my boss offered me money to film a sex tape with two coworkers

A reader writes:

So…I’ll just come out and say that I know this it totally inappropriate, to say the least, and I need to find a new job ASAP. What I’m looking for is advice on how to cope with this in the meantime, and how to salvage my career moving forward.

I’ve worked for a small trucking company owned by a very, very wealthy man for the past two years. This company is more of a hobby than a money-making venture for him. He throws his money around like you wouldn’t believe and makes no secret of how wealthy he is. There are frequent Patron-fueled lunches where he brings in bottle after bottle after bottle of Patron and encourages all of us to drink heavily, and he makes fun of people who don’t join in. He’s done a lot of weird, inappropriate stuff during those lunches (and at other times … it’s a really, really weird environment and my wife is routinely horrified by the stories I bring home), but this was by far the worst.

Last week, during one of those Patron lunches, he brought in costumes for all of us to dress up in “to make it more fun.” I don’t know—like I said, really weird environment. He gave me a trucker costume and two of my coworkers police officer costumes, and started talking about how funny it would be to film a video of the police officers “arresting” me, and me, uh, doing … favors … to get out of being arrested. He offered us $30,000 to do it. We (we’re all men) said no, so he called one of the accountants to bring the business checkbook and offered us $45,000. He actually told her to get ready to drive to the bank and cash the check—he was not joking.

We all continued to say no and he finally let it go, but he mocked us for the rest of the week. Obviously I’m leaving, but what the heck do I do in the meantime? There’s no HR to go to. Also, what does this mean for my career moving forward? I’ve done good work here, and have been promoted into a leadership position that I’d love to keep on my resume, but I don’t think he’d give me a good reference, and he’s so volatile that I wouldn’t want a new employer talking to him anyway. I have no idea what he would say. There’s no one else above me who I could put down as my manager … I’m a department head. Have I torpedoed my career by working for a crazy person?

Your manager held a tequila-fueled lunch, made everyone dress up in costumes, and then offered you multiple five-figure sums to film a sex tape with your coworkers.

Is your manager … Jordan Belfort?

(Also, I know this is not the weirdest part of the letter, not by far, but I don’t know what to do with the fact that he made you dress up in a trucker costume while working at a trucking company.)

Anyway. Nah, you haven’t torpedoed your career.

That said, the longer I write this column I more I think that no one should ever work for a small business, especially one where they report to the owner, unless said owner has passed a rigorous battery of assessments of their acumen in both management and life.

But that’s neither practical nor helpful.

What would be practical: A lawyer. Talk to one. Not because you’re going to sue (necessarily), but because a lawyer can help you navigate this to get the best outcome. That outcome could include (a) severance, which could let you leave faster than you could otherwise (this guy has lots of money he’s willing to throw around and will probably be willing to use some to solve a legal problem, not just reserve it for vats of Patron and a custom-made fetish video) and (b) an agreement on exactly what will be said in a reference. A lawyer can use the sex tape incident — which happened in front of multiple witnesses — as leverage for both of those things.

This is a great thing about lawyers that people don’t always realize: they’re not just for suing! When the law is potentially in play, they can guide you step by step to maximize your chances of getting what you want. They can even do it all behind the scenes if you want.

A lawyer is who you want here.

{ 478 comments… read them below }

        1. Joan Rivers*

          Also, even worse than working for a small business is working for a small business the owner INHERITED.
          Trust me, they can know nothing and just make up their own rules.

          1. The Price is Wrong Bob*

            I would add after many years in NYC: never rent in a building someone inherited if you can help it. Landed failsons are a health hazard.

    1. t-vex*

      Early contender?? I think we can cancel the rest of the year, there’s nothing that could top this

        1. Cody's Dad*

          Came here to say the same thing!

          Best of luck OP. Try to stay calm and focused knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that will lead to a new and hopefully better job!

      1. ShysterB*

        Somewhere out there, there is a boss (probably more than one) saying “Hold my beer.” And more than a few others saying, “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!”

        1. glitter writer*

          This is exactly what I was going to say. Do not dare reality; if letters to Alison have taught us anything, it is that reality will always be able to one-up you.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Sadly true – money doesn’t buy intelligence.

          (And even hiring smart people to run things for you doesn’t help if you don’t listen to those smart people you hired.)

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          I mean, yeah, ‘Fire you if you don’t test to see if you can be a liver donor’ Boss was worse than this, and he *didn’t win* that year (2016). ‘Coming to the clinic to talk about routine work during chemotherapy after threatening to fire the receptionist to get the confidential schedule and clinic info, which got the receptionist fired but not him’ beat him.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – there were a pair of really atrocious bosses that year. This guy is also in that class of horrible for his very own reasons.

        1. Anon for this*

          My boss possibly could top this boss in terms of sheer variety of dysfunctionality, but you won’t hear about them in their entirety until I’m out of here and can write in a good news post that details the depths of the abyss I escaped. Is like massive layers of leading people on coupled with an Enron CEO level of desire to become a Public Figure In The Community, with a dash of constantly saying they don’t have time for all their responsibilities.

        2. AndieeRZ*

          Yep, just finished reading an article in Reddit where a manager asked if he was the A-hole for wanting to fire her very pregnant employee diagnosed with HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) because she’s “slacking”, calling sick once a week and not performing a 100% like the rest of her coworkers, even though she could possibly have a miscarriage or die, so… yeah.

      2. Ashley*

        Well the one saving grace is the boss did appear to let this go for the moment and didn’t actually require the video as terms of employment. So there is still a chance a boss will pop up in some new and terrifying way about how they treat their employees.

      3. Lady Meyneth*

        Careful. I remember thinking that for one of last February’s bosses. Wouldn’t you know it, after the world crumbled, he didn’t even make an appearance on the finalists.

      4. Grand Admiral Thrawn Will Always Be Blue*

        Never ever tempt the fates!!! But I agree, this would be VERY difficult to top, and I pray that nothing does.

      5. AnonInCanada*

        Wanna bet? We’re not even three months in; I’m sure we’ll find equally-bad bosses between now and Christmas.

      6. OhdearZodNo*

        Oh don’t tempt a “hold my beer” moment, please. I’m going to need brain bleach for this.

      7. fhqwhgads*

        There’s always at least one that did or could’ve caused death or serious injury, and those that do that will always top whatever other monsters there are.

      8. Temperance*

        You say that, and yet, every single time someone has said this, someone else has topped it.

      9. The Price is Wrong Bob*

        Look they are coming out of the gate strong but it is only March. Who knows what untold horrors await us.

    2. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, I thought the same thing when Alison posted the subject line on Twitter, and the letter is even worse than the headline made me think it was.

        1. une autre Cassandra*

          I don’t know what it says about me that it’s somehow LESS bad than I expected based on the headline—but only because the boss did, eventually, drop it for the time being. Godspeed to the letter writer in getting the heck out of Disfunction Junction before the boss brings it back up, or does something weirder and worse.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Oh, that rings a bell. My experience with men, as a woman, is once they get a sex idea in their head they do not let it go. They keep bringing it up and trying to find ways to make me do it. :p
            OP, see a lawyer today or tomorrow and get the ball rolling before your boss brings it up again or, G*d forbid, tries to escalate it.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I think that’s fair. A suggestion at a drunken party, however seriously meant at the time, which doesn’t appear to have resulted in long-term retaliation beyond teasing is still REALLY BAD, but it’s better than I imagined based on the title alone.

            And as unpleasant as it must have been for the LW, he will not have had to worry seriously about “what if he makes me do this” which I think would have been many women’s early considerations – I don’t get the impression from the letter that LW was afraid of physical danger at any point, just revolted.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              It’s not always physical danger the coerces a woman. In a situation involving an employer, it’s often the need to keep her job. I hope LW is not in such a dire situation but if he is, all the more reason to see a lawyer *now*.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Indeed it isn’t just the physical threat – but the perceived physical threat is different or perhaps an additional layer to be concerned about if you don’t read as masculine.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              This seems like kind of an odd take to me – pressuring your employees to get drunk during the workday then insistently offering them huge sums of money to perform sex acts on each other, to the point of instructing someone to drive to the bank to cash the cheque, seems like rather more than a “suggestion”? And the OP says he was mocked for a week, is leaving his job and is concerned about not being able to get a reference – again, rather more than a bit of teasing to my mind.

