

    In this moment, are you at the office?

    – If NO, never go back.
    – If YES, silently walk out the door RIGHT NOW and never go back.
    – In both cases, block her number.

    Other than that, I won’t repeat the multitude of points from other commenters (they are all correct BTW). I will also point out something else — which is not the most important thing, but –whatever line of business your boss is in, she absolutely won’t be in it for long. You are risking nothing by GETTING THE F*** OUTTA THERE RIGHT NOW.

  167. That One Person*

    Oh my gods O.O

    I mean I was worried at the title alone because I’m thinking this is basically a slave/sub-dom situation as it is…and my gods it is! She’s forcing favors on you and demanding a parade in return at every turn! That accident thing would’ve been an excellent escape (albeit at an awful time), but that tax thing is so worrying and crazy that should be the cherry on top to this crazy sundae. You deserve to work in an environment that is enriching, worried about your health, and allows you to say “No, thank you!” to things. You deserve to be directed and instructed at work, but not played with like a doll for someone’s personal ego.

  168. Llama Face!*

    Yikes OP, you describe this person as “mothering” you but if she was your actual mother doing those things I’d be calling Social Services for you! As almost everyone has already said, this is abuse. (Literally, financial abuse, gaslighting, and controlling behaviour are all classic abuser stuff).

    Please do your best to find a new job ASAP and in the meantime do what you can to protect yourself by making sure everything you can get in writing is saved somewhere other than at the business. In terms of her weird gratefulness thing try being as boring as possible and playing along if you need to do that to keep her off your back while you make your escape plans.

    Wishing you the best!

  169. ZachSheets*

    Beyond the IRS, I can say first hand that New York State is *extremely* aggressive about employee misclassification. In particular, for non-profits in NYC, since so many of them flagrantly abuse the law like yours seems to. You should find a new job as soon as possible for the gazillion reasons listed here. On your way out, you should make sure you don’t wind up unfairly owing FICA taxes that your employer should have paid on your behalf. (It’ll be 7+% of your annual salary due at tax time, assuming you haven’t had withholdings throughout the year, which would be very strange for a 1099 employee). This kind of abuse is so common that it is a dedicated branch of the NYS Dept of Labor’s phone tree and they will gladly.

  170. Shax*

    We really need a site called LinkedOut where we can warn each other about these people.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Don’t just shout out your ideas, get yourself to working on that product, gurl!!!

      Granted this is supposed to be GlassDoor essentially but these small bones people never end up there.

    2. Anon Librarian*

      There was an ad for something like that in SF ten years ago. It was actually called LinkedOut. I don’t know if the ad was a joke or if someone was actually working on it.

  171. The Book of the Teapot*

    Your tax bill, once you put it all together, is going to HURT. Payroll taxes for federal and state add up to an enormous chunk when you’re living on a poverty wage in NYC. When you get to that stage, don’t panic, there are people who will help you figure it all out. But right now horrible boss is avoiding paying taxes which you are going to become liable for all at once. I used to save 25% of my income for taxes in NYC and that was about right.

  172. Â*

    OMG this is appalling. GTFO NOW.

    I say this as a seasoned small business owner with only a few employees. Get out get out get out!

  173. 653-CXK*

    This is one instance where immediate ghosting and conscientious blocking of this evil, criminal, tax-evading sadist witch is not only warranted, but actively encouraged.

    Not only that, but blowing the whistle on her for tax evasion once you’re far, far away from her is your duty.

    TL;DR: RUN!

  174. Courageous cat*

    Ahhh, the idea of being grateful for $35k in NYC is laughable. I mean, the idea of $35k in most cities is laughable, and I live in a city with a relatively low COL.

    What a terrible person. Get out!

  175. Wing N Wing*

    Dear LW, I’m sorry you don’t seem to have anyone in your life who had already said, in big capital letters, THUS IS NUTS AND YOU DON’T NEED TO LIVE THIS WAY! Echoing literally hundreds of previous comments here, start job searching yesterday.

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Emphasis on “nuts.” Boss’s behaviours remind me of a former Person In My Life who eventually told me about their serious diagnosed mental illness. It got worse and PIML got more demanding and emotionally draining as time went on. You don’t need that in any aspect of your life. Run like hell, and trust that you’re running to something better.

  176. All Outrage, All The Time*

    This is shocking. Please get out as soon as you can. Put all of Alison’s resume and interviewing advice into play. If you can afford to quit, just quit by text or email and never go back.

  177. Gazebo Slayer*

    Ugh, this kind of behavior is so familiar. Not long after I graduated from college, I had a boss who talked endlessly about how ethical he was – his favorite expression was “I’m making a living, not a killing.” He also talked a lot about how other companies, especially larger ones, were soulless evil corporations and blah blah blah.

    Well, he was misclassifying *everyone* who worked for him. His young, naive office manager worked 60 hours a week for $6 an hour and thought she had it great. Often he just… wouldn’t pay people at all, for weeks.

    When I quit, after 3 months of near full time work but just over $250 total in pay, he told me that he’d been doing me a favor, and that I’d never get another job anywhere else because I wasn’t smart enough or hardworking enough.

    From the comments above, it seems there are lots of scummy bosses operating out of this same playbook.

  178. Anon Librarian*

    OP, do you work for my mom? Seriously. This sounds like what I’ve been dealing with my whole life. But if you get closer, it gets crazier. I would not be shocked if they found a stash of dead bodies in my mother’s back yard.

    Moving right along . . . Get the F out. Trader Joe’s is hiring. They pay up to $20 an hour for entry level jobs in NYC and they have good benefits. Or go to a temp agency. Find something. Anything.

