update: my employer stole my final paycheck, denied my unemployment, and won’t leave me alone

Remember the letter-writer whose former employer insisted she owed them money, withheld her paycheck, and wouldn’t stop contacting her (#3 at the link)? Here’s the update.

First, I want to thank you and your readers for confirmation that my former employer’s attempt to withhold my final paycheck and demand for more money was indeed egregious. It encouraged me to continue holding him accountable by not withdrawing my complaint with our state’s department of labor. I admit, I was tempted so we could cut ties once and for all, but my conscience wouldn’t let me: He needed to be outed as duplicitous, arrogant, law-breaking jerk that he is.

I’m pleased to report that after several months of back and forth, the state ultimately sided with ME, and demanded he pay me my final wages, plus penalties. I got a check in the mail within a week, which I’m 100% certain he sent immediately to avoid having to pay me – and the state – additional penalties.

Getting the money I owed is great, but what really felt satisfying was reading the investigators’ 12-page summary and analysis of the situation. They read him for filth!!! His “evidence” was sloppy and full of lies, which they caught. They also said no matter what I may have said or signed, nothing erases an employee’s right to be paid for the work they’ve done.

Once the appeal period passed, I shared my experience on Glassdoor, which he tried to flag. But it didn’t work. ; ) Hopefully it’ll spare someone else the stress.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

          1. Random IT person*

            I`ll join from The Netherlands – good distance.

            But – man – what a GOOD update in these times.
            YAY for OP and i think most that follow stories like these did a sigh of relief that there is justice after all.

            Good for you OP..

  1. CupcakeCounter*

    Excellent news to get right now! Congrats OP – hopefully in addition to the vindication you got a fabulous new job that is currently allowing you to WFH during the pandemic.

      1. Artemesia*

        You not only triumphed personally and got your check but you probably also reduced his likelihood of doing this to someone else especially since you outed him on Glassdoor. Congrats. Job well done.

      2. Coffee Bean*

        That is so awesome. I am so happy to see that you triumphed here. Congratulations to you, and best wishes in your new job.

      3. Working Hypothesis*

        Congratulations!! On both the total victory over the slimeball and the great new job. And good for you for posting the Glassdoor information — that’s going to help a lot of people avoid being victims of similar behavior from them, I expect.

        You rock, OP!

      1. Minocho*

        I miss it, and I missing my own tabletop gaming! ah well, there are computer games to tide me over.

        1. vampire physicist*

          slightly off topic but – my regular D&D game has always been remote (players across several different states) and it’s been a bright spot to look forward to and a comforting constant every couple weeks. I’ve also run some relatively easy to learn ttprg one-shots (Honey Heist, Lasers & Feelings) for friends via video chat. It’s not quite the same as being around a table, but I highly recommend it if you have the internet capability!

  2. I coulda been a lawyer*

    Congratulations on getting this behind you successfully , OP. I wish you nothing but sane employers for the rest of your career!

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Agreed. I would save multiple copies of that document and read it for the sheer schadenfreude joy when I was feeling down.

      1. Alli525*

        Reading bureaucratic takedowns is such a delight. Judges’ rulings/opinions, for example, can be wonderful, because they can hide an incredible amount of snark behind all the formality and jargon.

    2. Beth*

      I’m watching Drag Race right now, so I doubly appreciate the library being opened on the boss!

  3. The Original K.*

    Yaaaay! I would have been reading that report while drinking a glass of wine, just reveling.

    1. irene adler*

      Oh yeah!
      It would be tempting to find a way to publish the report-in full. Or at least post it on-line somewhere that he cannot get it removed. But that might bring repercussions.

      OP, so glad you won!

  4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    Thank you for staying strong and fighting through this. It would have been easy to walk away, grumble, convince yourself it wasn’t worth it (and that’s totally valid) but you didn’t. You stood up for yourself. Good job. And you put in the groundwork to hinder his future bullshit. Good looking out for the next guy.
    Virtual elbow bump!

  5. OrigCassandra*

    I hope yours was just the start of a flood of departures, OP. This employer is a dangerous creep.

  6. Cruciatus*

    I’m sorry it happened to you, but good job for staying the course! It’s disappointing to hear that there seems to be no ramifications for his or the business’s behavior (besides paying the money). Was this not theft of a kind, or fraud or something? Maybe not worthy of a 20 year prison sentence, but perhaps a hefty fine (beyond the late fees due to payment)?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They charged him penalties and probably interest, but yeah those are usually tiered. So you have to have a track record of this before they will come down on your neck hard enough to possibly put you out of business.