    3. Paris Geller*

      The year’s not even a quarter of the way through and we have SO MANY contenders. . . but yeah, this one is it for me. I hope nothing can be worse than this!

    4. Amethystmoon*

      Definitely! I agree with the small business thing. Worked for a couple and neither were great, both had weird company cultures and in the first one, the HR dept. was one person who sucked up to the CEO.

      1. Shhhh*

        Obviously there’s selection bias going on here, but every time I read a letter from someone working for a small business on here, I thank literally every diety I can think of that I work for a large, bureaucracy heavy organization. Yes, there are downsides and yes, there are still weirdos, jerks, bad managers, and whatever the heck the boss in this letter is (!!!), but at least we have a functional HR department and, like, levels of management to go to when things are screwed up.

        1. Anon, for obvious reasons.*

          This boss is terrible and all, but with that said, I’ve known people that would’ve done it, and for less. Hell, I’ve known people that have done things like it for free.

    5. PeterM*

      I feel like you’re being unfair. He pays well, and it’s right there in the job description – “Other duties as assigned.”

      1. No Winning Move*

        As someone who’s been burned by “other duties as assigned” this gave me a chuckle.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      First thought: You truly cannot make this stuff up.
      I’d go after that $45K and I am not talking about making a sex tape. Definitely get a lawyer. Document the incident in detail. Maybe your co-workers will want to join a collective suit (talk to the lawyer before approaching them).

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oooh, yes. “Hi Boss, if you give me that $45,000 I’ll make sure not to out you to the authorities/press.” OTOH, maybe Boss wants to be outed to the authorities, given his response to his employees in the police costumes….

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I know you’re just being silly here, but that would technically be extortion. Not a good career move.

    2. Heidi*

      Does anyone else think that the Sixth Sense scenario from yesterday would still be less horrifying than this?

      1. TheLayeredOne*

        Totally. Even if the wife from yesterday’s letter is a ghost, the boss seemed mostly harmless. Today’s boss is disgusting and predatory.

      2. MK*

        I don’t get why a ghost in the workplace would be that bad, frankly, as long as they don’t make too much noise…

        1. Scrooge McDunk*

          We had a ghost baby in my old office, and it actually wasn’t that bad as long as the baby wasn’t crying.

          1. Scrooge McDunk*

            So to dox myself, I live in a city that was devastated by a massive explosion a little over 100 years ago. Many of the buildings that were left standing were pressed into service as makeshift hospitals for the thousands of injured. My office was in one of those buildings, so lots of weird stuff happened there, but the ghost baby was an ongoing daily presence. Most of us felt she was a girl, and she was a pretty benign presence – you might feel as though someone was in the room with you, but she wasn’t, ahem, mean-spirited. However, nobody liked the early shift because every morning at 6:00am, Ghost Baby would make her way up to the 2nd floor and break out in wailing sobs for about 15 minutes.

        2. Dancing Otter*

          Unless the boss only THOUGHT she was running the payroll or accounts payable… Does the online payment portal believe she exists?

  1. Crivens!*

    You thought Jordan Belfort, I immediately thought David D’Amato and assumed that if the boss had somehow managed to coerce you all into making that tape, he would have turned around and blackmailed you with it.

    But seriously, your boss tried to sexually coerce you and your coworkers. That’s horrifying. I’m sorry you went through that and I hope you end up with some kind of justice. And also a new job ASAP.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly, my brain went straight to Harvey Weinstein. Do this sexually compromising and harassing activity for money, and it you don’t I’m going to mess with your ability to continue to work.

      Please go talk to a good employment lawyer – this is so beyond the the realm of acceptable that I don’t think the line is still in sight.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        My brain immediately went political but I won’t say who, since politics doesn’t belong here.

    2. LunaLena*

      I thought of David D’Amato too! For those who don’t know, he was featured in the documentary Tickled (I think it’s on Hulu right now?). The documentary started out as an innocent look into the world of “competitive endurance tickling,” but unexpectedly revealed blackmail, life-ruining retaliations, and fetish tapes instead.

      Seriously hope you get out soon, OP. That’s a hell of a working environment to be in.

      (also Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna be fooled again!)

  2. kittycatcorn*

    You know, I have lurked on this site for many years, and I am still shocked sometimes. This is one of them.

    Alas, i have nothing constructive to say except good luck, OP! I hope we get an update from you soon telling us that you made it out unscathed!

    1. Chilipepper*

      I also came here to say that I wish you luck and am invested in an update – I really want to know you are ok.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Right? I’m guessing plaid shirt (maybe with the sleeves torn off) and gimme cap? I can’t think how you would portray this except as an extreme stereotype.

      1. Elizabeth McDonald*

        That’s how lots of “costumes” are, though, right? I mean, I’m a teacher and right now I’m just wearing slacks and a sweater. But if I Googled “teacher costume” (which I will NOT right now; I’m on my lunch break at work!) I know I would not see people wearing slacks and sweaters. It would be pencil skirts and white blouses and glasses perched on the tip of the nose, probably holding a pointer and maybe also carrying around a chalkboard that said “ABC”. Even though NONE of that is what I or any of my colleagues wear. (I mean, aside from the ABC chalkboard. That’s a mandatory accessory.)

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m thinking something UPS-like? I don’t know. The truckers I used to work with wore their own clothes (they were independent contractors).

      1. Lizzo*

        You know, the first thing that comes to mind when I think “sexy” is the all-brown UPS uniform.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Lol, right. But somebody does since it’s a trope in nearly every amateur porn film since the ‘70s.

      2. WellRed*

        I don’t think of UPS guys or the like as truckers. They are delivery. When I think truckers I think a bit more long haul, as well as independent or small trucking company. No uniforms, no polo shirts.

        1. Wombats and Tequila*

          The drivers are bery proudly part of the Teamsters and have struck or threatened strikes at times.

          1. acmx*

            But when people talk about UPS drivers they typically mean the delivery people that drive the package cars and not the over the road truck drivers.

            Teamsters also represent work groups that do not drive vehicles.

        2. Berkeleyfarm*

          Some of them do long-haul routes – a friend of mine has this job. He and his partner meet a team from another major metro area “in the middle”, swap trailers, then come back. They know all the trucker amenities on their routes (and if they’re covering a new one, their colleagues tell them where to go). He only does regular “delivery” during December when it’s all hands on deck.

          They definitely wear their uniforms when they’re on the route.

    3. Ana Gram*

      Honestly, this is what I came away wondering. I know several truckers (male and female) and…they just wear jeans and tshirts and hoodies. Usually boots instead of sneakers. That’s it. I’m so confused.

    4. Mental Lentil*

      A lot of truckers wear a company shirt—polo or short sleeve button up with the company logo and in the company colors. It’s pretty obvious who they drive for when they’re in the coffee shop.

      1. Stormtomcat*

        If the uniform is boots + jeans + company polo/shirt, does… does that mean… this Patron-boss had one of his teamleads dress up as one of their drivers, who are actual colleagues/employees??

    5. Bostonian*

      My dad was a trucker. Sturdy, monochromatic material with company logo. Think something like the Ghostbusters outfit (minus the awesome proton pack).

    6. Daisy-dog*

      My FIL is now a trucker. He mostly wears seasonally appropriate Under Armour and some type of hat.

    7. acmx*

      Ha, that line made think the letter was fake (really, details changed to be anon I expect).

      Maybe one of the city drivers wore a branded polo but I’ve never seen a over the road driver in a uniform.

    8. Black Horse Dancing*

      My dad was a trucker. Jeans, boots, t-shirt in hot weather, flannel in winter. Sometimes a t-shirt with the company logo.

    9. Chilipepper*

      There are pinterest pages of “trucker style” so maybe some high end designer clothes given the boss has money?
      Or just google trucker costume and you get lots of long wigs and plain – mullet style hair.

    10. DJ Abbott*

      I think I’ve seen some in uniforms, like a work shirt with their name on it and either work pants or jeans.

    11. Formerly Ella Vader*

      Truckers for industrial shipments around here wear high vis vests or “stripes” when they get out of their cabs at destination. Otherwise, jeans, boots, tshirt (tanktop for women) and/or plaid flannel. Possibly a belt slung under a round belly. Boots for both men and women could be cowboy-style.

    12. Kiwi*

      My husband is a trucker so I asked him and he said “obviously it’s anything I wear, as I am a trucker.”

      So there you have it.