    But if that’s not an option, try making a case for a salary increase. Despite all the other weird stuff, there is a chance that she’s out of touch with the going rate for the work that you do, and that talking about it – with documentation to support your request – could make a difference. You never know.

  179. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

    Wow. Holy crap… Wow. I have no words. This might just be one of the worst bosses I have ever heard of. She’s a narcissistic, manipulative control freak who gaslights you constantly into believing she’s a good boss. And if anything happens that is beyond your control, she doesn’t care about you, she immediately assumes the worst… for herself. She likely posted the job listing (if she even did actually post one; I’m not sure if you saw it or not) either under the assumption that you were quitting or ditching, or solely for the purpose of manipulating you. If it’s the latter, it’s entirely possible she didn’t even post one and was just claiming she did to gaslight you. You should start looking for a new job ASAP, and quit as soon as you get one. Don’t even go into work that day, just text her and say that she’s a manipulative monster and you can’t stand working for her for even another minute.

  180. One L FTW*

    … wow. I’m really glad you’re talking with a therapist, because this is Not Normal, and it is Not OK.

    I want to second R2D2’s recommendation that you avail yourself of free legal advice ( The person you’ve described is someone who’s not gonna want to let go when you quit, and may try to come after you for the clothes she’s given you, or intimidate you into working for free until she finds a replacement for you and your rage-quitting coworker. I’ve never used Monday Night Law, but it sounds like they can give you legal advice that’s not necessarily “lawyering up”, and I know from experience this can be an incredibly powerful and reassuring tool to have in one’s arsenal.

    You don’t owe this woman anything. Not the next six months, not two weeks notice, and definitely not gratitude!

  181. polkadotbird*

    Somehow, this boss is even more terrible than the subject line made it sound like. The letter writer has my deepest sympathies.

  182. Perpal*

    Geez, right out of the abuser playbook. Prey on someone who is still learning the field, go on and on how great they’re treating you / no one else will treat you better, shower with gifts alternating with insults… yep. Get out OP! And then tell us all about it!

  183. pleaset*

    This is so ridiculous it almost made me laugh. OP, when you move on you will be so much better – and you’ll be able to think about how pathetic your current boss is.

  184. PersephoneUnderground*

    I knew it- the more I read the more obvious it was that “I treat you so well.” etc. etc. Was covering up the exact opposite. If someone feels the need to keep telling you how great they are, chances are they ain’t that great. Pays peanuts, gets upset and punishes you over things out of your control, “mentors young women” = “I hire young people who won’t know enough to call me on my crap or know how to assert themselves yet”, weirdly controlling about odd things…. This is the business equivalent of an abusive relationship. You’ll always be waiting for the next thing you did “wrong” to “make” her act the way she does, plus you should be grateful she’s deigned to hire you at all! Yeah, 100% abusive gaslighting b.s.- RUN. (Also if anyone in a romantic relationship starts talking like this RUN.)

    Nope right out of there:

  185. jolene*

    Tiny sidebar, as everyone has offered huge amount of help to the LW already, but those NYC loading hatches are so dangerous! I refuse to tread on them, no matter how annoying it is to others on the sidewalks. YOU walk on them, people getting cross with me.

    1. BenevolentDespot*

      I don’t walk on loading hatches, period, although New York is the reason why I don’t.

  186. Crackles*

    Oh, please be sure to send in an update after you’re gone from this nightmare! This is just too crazy!

  187. Tom*

    I will quote the famous Wizzard Rincewind:


    It doesn`t matter where you are running to , its the From that counts.

    Seriously – go away as soon as you can. I`m not sure the money is worth it, especially with the possible legal/IRS complications.

  188. Frankie*

    The only times I’ve had a boss harp on “we’re all so lucky to work here” were the times the jobs were overworked and underpaid, and the boss knew we were being taken advantage of. If you have to say it, it’s probably not true.

    (I mean, OP, this letter is insane, but even in more “normal” jobs people in authority will pull this “you should be grateful” guilt trip stuff, so something to look out for wherever you work)

  189. Fellow Mad Boss Survivor*

    OP – my first job was also with a crazy psycho boss at a tiny company, please keep reminding yourself that none of this is your fault and it will get better. When you’re just starting in the workplace, it’s so easy to take people at face value when it comes to working culture but your boss is taking advantage of that and being emotionally abusive to you. I’m so sorry they are doing this to you, you deserve so much better.

    My boss tried to avoid paying me the minimum wage, tried to diagnose my mental health condition without my knowledge, threatened to fire me for having a disability, demanded I get Madonna to endorse our marketing campaign, made me work from her living room for a week when she was ill, hired my ex-boyfriend to mess with me (!!) and… bought herself a dog and then told her entire family that I bought her the dog to cover herself. She also rejected my flexible working request because she thought I had an eating disorder which would be exasperated.

    I lasted a year.

  190. boop the first*

    I so sympathize, because other than the illegal stuff, you are describing my boss so well! The tiny workforce, the forced feedings, the micromanagement, the complete narcissistic self-interest at the expense of everyone else… I am fuming.

    I’m planning to quit without another job next month (because it’s the only way I can get time off for vacation), and I’m not even getting financially screwed the way you are. Good luck!

  191. Radiant Peach*

    $35,000 in New York is outrageously low in any degree-requiring field! The fact that your boss tells you you should be grateful for how well she pays you runs into gaslighting territory (and this comes from someone in an over-educated, absurdly low paying field).

  192. Phoebe*

    Is this a normal thing now? Not to check paystubs? How do you not know that taxes aren’t being taken out?

    Boss is clearly a whack a doodle, but thinking all of this is normal strikes me as naïve to the point of crazy.

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