      You could possibly have gotten more with a lawyer but that would have cost out of pocket for obtaining said legal counsel as well. The state usually is pretty relaxed on businesses in order to continue to allow them to operate, so that they’re generating revenue for everyone with their hand in the honeypot.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’d love to see egregiously terrible businesses shut down, with their assets (and their executives’ and officers’ assets) seized and distributed to everyone they’ve harmed. If that kind of stuff were on the table, a lot of people would behave a hell of a lot better.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I absolutely would love to see that kind of a system. Sadly, it won’t happen so long as businesses — and most often the least scrupulous businesses — supply most of the money for legislative campaigns.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      This sounded like it was a very small business. So often these places have “difficult owners” who seem to think being a small business exempts them from state labor laws (and a lot of other laws actually). When they fire employees, instead of not contesting the unemployment claim, they decide to get really vindictive–and occasionally the UI office investigates–and it backfires on them in spectacular fashion.

      I’ve seen this happen at a place I worked at a few years ago. It kind of ended up like this story after the unemployment/labor office investigated. Ha! I didn’t get involved, but secretly it was like watching a soap opera.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        I’m at one of those places right now. *gritting my teeth* Experiencing sexual discrimination for the first time in my life. Meeting w/my attorney tomorrow afternoon.

        He thinks he’s the smartest person in any room and that he can explain everything away. I wish him luck. I have documentation.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Oh I will. This will make two employment cases in the first at the same time (the other is a federal whistleblower case that is going to take forever to wend its way through the legal system but it’s a good, fun case and I will win that one also). I have documentation of the men here being given higher bonuses than the women, even though we two women have been here longer than the three men, as well as *ahem* other things.

            1. SweetestCin*

              We need to add “Kicker of Butts” to your tag line. Hats off to you, and I hope for success in both cases for you!

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                Oh I will be successful…..the whistleblower case is a slam dunk and while I have a good case with my current employer, I’m not sure I want to pursue a lawsuit right this second. Especially since I’m still working there. Would be quite uncomfortable!!!!

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Oh I bow down to no one. That’s why the AAM commentariat bestowed this screen name on me. It’s adorable. The guys all think I’m being cute, when I’m really documenting the bad behavior.

            Sometimes, I really hate how easily some men are willing to accept women as dingbats or airheads.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              You are indeed the empress of awesome! My world has been made a little brighter today, just from knowing that you’re out there doing what you do.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                Awww, thanks. I’m just doing me. This one is nothing. Somewhere, back in one of the open threads (around July 4, 2019) the whole story of the whistleblower case is documented. There are some massive gems in that one.

            2. TardyTardis*

              You know, there’s a lovely novel called JANE DOE and its sequel PROBLEM CHILD wherein the heroine is a sociopath (self-designated) who is willing to pursue revenge and is very ingenious about it. (Hint: always look all the way through a Google doc to make sure it says what you hope and pray it says *before* the meeting).

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Thanks. This will make my second employment lawsuit (concurrent) so my attorney is having a blast right now.

            I need to find better employers.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                After the whistleblower case started, I got a massive education from my attorney. I mean MASSIVE. If I didn’t have the documentation right now, I wouldn’t pursue it, but I’m not sure I’m going to right this second. I sorta need a paycheck right now and it’s a helluva time to be looking for a job!

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          “I wish him luck. I have documentation.” Such a bone chilling statement, in the best and most badass way.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            LOL, thanks. I’m getting sooooo sick of these small companies. As I said above, my boss thinks he’s the smartest person in any room. He thinks he’s too small for the laws to apply. Now I get to do some edumacation!

          2. TardyTardis*

            Yes, indeed (this reminds me of a woman my husband knew who had a video explaining why nobody had to pay income tax. He said, “I have the Constitution.” She said, “But I have a video!” “I have the Constitution.”).

        2. MissDisplaced*

          I really try to steer away from taking jobs at these very small companies with the “independent owners” now for all of these reasons. But I’ve worked for quite a few in my day!

          It’s not that you’re “protected” from this stuff at a bigger company, but there generally are more professional protections in place.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’ve seen this, too. I know several small business owners who were/are great entrepreneurs but awful business managers. They think, ‘It’s MY business and I can run it however I want.’ They are truly surprised to learn that local, state, and/or federal laws apply to them, too.

        One such owner told me that as long as he was not publicly traded, he could handle hiring and firing however he saw fit. He didn’t do anything as awful as the OP’s boss, but the local UE raked him over the coals for the way he handled some terminations last year. He still complains he’s being persecuted for being a small business. Sigh.