  3. Sara*

    I saw this headline on Twitter and am still somehow completely shocked by this letter. It is SO much worse than I thought!

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Same. I though that maybe this time AAM had oversold the WTF factor in this letter. Nope. It was worse than I thought, somehow.

  4. Dust Bunny*

    Okay, this tops the nonprofit where the LW’s boss was her husband and they were getting a divorce and the husband/boss was also having an affair with one of this other reports.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Is it still worse than the liver donation boss? Can’t decide. Awful no matter what though.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          :: bows down ::
          I don’t often laugh out loud reading…but this comment made me very glad to be outside. (The lawn won’t mind the soda, and I did get my phone out of the way in time.)

        2. Dust Bunny*

          “Is this body part normally covered by clothing and/or actual flesh? If it suddenly were not, would it be a police matter? Then it’s not a workplace-appropriate body part.”

      1. INFJedi*

        At least the liver donation boss wanted his relative to live… (still completely wrong what he did).

        This boss… yikes…

        1. Littorally*

          Yeah, I would say this easily tops liver boss. Liver boss gets at least the grace that, you know, when you’re incredibly desperate and already grieving your judgment can fly out the window. He was still horrible but at least like, he has the cover of grief making you do very weird things.

          This waste of human space doesn’t even get that much grace. He’s just a disgusting creep plain and simple.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, or the one who made someone leave a memo on the grave when a report was at a funeral…

      2. Elbe*

        I think that the liver donation boss was the worst.

        At least this guy took no for an answer, even if he made comments about it afterward. Wasn’t the liver donation boss firing people who wouldn’t get tested? That’s extra terrible.

        1. virago*

          “At least this guy took no for an answer, even if he made comments about it afterward.”

          But it’s not like Sex Tape Boss signed something saying that he’d never mention it again. He’s a rich guy with a lot of time and booze on his hands. He owns. The. Company. What’s to keep him from repeating this grotesque idea the next time he gets bored and/or soused?

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          You know Liver Boss didn’t win worst boss that year, right? 2016, it was ‘Sneak into employee’s chemo’ boss.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Yeah, I’m glad my lady’s retired. I take her to her chemo right now, and if her boss showed up, I’d be in jail for what I’d do to him.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It also tops “Jane Has Lost Her Mind” which has been top of mind for me in the batshittery category for nearly three years.

      1. The Original K.*

        That’s one of my favorites. I laughed at that letter for a solid 15 minutes. Jane was taking nudes AT WORK with her pants around her ankles. Reception desk in the background and whatnot. I love that letter.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        God, I loved that letter. The comments were gold. I could not keep my composure at work reading them.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Hmm…. matter of opinion. ;-p

        I mean, they’re both so horrible in completely different ways that I find it hard to compare.

      2. Annie Moose*

        I think your boss trying to pressure you into filming a sex tape with coworkers is definitely worse than Pee Boss. Like, there is no possible comparison.

  5. Diahann Carroll*

    What the actual hell?!

    Alison’s advice to get a lawyer to help you get an early payout may be the best thing you can do right now, OP, since your company’s owner is unhinged.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah, this is definitely a lawyer situation. Honestly I don’t know if I would really want money from this guy- but I definitely want to negotiate a statement and good reference.

      On the other hand, how much longer is this guy going to be able to stay open the way he seems to be operating? Sounds like he thinks he’s the Harvey Weinstein of the trucking industry.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          True – the question is are legal suit losses able to be written off in taxes?

    2. MistOrMister*

      I think the lawyer advice is really helpful. It makes a lot of sense if OP can use that to negotiate their reference, and I think most people wouldn’t have realized that was an option (I sure as heck didn’t!!!).

      Good luck to OP on getting out of that place. I cannot imagine being pressured to binge drink randomly during the work day and then being mocked for choosing not to do so! And, the level of shock I would feel at being propositioned to make a sex tape with coworkers…….

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yes! Then negotiated reference will be key to really getting out of this thing unscathed (a nice severance is a bonus).

      2. meyer lemon*

        Also, I really hope the boss isn’t encouraging people to binge drink who will then be driving all afternoon. Who am I kidding, of course he is.

        1. Observer*

          Probably not – it sounds like he’s drinking with the office staff, not the actually truckers. Which also explains the “trucker costume”.

    1. Zephy*

      See, up to now I’d used that phrase in reference to people like the lady who paid my husband $100/hour to fix her Apple products by Googling solutions on his phone and restarting/reinstalling apps. To my knowledge she never offered him more than my annual salary to make a sex tape, though.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I read it more as believes that his money is power and that he can use it to coerce people into doing whatever he wants, which is far grosser.

    3. PersephoneUnderground*

      Pedantic correction- that’s “more dollars than sense/cents” to nail the joke. Though now I want to force some kind of sex pun in there too given the letter…

  6. Princess Deviant*

    Oh my actual god, what on earth, wtf, etc, etc, and so forth and whatnot.
    Please give us an update on this OP. It’s almost unbelievable but having read Alison’s blog for a while I can totally believe that there are people out there who behave like this.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      As long as there are people with more money than brains, there will be people who get drunk and think stuff like this is a good idea.

      But yes, UPDATE NEEDED.

      1. Classic Rando*

        Well he went out and bought these costumes, so this one incident at least seems premeditated. Which makes it that much creepier.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Fair point – but I wonder if the idea was just costume party before way too much tequila?

          Either way it’s still a weird place, and yeah, OP you have the right idea to just get the hades out of dodge.

        2. Paris Geller*

          I feel like a guy like this probably already had those costumes. Not that it makes it any better (actually, probably worse, now that I think about it), but he just seems like the man who would. . . I don’t know, buy $10,000 worth of costumes to have on hand to pressure his employees into making a sex tape??? (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence).

        3. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, sounds like it was premeditated and he used the drunkenness for plausible deniability if something bad came of it.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              “In vino, veritas” has been said for many, many generations for a reason. Whether boss was going for deniability or the tequila removed the filter and the vile thoughts were spoken aloud is moot.

              Boss is a creep, who has way more money than brains. One day this is going to cost him very heavily. Hopefully there are not too many people who just needed a job and hadn’t yet escaped this place taken down with him.

  7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I can only imagine what the porn tapes would be for his other hobby businesses… Yeesh.

    1. Elenna*

      Yeah, something tells me that his decision to run a trucking company, as opposed to any other kind of small business, was made for reasons that are, uh, non-business-related, let’s say…

      1. aebhel*

        The hilarious thing is that he could just… start an adult film company if that’s what he wants to do. Why THIS?

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      The good thing about a small business, from the POV of the LW, is that it’s really easy to answer the dreaded “why did you leave your job” question. “Better advancement opportunities”, “wanted to work for company with (inter)national reach” … large companies know they’re a bigger draw than little hobby-of-the-owner shops, and medium-sized ones, which aren’t necessarily preferable to small ones in every case, will easily believe they are.

  8. Sami*

    Runnnnn! With as much SEVERANCE money you can! And an agreement about references! Get out get out get out!

  9. Phony Genius*

    Alison’s statement “unless said owner has passed a rigorous battery of assessments of their acumen in both management and life” does make me think about something.

    I really think there should be some type of licensing required to own a small business. Similar to driver’s licenses. In this case, it would not only test business basics, but also familiarity with labor law, harassment laws, etc.

    1. Louise*

      Having worked for a small business it gets exhausting being the one to point out that is illegal and trying to come up with new ways of saying that phrase so they still take you seriously. There should definitely be some regular licensing requirements, not that they will follow them if they don’t want to. The best are how grateful their employees should be to have jobs blah blah blah but the second it doesn’t work for the employer they are gone.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I really think there should be some type of licensing required to own a small business.

      Slight dissent. Anyone can have a business. I want the licensing required to hire employees and/or contractors directly. And no threshold; I want the likes of Chase, Wal-Mart, and Apple to be subject to its annual renewal as well.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Yes excellent point! People can set up businesses and force THEMSELVES to drink tequila and wear costumes while doing sexual things (probably tricky to role play all three characters at once though), but a licence to hire other people would work nicely.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Yeah, this is the correct answer. No one needs a license to sell macrame earrings on Etsy – they need it if they’re going to employ other people to make those earrings.

        1. Observer*

          At any size.

          When the solution to multiple heart attacks or heat strokes in a facility is to station an ambulance at the door of the facility, you really can’t maintain the illusion that it’s only with small businesses that you get jaw droppingly abusive practices.