        1. Quill*

          My old boss at pig lab from hell seemed to think that “but we’re a research and development business!” meant I could somehow find a way to purchase chemicals restricted because they’re part of explosive manufacture over the internet.

        2. Karo*

          This reminds me really strongly of the first few episodes of the show Silicon Valley. A developer creates a great product, gets money to start his own company, and then has to learn what a business plan is and how to incorporate a business and justify employees when his expertise is coding, not any of that stuff.

          And honestly, this kind of thing explains so many bad bosses. Individual contributors or solo entrepreneurs who were offered promotions/money to get their business going and suddenly had to manage business plans, employees, and so much more when that’s simply not their strong suit. I hate that there comes a point where your only chance for upward mobility is to be a boss instead of a really strong contributor.

          To be clear, there’s never an excuse for the egregious BS mentioned in this thread (wage theft, harassment, etc), and anyone who thinks thinking prosecution for breaking the law = persecution because small business is ridiculous, but I think so much of run-of-the-mill bad bossdom is just people who are in way over their heads.

      3. Fikly*

        Unfortunately for employees, being a small business does mean they are exempt from a tremendous number of laws.

        Having to pay your employees isn’t one of them, though.

      4. Nephron*

        Their favorite appears to be ADA. The people that complain about being surprised by a 30 year old federal law astounds me. Either you are starting your business with ADA in place or you have had 30 years to figure out how to get in compliance.

          1. Rob aka Mediancat*

            Hell, the way some bosses act, they’re surprised by the Emancipation Proclamation.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                Same here. I busted out with a guffaw….and I’m at work. Whoops!

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh HELL yes it was theft and fraud. Morally, at the very least. I wonder if all the demands for payment of fake debts to the business count legally as mail fraud? That’s what sending invoices for services never rendered or requested is, after all – you know, those scammers who send small businesses bills for inclusion in a nonexistent “business directory” or office supplies they never ordered or whatnot.

      One of my favorite laws in my state (Massachusetts) is that nonpayment of wages is a felony. Every time I hear of a scummy employer going to prison for it, I wiggle with glee.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I love your username! All hail the Slayer of the Dread Gazebo! (I brought that Gazebo into a game I ran once, just because I could.)

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      I know, right? It’s SOOOOOOOO refreshing when the good guys win for a change! YAAAAAYYYY!!!!

  7. MissDisplaced*

    Don’t you just LOVE IT when a state’s department of labor works the way it’s supposed to work, and claims are investigated properly? I’m so happy you got your back pay and this person’s illegal activities were ground to a screeching halt. I don’t know if they were ignorant, vindictive, or both? But likely, they’ll be one of those who cry that the government is ‘oh-so-against small business, even though the problems and issues were all of the their own making.

    1. AppleStan*

      According to OP, a lot of the assembled evidence was recognized as falsehoods/lies *by* the administrative body…so I’d vote for vindictive rather than ignorant.

      1. nhb*

        I think MissDisplaced was using “they” as a placeholder for the bad boss/business owner of OP’s., so I think you’re both on the same page.

  8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m glad that you won in the end and didn’t bow out, that’s what these bully buttholes want you to do.

    But I’m still forever bummed at how long this shit drags out and when it involves a person who is owed money that’s required to continue to be fed and sheltered.

  9. AppleStan*

    Congratulations, OP. I agree with “The Man, Becky Lynch” it’s so hard to have to wait so long for justice, but oh, it’s so very sweet.

  10. Kiwi*

    Such a satisfying result!

    I’m honestly quite surprised that they went through all the trouble, from a business perspective. At my company the instant we find out that something like this (improperly withheld wages) has happened, Legal lights the people responsible on fire because the end result is just going to be more company time and resources expended. It seems like this is the unfortunate combination of someone at the company with an axe to grind (or being unwilling to admit they made a mistake, like not getting OP to sign an agreement about expense reimbursement) and no one else being realistic about time/money expenditure, or the possibility of success.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      It seems to have been a small business–too small to have a legal department, or even counsel on retainer. Add an owner who thinks he is a medieval lord and this is his fiefdom.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        “I don’t need a lawyer until I’m in trouble” rather than “I should have a lawyer to avoid getting into trouble”. And yes to the fiefdom comment.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think often it’s simply that this has worked in the past. You have someone who lashes out when anyone stands up to him – he sees it as a personal affront. He is completely unable to admit error or wrongdoing, and when accused, he doesn’t back down, but instead goes full vindictive. He’ll bully, insult, threaten, lie, commit slander and libel. And a lot of the time, his victim will back down. He’s got money and power and time on his side, they don’t know their rights, they just want to get out of there and be left alone, they’re scared and it’s not worth the risk of more damage.