          There are probably more stories like this, but I know that Ford did this at one of their plants for a while, and Amazon did this as well at one of their warehouses when temperatures got (illegally) high and people were getting heatstroke. Eventually Amazon ameliorated the situation a LITTLE ITTY BIT by allowing people more than 2 15 minute bathroom breaks in a *10 hour day*. The enables the staff to drink more without worrying about needing to go to the bathroom. It did help A BIT, because at least now people were not getting dehydrated.

      3. James*

        It would just become another way for Chase, Walmart, ABC, Apple, etc to prevent competition. They’ve got lawyers looking for such legislation. Regulatory Capture is a real problem. For my part (leaning pretty far towards Libertarian) I find Regulatory Capture a MUCH bigger concern than adding a “knowledge of legal framework” requirement to getting a business license.

    3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      While it initially seems like a good idea, who do you think would be at the most disadvantage in acquiring a license, or preparing for and taking those tests?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, this would create so many more barriers for minority-owned businesses to start up.

    4. pope suburban*

      I strongly agree. My previous job was at a dysfunctional small business, and while it was nowhere near as bad as this one in the letter, I did find “giant drunken parties where people behaved horribly” to ring a few familiar bells. The way that these environments can warp your thinking and your self-worth is genuinely scary, and I feel for this LW so much.

      And also, with regards to this letter, this boss, this lunch, this whole situation: ENDLESS SCREAMING THIS PLACE IS MADE OF BEES GET OUT GET OUT.

    5. Mona Lisa Vito*

      I was hired as the first HR person for a small business – the COO once told me, “It’s your job to tell me what’s illegal. It’s my job to decide whether the risk is worth it.” I can’t believe I lasted a year there…

    6. Observer*

      You really think that the only places that are abusive ans dysfunctional are small businesses?

      Even in a reasonably well run place, there are often pockets of dysfunction. And unfortunately, there are plenty of medium and large companies where it’s not just pockets.

    7. Anon Fed*

      Strong agree, and same with nonprofits. I once interned at a nonprofit and the guy in charge’s behavior was so horrendous that 2 of us (I think the other was a paid fellow rather than an intern?) quit within a few weeks. I didn’t really need the internship and something much better came through a few weeks later. But my coworker quit knowing she might have to leave the country for doing so. (She ended up being fine and got a position elsewhere through a larger program she was a part of, but that wasn’t a given at the time.)

      1. Anon Fed*

        (Forgot to add, it was basically run by one guy and had 4 employees/interns at any time, at most. I think the whole thing was a scam.)

  10. pretzelgirl*

    I agree Allison with the small business thing. I have worked for 4, since I started working in HS. Every single one was a gigantic dumpster fire. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I agree — in my experience, the smaller the company, the more likely the dysfunction.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I have worked for three law firms: one biglaw and two small. The biglaw was terrible in that way biglaw is: probably no worse than normal, but still a terrible place to work. The first small firm was terrible, due to Terrible Boss (since disbarred), but in a different way from biglaw. I’m not sure it was really any worse. I have been working for eleven years now for a solo practitioner. He is wonderful. I am a fan.

      Trying to generalize, a big firm has a lot of institutional inertia. This has its advantages. It is more likely to understand labor law, for example, and have a mechanism to comply. It also means that should you find yourself working for Terrible Manager, there is someone above them who can potentially rein them in. But it also means that you are a faceless cog. If the corporate culture is one that recognizes that life happens, and accommodates this, then being a faceless cog is not bad. But even then it means that you might be laid off without a second thought.

      A small firm is all about the person at the top. There are few levels separating that person from the lowest level employee, so there is little institutional inertia insulating the workforce from the whims of the person at the top. They determine the corporate culture far more than the CEO of a big corporation. The result is that there are wild swings in how good or bad a small firm can be.

      Putting these together, a small firm has higher upside potential, and lower downside potential, than a big firm. I think this is why the wildest letters come from small firms. And of course there is a lot of selection bias. People who have worked in the same small firm for decades and love it there aren’t the people writing Alison letters.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Very true. At times I think we forget this is a advice column and by default we aren’t going to hear about the good work places, or great small businesses. We are only going to hear about the problem places – because the workers at the problem places are the ones going to need/ask for help.

        1. James*

          It’s called the Clinician’s Fallacy. A doctor is only going to see the most severe versions of an illness. Since that’s all they see, they stat to consider those extreme cases to be the norm. Never mind that they’re seeing 5%, and in 70% the symptoms amount to “runny nose”; they hear X and think worst-case.

          Something similar happens here. Intellectually we know that small businesses can’t universally be that bad–some of us have worked for one, and most of us have shopped at one (most businesses are small, after all). But when all you see is horror stories, you start to think that the horror is the norm.

          And the stuff the LW is talking about isn’t limited to small businesses. I know a guy who was fired from the company I work for for doing the same thing. This company is a huge multinational company, and apparently he got away with it for a while. His adult photography side business wasn’t a secret, at any rate, and until he started asking coworkers to participate we all just wrote it off as none of our business (we’re adults, and what consenting adults do outside of work hours isn’t our business). I also had a rather interesting and informative conversation with a guy who worked IT for a pornographic website that went bust. When we met he was working as a laborer. Apparently (and I’ve confirmed this with other sources) church websites are more of a risk–church websites tend to be run by volunteers, and typically older volunteers who have free time, and therefore are typically not as secure as one would wish. The larger adult websites, in contrast, have IT departments just like any other business.

          1. Observer*

            And the stuff the LW is talking about isn’t limited to small businesses.

            To say the least. If #MeToo taught us anything, it’s that this kind of abuse can happen all over the place.

            Harvey Weinstein didn’t run what anyone could call a small company. Nor did Travis Kalanik. In both cases, having an HR department didn’t do much to rein in the craziness.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I worked for one, and that was enough for me. I bailed after less than a year. I actually left a permanent job at that small company to take a contract job with no benefits. I have no regrets about doing that.

    4. sofar*

      Yep. The weirdest work stories I have were all from small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

    5. Mr. Cajun2core*

      I guess I was lucky. I worked for a small tech company (non-start up, they had been in business almost 20 years) for 11 years and it was the best job I have ever had! They laid me off (along with 1/4 of the company) due to the loss of our biggest client.

      When I started I was person #7. When I laid-off, 3 of the 12 were laid off.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        It’s also important to remember that a small absolute number of horrible places can have an outsized influence on perception. Because horrible places have high turnover, even if only 10% of places are awful, you might have 50% of people having experienced one of those awful places, leaving, and having horror stories about it. Meanwhile the people who are only 1 or 2 jobs in, both at good places, aren’t going to be contributing to the stories of the horror.

    6. Kiko*

      Yup. All the horrific work experiences I’ve had all happened at small companies. I have zero interest in ever working for one again. I’ll take bureaucratic BS if it means that people have to be responsible for their actions.

      1. Observer*

        I’ll take bureaucratic BS if it means that people have to be responsible for their actions.

        That’s a reasonable trade off. The problem is that in many cases, that’s not actually what happens.

    7. Pigeon*

      I worked for a subsidiary of a larger company that might as well have been a small business… for various legal reasons specific to the industry, there was a big financial wall between the subsidiary and the parent, and the parent never knew the details of anything that happened there. Dysfunctional is an understatement. I’m still in therapy.

    8. Blur Rasta*

      Yeah I worked for a small company and it was bonkers. I think they’re idea of reality was so far removed they didn’t even think they had an issue with turnover. I’m talking 20-50% of staff just plain left every year. Former employees think they’re sexist and racist. A lot of small business owners are willing to do anything to stay afloat :/

  11. Elizabeth West*

    I saw this on Twitter and have never clicked on a link so fast in my life.

    Seriously, what is with small businesses with egotistical owners? Now y’all know why I keep trying to apply to large companies. They may be soulless, but you’re less likely to get the faaaaaamily crap, or this brand of madness.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      A long time ago I read that a common reason people start businesses is because they can’t hold a job. I think that explains a lot. It’s definitely the reason the small business I worked for existed.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Hahaha, yeah, that’s why I keep suggesting to a friend of mine that she run her own business. She doesn’t get along with people very well, hasn’t been employed in a few years, gets contract jobs and then loses the contract jobs….it’s a soap opera.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I think what happens is that these people are basically unable to work for others and as such become unemployable. Many start their own businesses and become even worse bosses.

      This story is one of the worst though. Almost like the business is just a front or money laundering cover for something illegal.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I have to say, giant organizations actually have protections for the crazy crap. And insurance. And extra benefits.

    1. SharonC*

      I’m curious, do you think this is something that a lawyer would take on a pro bono basis? The reason I ask is that it seems like most of the time when people are advised to seek an attorney, their first response is that they can’t afford one. This OP really needs to get out of there pronto!

      1. AllTheBirds*

        Typically, an investigatory phone call to a lawyer is gratis, any they can tell you possible scenarios/outcomes. They get paid when you receive a settlement.

      2. Super Duper*

        Probably not. Pro bono representation tends to be reserved for low-income clients who are facing urgent legal situations (domestic violence, eviction, immigration, etc.), and the clients are often vetted and referred by a non-profit or social service organization. A lot of lawyers offer free consultations, though, and some types of matters are handled on a contingency basis, so you’d pay the lawyer a percentage of whatever money you win at the end of the case.

      3. LlamaLawyer*

        Employment lawyers sometimes work on contingency (I.e. paid a percentage of any settlement). But they have a job just like anyone else- there’s no reason they should give away their time and talent for free. There’s nothing to indicate that the OP would qualify for pro Bono services. Sorry for the mini rant- it is amazing the people who have asked me to work for free.

        1. Smithy*

          I think this kind of response is fair – particularly when you consider the types of work that a lot of time and effort is spent in supporting with pro bono support (as mentioned above, domestic violence, eviction, immigration, human rights violations such as torture, etc.).

          While hiring an employment lawyer for a case like this or similar likely wouldn’t be free, I think that mentally thinking of this as buying peace and safeguarding yourself professionally is helpful. I know someone who left a job under far less salacious circumstances but ultimately did go through a lawyer to negotiate a reference. While I never asked how much it cost, I know he found it extremely valuable in preserving his professional reputation and ultimately wasn’t a terribly protracted process.

          If this is a place the OP has worked for years, risen to the point of department head – and wants to be able to stand on his accomplishments as a manager and individual – then thinking of this as paying for credentials might help.

          1. Super Duper*

            Agreed. I think there’s also sometimes an idea that lawyers will take on these types of outrageous cases for free because it looks like a slam dunk, or the injustice is so great, or it will make headlines. But that’s just not it works 99% of the time.

        2. Wine Not Whine*

          I suspect there’s a great deal of general confusion regarding “pro-bono” vs “contingency” work, and that many folks (or the commentators here, at least) say the one when they mean the other.
          If you’ve not had occasion to call upon the services of a lawyer, it’s all rather a “black box,” especially the billing. And like most things, it’s the exceptions that get noticed: on the one end, free/volunteer work, and on the other, painfully huge bills with no real visibility into the services behind them.
          The reality is of course the 98% between those extremes.

        3. Delta Delta*

          Joining your mini rant.

          I help as much as I can, and so do lots of lawyers, but we can’t give away all our work.

      4. Bagpuss*

        Is it common in the US for Home insurance to include legal cover? Here in the UK, it’s quite common for legal cover to be offered as an add on, and it usually covers the cost of seeing a lawyer and (if they advise you have a good case) legal costs up to a certain limit. It doesn’t generally include criminal or family/divorce law, or motoring issues, but it would often include cover for employment matters.

        I think it typically adds about £30 to the annual premium.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          Insurance lawyer. Homeowners and renters insurance in the United States usually includes some legal services, but those are if the policy holder has a claim made against them. It wouldn’t cover an employment dispute.

      5. LifeBeforeCorona*

        This case sounds like something a lawyer would love to take on. It has everything, sex! drinking on the job! wealth! idiot owner! witnesses!

      6. Mayflower*

        My company does a fair amount of pro bono work (although we are not lawyers). People often think pro bono means free services for anyone who can’t afford to pay but in reality pro bono is typically offered only to those who have been vetted by an established organization. In our case, we do pro bono for seniors referred by social workers, and for lawyers, it’s usually people referred by legal aid orgs. A service provider that does pro bono for random people off the street would go out of business!

    2. Generic Name*

      Yes! I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve sought their advice on personal matters, and I highly recommend. Especially because everyone and their sibling on the Internet has Opinions about legal matters that are either flat out wrong, or aren’t customized for the jurisdiction, and therefore the advice is generally useless.

      As for the cost, well, yes, lawyers work for pay, so it will cost money. I had an issue with a subcontractor threatening to put a lien on my house because the general contractor didn’t pay them. I think I paid $500 total for a phone call and a few emails telling me what my legal options were and what to do if a lien was actually filed. It gave me a huge amount of comfort knowing what to do next. I realize not everyone has extra hundreds to throw around, but when you really need legal advice, paying a lawyer is the best way to get accurate advice.

    3. Delta Delta*

      Yep. We lawyer-folk can be incredibly helpful in a lot of ways, the very least of which may be that we can help organize and advise on steps to take. Often I consult with people for an hour or so, because sometimes that’s all that’s needed.

    4. Wombats and Tequila*

      I’m very curious: is there some legal remedy or basis for OP to claim that the owner was engaged in pimping or trying to coerce him into a prostitute situation? Could he call this sexual harassment? Are there any possible criminal charges?

  12. Tiffany In Houston*

    I knew when I saw the screenshot of your inbox on Twitter that this was GONNA BE A GOOD ONE, Alison!!

    Sir, lawyer up. Immediately. Do not pass go, do not collect $200!

      1. TheLayeredOne*

        I am eternally grateful that you published this letter! It was somehow even worse than the title implied. (Now I’m really curious about the personal belongings search letter…)

    1. Sami*

      I’m laughing at your Monopoly line.
      But I’d like to see the OP (and perhaps his coworkers) get a crap ton of severance money. Waaaayyy more than $45,000!

  13. ThatGirl*

    My FIL owns a small business and … sometimes I think he may be the only sane small business owner out there! Jiminy Christmas… (It’s a glass/window/shower door/mirror fabrication and installation company, absolutely no trucker costumes, nothing hinky, and zero tequila anywhere near the place…)

    1. The Original K.*

      My accountant owns his business (staff of about 15) and he seems pretty sane and like he treats his staff well, offers good benefits, etc. I think it helps that the business has been in his family for decades (he’s the only family member who currently works there, which I think also helps).

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, my husband and his brother weren’t interested in taking over, but even before that, the most family members who ever worked there at once were father and son over the years. My FIL doesn’t have any siblings and it’s not the “employ everyone I’m related to” kind of family business.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think that there are plenty of good small businesses out there (I have worked for three small businesses, two of which were great places to work). The key is the owner treating it like a business and not a “employ and support all the family” operation. The two I worked for that were great had the “this is a business” mentality down pat – and an outside contract with an HR/payroll processing firm if that was ever needed. The third place tried to treat everybody like we were “familyyyy” with predictable results.

      1. ThatGirl*

        This is true (and the point below that the sane ones don’t write in). I was joking a little bit, but Alison did say she’s starting to think nobody should work for a small business.

        But yeah, FIL does not employ any family members, and if either my husband or his brother had wanted to take things over, it would be a serious thing, not “I’m paying you to stand around doing nothing”.

      2. Louise*

        I am amazed how many places still think the family thing is good, but it isn’t just small businesses that have that trap. There is a larger company in my industry that loves motivational videos and they had something about how we are family. This place doesn’t even qualify as SBA standards of small business and they still are spouting that garbage. I also understand why the service they provide is spotty at best and good people never seem to stay long.

        1. The Original K.*

          I’ve said many times that workplaces that call themselves family are big red flags for me, and that’s a guideline that has served me well.

    3. EPLawyer*

      The sane small business don’t write into Alison unless they have a problem employee. The employees at sane small businesses don’t write in because well, their workplaces are sane.

      But this, is beyond bonkers. This was not the alcohol talking. This guy is just bonkers.

      OP, please please talk to a lawyer. Even if there is a small fee for the consultation it will be sooooooo worth it, if only for your own piece of mind.

    4. Campfire Raccoon*

      We are sane too. But that’s a big reason why I read here. To make sure we are sane and not actually one of Those Companies.

      1. automaticdoor*

        Yes, same! I work for a teeny business and I just want to make sure my problems are normal issues and not “leave now” problems. (So far, so good!)