      So doing this gets what he wants. And once’s built up the habit, and followed it for years or decades, it’s a hard one to break. People can stand there and point out that what he’s doing is illegal and has consequences, and it won’t get through.

  11. knitter*

    great job sticking with the complaint!

    My *biggest* work regret is not filing a complaint when I was laid off the week after I told my former employer I was pregnant (and a month after I was promoted)
    I didn’t have the emotional reserve at the time to deal with a job search and this. So extra thank you from those of us who aren’t able for whatever reason to file a complaint.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I once gave an employer a couple of month’s notice (because I was going back to college, and I was friendly and naive) and they responded by firing me on Friday of that week. Idiots. I would have worked out the time, left quietly, and job-hunted in the town where the college was. Instead, I filed for unemployment and lived on those checks for as long as they lasted. I didn’t even know at the time that it could affect their UI premiums but *they* sure should have.

  12. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Congratulations, OP – so glad you stayed the course, and even happier you won your case!

  13. Retro*

    Yay! Congrats to OP. We’re not always in the position to pursue a more official course of action to keep bad employers accountable, so I am always excited when someone can persist and prevails in the end! A victory for OP is a victory for all of us!

  14. Juneybug*

    Oh, I love happy endings! Thanks for hanging in there for the rest of us that couldn’t do the same but we know we were in the right.

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    Fantastic update! Well done for sticking to your guns, and thank you on behalf of anyone who applies there in future!

  16. Agile Phalanges*

    Congrats on winning the wage claim. I’m curious what happened with the unemployment claim–did you win that one too?

    1. OP*

      Thank you! Yes and no. Because he contested my claim, we were required to have a phone hearing with a judge. The judge questioned us and allowed us to question each other about the details of our separation. Ex Boss spoke to me like I was a perp and he was district attorney #3 on an episode of Law & Order. It was hilarious and horrific at the same time. Ultimately, the judge agreed with me, but sided with him. On the bright side, however, I got the Unemployment Office to let me keep the benefits that I had been paid out to me up until that point. It was in the thousands.

  17. spock*

    Thanks for sharing! Makes me happy to know that these things can work out. Congratulations!

  18. TootsNYC*

    Your state government at work!

    I wish you’d write to your state’s Secretary of Labor, and the governor, and maybe to whoever you worked with, and thank them for their fealty to the state’s laws, and their efforts in enforcing them fairly.
    I bet people like that don’t get a pat on the back very often.

    1. OP*

      I reached out to a few of them, but we fizzled out fast. Probably because they didn’t want my drama to impact their employment.

  19. Mel_05*

    I’m so glad you got justice! I hate that you had to go through all this, but I’m really happy that you got what you were owed.

  20. SeluciaMD*

    This was the story of sweet, sweet justice my soul needed today. So happy for you OP! And so very glad this worked out the way that it should have. Such a great update!

  21. Amethystmoon*

    I am glad to know that you got justice. Happy also that you stayed the course, so they know now they can’t get away with it if they try to do it again.

  22. Snickerdoodle*

    That is just BEAUTIFUL. I once had an employer try to deny me my last check, and I filed a complaint with the labor board, called the corporate office to let them know that 1.) Their office at X location was breaking the law, and 2.) I’d already called the labor board. Ten minutes later, I got a call from my previous boss to come get my check. It was delicious. :D

    My last job also took their time about getting me my last check until I threatened to file a complaint. They said something nasty and sarcastic along the lines of “Well it’s on the way, geez” (lol, I noticed it was stamped shortly after I threatened to file), and of course they responded to all the negative Glass Door reviews by trying to deny everything or blame the employees. It’s fantastic.

  23. TiredMama*

    Great update! Congratulations and I hope you have found new employment that you enjoy.

  24. Potatoes gonna potate*

    That’s awesome! Employers who fire you and then contest your UI are abhorrent and deserve to be named and shamed, especially in today’s climate. I’m glad you were able to post it on Glassdoor and part of me is super curious to know the company to steer clear!

  25. Malty*

    My kingdom to read that report.
    Sorry you went through that OP – but pretty delicious to have that official document that essentially reads ‘and he was a moron here, and here, and don’t get me started on here’

  26. Heffalump*

    I’d never heard the expression “read for filth” and had to look it up, but it’s a good one! I’ll have to remember it.

  27. The Supreme Troll*

    OP, I’m coming late to this, but just adding to what everyone else is saying, congratulations on a well-deserved outcome! I’m truly happy for you, and that you fought for what was right…something that should have never been taken away from you in the first place.

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