    5. Mystic*

      My dad co-owns a business with my stepmom. I…think it’s still considered small, I know it passed the 1 million mark a few years ago. I’m probably biased, but at the moment I think they’re still sane… except they don’t like teleworking.
      It’s a specialized recruiting firm too, so every time I read something about recruiters on here, I go…why. just why, that is not how a recruiter should act/work.

    6. Bagpuss*

      I think there is a difference between ‘small business’ and ‘small family business’, too – of course you get good examples of both but I think it does depend hugely on the mindsets of the owners and whether they go into it as a business first or a family first,.

      I am a partner in a small business. It’s not a family business – we are a law firm so Partners come and go but the business endures. For 350 years so far. There have at times been family connections, but it is run in business-like way.

      We have one current employee whose parent was one of the owners at the time employee was taken on, but it was discussed when they applied, and the parent was not involved at any stage in the hiring process, or in supervising or working with the ‘child’, and we had a formal agreement hat they would not be involved or have a vote in the event of any disciplinary or other measures relating to the ‘child’, should any ever be needed.

      The parent has since retired and the child got not special treatment – they were the best of the candidates who applied

    7. Magpie*

      I work for a not-shitty small business, it’s not perfect but it’s fine! I make decent money, I talk to the owner daily and so I can advocate for raises and bring up concerns, I’ve had room to grow and take on more responsibility and that contribution gets noticed. The nature of my job means I’m pretty much always working for small places and I would say 10% have been good-to-great, 10% were batshit crazy and the remaining 80% fell somewhere in the middle zone of mildly-to-moderately dysfunctional, and would have been worth staying at had I been paid more. That batshit crazy though! Whew.

  14. Free Meerkats*

    Only $45k? If weird boss wants me to make a gay for pay video, he’s going to have to get up to at least 15X that amount of cash. Just sayin’…

    1. Elenna*

      Only 15x? I’d want “winning the lottery and retiring instantly” amounts of money, at the very least.

        1. The Original K.*

          It would have to be “never work again” money to even start the conversation. I’d need to be fully funded for the rest of my life, and that’s a longish time. And that’s just to consider it. You know this dude would post it all over the internet, so I’d need to be financially set up so that I wouldn’t have to deal with professional fallout that can come from sex work – like, it needs to not matter that people might not hire me once it got out because I wouldn’t be dependent on employment for income.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I couldn’t tell from the letter if it was $45,000 each or $45,000 to split. I took it as they were supposed to split the money. And was thinking 15k to make a sex tape with coworkers seems kind of a lowball offer for someone who is supposedly super rich.

      1. Ashley*

        This is where I went to. Also why have someone dress up like a trucker when you have tons of truckers available? This is such an appalling letter but I feel like the owner low balled his employees in the process of creating a hostile environment.

    3. many bells down*

      It’s like when random dudes DM you for nudes, telling them I charge $10 million gets rid of them faster than just saying “no”.

    1. JMR*

      Right? Poor me, I didn’t get the office I was promised. At least no one plied me with alcohol and tried to involve me in a gangbang.

    2. Shenandoah*

      Literally was thinking the same thing. My company and coworkers are fair from perfect, but no one has ever said anything that comes within a 6 mile radius of weird sex stuff.

    3. KaciHall*

      Same here! At least I only have to deal with crazy pandemic denying bosses with the standard small business issues (though with fellow church members instead of literally family.)

  15. Burn it all down*

    I don’t think I have ever clicked a link on twitter so fast in my life, and my lord it was worse then I expected

  16. MissGirl*

    Leave now! This company will eventually implode in some spectacular way and you want to be well out of the blast radius when it does. It could be a lawsuit, it could be the boss is up to something illegal, it could be bankruptcy. Get out even without something lined up.

    My friend worked at a hobby company where the boss had tons of money but poorly ran her company. Guess who ended up working for a giant Ponzi scheme. We think he used the poorly ran companies to hide money or show losses in taxes. Luckily she’d left a few months prior and already had another job on her resume.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Unfortunately, while I’m sure OP would love to leave right away, this is not an easy time to leave a job.

      Which is why I always say that if we established truly strong social safety nets and people really could just walk out on a job like this, the work landscape would change very quickly.

      1. MissGirl*

        I don’t say it lightly. But walking away on his terms may be better than getting inevitably fired or getting his name and reputation attached to something toxic. The OP says he’s in a leadership role. If the company gets sued, he could look complicit to outsiders.

        Look at the disaster that was Theranos. A lot of those employees had a heck of a time finding a job after it imploded even though they had nothing to do with the fraud.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I also don’t think this company is going to be around for the long haul. The whole setup seems like a mess – hopefully there aren’t too many innocent careers destroyed when this place goes up in flames.

      1. Sam*

        Not around for the long haul, eh? One might say they’re driving their business into the ground, with a whole cargo of trouble.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Totally missed that pun when I was writing the comment. Think that means I need more coffee.

    3. lemon*

      Yeah, I was thinking along similar lines– this isn’t a business; it’s a front for some kind of illegal activity.

      I worked for a small company like this– the owners didn’t seem to care about making money, the factory was always shipping stuff to us that we didn’t need, and the only thing the owners seemed to be concerned about was the dates the shipping containers were coming in. It only occurred to me in hindsight that there might have been more than merchandise in those containers.

      Anyway, I’d think that if something illegal is going on at the OP’s company, that’s more incentive for the owner to want to settle things quietly/avoid a lawsuit.

  17. Fish*

    I’m not speechless very often but holy cannoli, I am just bereft of words right now. The costumes, roping the poor accountant in… just wow.

  18. Too Much To Do*

    I work in trucking and I’ve *often* wondered if some of these companies are run by weirdos with too much money because of their bizarre billing/paperwork issues and to be proven right in such a spectacular way is…mortifying and gratifying at the same time.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      Assuming it’s not something illegal, there is probably some kind of tax shelter for owning a small business and that’s why.

  19. Bookworm*

    Damn. One hell of a letter OP.

    Nothing to add except yes, see if you can get legal help and wishing you luck in finding a new job ASAP. Good luck!

  20. Caramel & Cheddar*

    There’s a lot to be confused by here, but somehow I’m stuck on someone who is wealthy enough to own a hobby business somehow settling on trucking as their industry. How does one even get into this casually as a hobbyist?!

    I’m sorry you’re experiencing this, LW, this sounds like the absolute worst.

    1. Elenna*

      I imagine the trucker costume in the fetish video is a pretty good explanation of why OP’s boss chose trucking as a hobby business, unfortunately.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        This is a very elaborate long game to accomplish this and yet I now fully subscribe to this theory.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I know we’re not supposed to speculate, but ya gotta wonder what’s being trucked.

      (No advice except Alison’s. This is way beyond my ken!)

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My thoughts EXACTLY.

        Drugs? Stolen goods? Something worse??

        Like, how’d the owner get so wealthy?

        1. MissGirl*

          Right. I mention up above about a friend who worked for a guy that ran hobby companies that kept failing. He was rich and kept starting new ones. We were perplexed about how he had so much money. When the local news reported that he was running a ponzi scheme, my first thought was that makes so much sense.

    3. meyer lemon*

      It sounds like his real hobby is lording it over his employees and amusing himself by seeing what he can use his money to make them do.

      1. WS*

        +1, there was a cafe next door to my workplace that had once been a regular cafe, but by my time was owned by three seedy people in a row, rarely had customers, rarely served food, would occasionally make coffee if they felt like it. Their only real turnover was the soft drink fridge. The answers to the three seedy owners, as it turned out, was money laundering, money laundering, and moving stolen goods. When the current owner was arrested, they must have taken a look back at the past few owners. Even worse, the stolen goods guy was also the local locksmith.

  21. Bluesboy*

    I wonder what the best thing to do is in relation to LWs colleagues. I mean, if he goes to a lawyer, as recommended by Alison (which I strongly agree with), I assume he shouldn’t speak to his colleagues first? Just in case one is frightened of losing their job and tells the boss about the conversation – you’re fired at that point before even getting to your lawyer.

    At the same time, we often talk about pushing back as a group, and I imagine that a group of employees backing each other up, all with adequate legal advice is more likely to have an impact. I suppose the best thing is lawyer first, then talk to colleagues individually about whether they are willing to testify to what happened and whether they too would like to join you in any potential legal actions if necessary.

    But I’m asking because I don’t really know anything about how to manage a situation like this. So far, none of my colleagues or bosses have asked me to costar in an amateur porn film.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I’d talk to the lawyer before talking with anyone else, then get the lawyer’s advice about whether, or how, to approach coworkers.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Yes, let lawyer be your guide! Write everything up, as many details as possible (*shudders in recollection), then give the sordid mess to lawyer and let them handle it from there.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      The thing is, even if the coworker goes to the boss and the LW gets fired, LW can still take action against the boss.

  22. TimeTravlR*

    If I weren’t so old, I’d think I interviewed with this guy about 40 years ago (but the guy I interviewed with is likely dead by now). I did an initial interview and he asked me to come back for an interview at the furniture store (he owns) where we could talk about design ideas. When I came back he spent most of the time talking about how he’d like to set me up in an apartment that he owns and I could work part time at the store but be “available” to him. His wife was allegedly bedridden, but that did not IMO make it any better. I left the interview and never responded to him again. What a creep.

    1. AllTheBirds*

      Gobsmacked that he expected you to be “available” BUT ALSO WORK AT THE FURNITURE STORE.

      1. Generic Name*

        Ha, right? I mean, if my job is to be “available” to someone, it better pay handsomely enough that I don’t also need a furniture store job.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Also, that the guy has to go through the pretense of hiring for the store. If the talk nowadays about “Sugar Daddies” is based in reality, it shouldn’t be all that hard to find someone who would jump at free housing in return for “availability.” Though I suppose arranging this would have been trickier, pre-internet.

          1. Self Employed*

            I am a moderator on NextDoor (neighborhood social media) and we just had a post we took down because it looked like rent for sex. “5 hours/day light work in return for free rent.” We suspected sex, but it could also be something drug-related including maintaining indoor cannabis growing. Even if it’s a legit caregiver job, it violates labor laws because only a small share of wages can be paid as free rent.

  23. Not a Blossom*

    I have GOT to stop thinking things can’t get weirder, because they always do. Dear lord.

  24. Amber Rose*

    Cue horrified laughter. I’ve been laughing for several minutes, not because this is funny exactly, but because… WTF?!

    A lawyer is what you need 100%.

    But maybe also a publisher, because I’m guessing you have enough stories and I would read your book.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      Am I laughing? Am I hyperventilating? Is this what a decent into madness feels like? All past harassments are flashing before my eyes, and there is nothing as whackadoodle as this letter.

    2. old curmudgeon*

      I’m so glad someone else besides me responded with horrified laughter – it’s awful, but I honestly couldn’t stop laughing.

      I will never, ever, EVER grumble about my workplace again.


      1. Amber Rose*

        Laughter: when the information you just took in is so overwhelming your brain doesn’t know what else to do.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think that’s a very good definition for why some of us are laughing at this putrid situation.

  25. J.E.*

    How about in addition to worst boss there is also a weirdest boss category? We’ve seen on this site the kind of dysfunction that happens in small non profits and family owned businesses. After reading this, I would say the worst offenders could be businesses owned by someone incredibly wealthy who uses the business as more of a hobby. When their livelihood isn’t tied to the business and they have more money than they know what to do with, it seems things can get very weird. OP, has the company always been like this or did the owner get more extreme recently?

    1. J.E.*

      Also want to add how is the quality of service at this trucking company? Are clients/customers happy with their service? Is the business doing well? Are any of the drivers ever drinking at the Patron filled lunches and then going out on the road or are these lunches just the office staff?

    2. Xenia*

      Yes, a ‘WTF’ category would be well filled this year. This isn’t garden variety bad. This is News of the Weird bad.

  26. irene adler*

    Holy cats!

    Makes me wonder what sort of things this owner has said to the female employees.

    Yeah, get that attorney pronto.
    If you are not sure where to find one, look for your local American Bar Association website. They usually have a lawyer referral service (free) where they can put you in touch with the attorney who will fit your needs. Some even offer a free 30 minute consultation. I have found these 30 minute consultations to be most informative.

        1. Red*

          I must be misunderstanding, because it seems like the implication is that this harassment is more bearable because the targets are men.

          1. irene adler*

            No, not at all.
            It may just be my experience, but women seem to get the worst of the harassment when folks like this owner are at play. We don’t know if that is actually the case.

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              Well, considering that the incident we know about involved all dudes, the owner is at least equal opportunity in his sexual harassment. It’s possible that he treats women fine, or at least merely in a sexist manner instead of a sexual one.

              Or not, who knows. But we can’t assume he treats women worse just because he treats men horribly.

      1. Myrin*

        There is at least one – the accountant he was about ready to send to the bank to cash his cheque. :|

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Thanks for sharing, this is really helpful, since I need to find a lawyer, too, although for an entirely different reason.

  27. AndersonDarling*

    For a regular person, it can feel like a huge risk to talk to a lawyer. And you have to worry about how much it will cost. But any money spent will be incredibly worth it!
    Find an employment attorney and give them a call. There may be a fee for a consultation, or they may take a portion of your settlement. This will all be explained when you set up your appointment.
    This is such a straightforward case since there are witnesses and an attorney will jump to help you get out of this situation. And I bet you that the lawyer you call will be familiar with the company and has likely already settled cases with them. Companies like this are well known by attorneys.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wouldn’t take that bet because,yeah, fairly sure that this guy is known by the employment lawyers in town. He’s just so out of touch with reality.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I’m imaging that phone call.

      OP: “Hi, I’d like to talk to an employment lawyer. I work for XYZ Trucking.”

      Admin: “Not this again. Janet, get the forklift, we need XYZ’s file!”

      *chorus of groans in the distance*

      1. Ally McBeal*

        If I were OP and heard that end of the conversation at my new lawyer’s office, I could forgo therapy (for this specific workplace incident) because that would be all the validation I’d need.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yes. And you can decide how much you are willing/able to spend and tell the lawyer that. I decided I was willing to throw $500 at getting advice on a legal matter involving building contractors, and I was able to get answers and advice within that cost.

    4. Empress Matilda*

      All of this. I’m sure the lawyer would be very interested to hear that Boss apparently has lot of money to throw around!

      I’m also sure that Boss would be prepared to use that money to keep this story quiet. There is no way he would want to go to court with this, and he definitely does not want anyone in the media or the trucking industry to find out. So I expect you would be able to get a pretty good sum of money out of him, in exchange for your promise to never talk about it again.

      Good luck, and please keep us posted!

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Ugh, that sounds so mercenary. I know money isn’t the point. But – the money is *available,* or it’s likely to be. And it’s the boss’ agreement to you that he will also never talk about this again. So it’s not about “OP trying to get a lot of money out of the boss as revenge for the boss being skeevy” – it’s about the boss giving up something that he values (money) in order to get something that both he and OP probably value more (an NDA, plus the promise of a decent reference.)

        Money is not going to heal the damage that the boss did to you and the others (and probably lots and lots of others as well). But at the same time, there’s not going to be anything other than money involved, so you may as well get the best you can out of this mess.

        1. But There is a Me in Team*

          Money is all that matters to some people, so this boss needs to be hit where it hurts. So yes, get while the getting is good.

  28. BeenThereDoneThat*

    This amazing. And hilarious. And as horrible as it is hilarious. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, but thank you for the laugh this morning! That said, as someone who worked for one of those horrible small businesses right out of college, I can promise you that you have not ruined your career. For one, the advantage of working for a terrible small business is that they’re small–no one tends to know them outside of your client list, so new employers would probably not recognize them. If you’re industry is small and they are well known, then it’s just a matter of navigating how to explain why you left without looking crazy yourself, haha. For me, a head hunter knew of the business I worked for and took pity on my–I milked that lead as much as I could! Nowadays, it’s been 10+ years, so no one I’m working with has heard of that company, and I can quickly just talk about my job role/achievements and give a vague answer as to why I left. Generally, “The company was going in a direction that I didn’t see myself growing in, so it was time to move on to my next opportunity. Which is when I joined…” works pretty well. As for the reference, if you don’t trust that the owner will stick to the lawyer’s requirements, I would add an explanation to your reference sheet that you left the company due to not agreeing with it’s business practices, and a refrence would not be helpful (I’m sure there’s a better way to word that). Either way, good luck to you! And may you enjoy telling this story in a decade or so!

    1. Carlie*

      Honestly, I don’t really understand why this is so funny to you and a lot of other commenters. It’s horrible, and I feel so sorry for the LW.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I don’t think this is funny or amazing at all. I’m sorry to be a killjoy here – I appreciate that the details that OP has provided are unusual (to say the least) but to me this is a very blatant piece of sexual harassment and I don’t think that framing it this way is helpful. I mean, I don’t think it’s very likely that OP finds it amazing or hilarious that he is having to leave his job after his boss tried to pressure him into unwanted sexual acts.

      Male victims of sexual harassment (I don’t know if that is how the OP views himself, but certainly to me the situation in itself absolutely qualifies as sexual harassment) so often have their experiences minimised or laughed off as a crazy story. I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, but I just think that we should all be mindful of the language we use to discuss situations like this to avoid perpetuating that attitude, you know?

      1. SelenaAcademia*

        I agree that this is neither amazing nor hilarious. I’m surprised Alison didn’t use the term “sexual harassment” in her answer.

      2. Jeanne*

        This is one of the most disheartening responses by commenters I’ve ever seen on this site. I’m genuinely shocked by some of these comments.

      3. Eirene*

        It definitely isn’t funny. I’m a woman who’s been sexually harassed at various jobs, both by employers and customers – I still shudder when I think about a particular letter written to me by a regular customer, which included a $10 bill along with his incredibly detailed proposition. It’s not a cute story I just whip out at dinner with my friends during a lull in the conversation, but something that still makes me feel disgusting, and it happened more than 15 years ago now. I somehow doubt that OP, who is much closer to his situation than I am to mine, finds it nearly as funny as some of the commenters here, and I feel horrible that it’s being treated like a joke. If that’s sanctimonious, well, then I’m fine with it.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. I’ve had my share of that sort of harassment when I worked in customer service jobs in my teens and early twenties, but nothing approaching your story, thank goodness. But I’m fine with being called sanctimonious because I don’t think the story is funny in the least.

          To be fair, though, I don’t think that everyone who’s laughing is doing it because they think it’s funny, but because sometimes it happens when you have no idea how to react otherwise.

          1. Eirene*

            Oh, of course. I’ve certainly laughed because I haven’t known what else to do in real-life situations – but I think going so far as to type out that I have done so is a totally different kettle of fish.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Right, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to put my finger on. Horrified laughter is an involuntary physical reaction, like gasping or sighing. Posting about the laughter is unnecessary. And writing out “this is hilarious” or a joke about how you would totally do it for the money or whatever is actually extremely voluntary and choosing to do so… says a lot.

      4. Alice*

        Agreed. I can’t believe how flippant so many commenters are being about this situation. It’s really disappointing.

      5. Julianna*

        I think people are responding to the story as though it’s funny at least in part because the LW did write it like it was a wacky incident, but yeah, I kind of suspect the tone of the comments would be very different if OP were a woman who had been asked to make a sex tape with male coworkers.

      6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I will admit that I have one laugh comment in a post above – but in a reply to someone imagining a lawyer response to “this guy again” not the OP’s actual situation.

        Lawyer, lawyer, and lawyer is my thought for OP. And a hope that this Boss doesn’t damage too many careers/lives on his way to imploding.

      7. Natalie*

        I totally agree, this is pretty disappointing. There’s still such an enormous stigma for male victims of sexual harassment and having a bunch of people use this as an opportunity to make jokes definitely doesn’t help.

  29. MsMaryMary*

    Sex tape aside (not words I type often), I am very concerned employees at a TRUCKING company are having tequila lunches on a regular basis!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Their insurance agent would be as well. This is a massive lawsuit from a severe liability claim waiting to happen.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – big part of why I don’t see this company being viable over the long term.

  30. TheBirdIsTheWord*

    I can only imagine what working for this guy must be like for his female assistant. She probably likens it it to one of the levels of Hell.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      I’m just imagining the accountant grabbing one of those old-fashioned giant checkbook folders, lugging it out to the party, and then being HORRIFIED she is being roped into this.

    2. Ashley*

      The tape suggestion was with all males so he might not be as creepy towards the women depending on his preferences, but I would be calling out sick when these events were happening.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I say this as a queer woman: gay guys who are Like That have no trouble coming up with ways to be horrible to women.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        As another queer woman, I’ve met more than one gay man who has openly stated that he finds women useless because they aren’t attractive to him—given how willing the owner apparently is to reduce his employees to blowup dolls, I can easily imagine him in that category of misogynist

        1. Liz T*

          And plenty of gay men have felt perfectly comfortable putting their hands on me without permission just because they feel they can. Just goes to show what we’ve been saying for decades: it was never about sex.

  31. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Not even in the same scale as this bizarreness but – I did escape a highly toxic, downright illegal to the point of the CEO being arrested for fraud/sexual harrassment very small company with my wits (mostly) intact.

    Firstly, absolutely 100% consult a legal expert.
    Secondly, and this is hard, plan out what you’ll do to explain the gap if you remove this from your CV. I had to do this, I can’t ever put the time I spent there on my CV again – not the least because I was a witness for the prosecution when it got to court.
    Thirdly: envisage a shield (star trek style if you like) around you at work. You do your job, you do the required pleasantries and nothing else gets past it. No extra effort in being a ‘team player’ or whathaveyou.
    Fourthly: most, most, most importantly – have a time or space at home or whereever at the end of the day where work cannot reach or touch you. You need a lot of time to shore up the power reserves for another day of shielding.

    (In the end, I quit with no other job to go to, submitted all my evidence to the barristers and then was hounded by the press. Okay, I can’t tell an interviewer they can get a reference from that job but I CAN say I have real experience in successfully avoiding the press and dealing with incredibly high stress situations. Appearing in the high court of the land will do that to you.)

    I seriously, seriously hope you get away quick. Be kind to your mental state as much as you possibly can.

    1. Slipping The Leash*

      Keymaster, you know you’ve totally raised my curiosity level to new heights…can you give us the story (names/locations changed to protect the guilty, of course)?

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Are you able/willing to share how you explained the gap? My first thought was just to be straightforward that you left when the company ran into serious legal issues and the people who supervised you aren’t able to serve as references bc of those legal issues, rather than “lying” (seems like too strong a term given the circumstances) and omitting the job altogether – especially if you’d been there for over a year.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I had the extreme misfortune to be in a near fatal car crash one year prior to working there so I usually blame recovery from that. It depends on the interviewer however. Getting into even saying the name of that employer opens up a massive can of worms because while it was a very small company it’s very well known in my area for all the bad stuff and court cases.

        The fact my name is in court records et al is a massive factor. I did nothing wrong in turning against the firm morally but I’d prefer it fade into the mists of time.

  32. Darth Mom*

    OMG, OP… That is truly awful!

    A couple thoughts about references… First of all, I’d recommend getting a recommendation letter upfront in the exit agreement – that way, you can send it to whomever you might need as you job search. Secondly, are there colleagues/other department heads that could serve as references for you going forward? That way, you would still have someone who can speak for your work at this crazy company other than the unhinged owner.

    Have mercy.

    We’re all pulling for you, OP!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Very true – I’m betting there are coworkers who would be happy to help in a mutual escape plan.

    2. Nobby Nobbs*

      This is absolutely one of those situations where a peer, a mid level boss from before you were promoted, or even a subordinate if you’re really desperate would be an acceptable reference. Your office chair would be a better reference than this guy. Wtf.

    3. Malarkey01*

      Also, you really can say I left my last job due to sexual harassment by my boss, the owner. I cannot provide a reference from him but could from someone else at a lower level who worked at the company. This has come up on panels I’ve been on (more than you’d think) and it doesn’t hurt the candidate and we are really sympathetic and find ways to make it work.

      1. allathian*

        Good for you! I’m curious, have you ever interviewed and hired a male candidate who said that? Granted, far more women than men experience sexual harassment, but it’s still more acceptable for a woman to say she’s been harassed than for a man to do so. Male victims are all too often ridiculed, at least if they were abused as adults. There’s this pervasive thinking that while women and children can be helpless victims, there’s something fundamentally wrong with a man who can’t get himself out of an abusive situation before it gets that far. This thinking is wrong-headed in the extreme, but it just adds to the shame that’s more often than not associated with being abused and makes it even harder for many people to seek help.

  33. Anon for this*

    “Lawyers – they’re not just for suing!” I propose as the official tagline of the American Bar Association.

      1. MB*

        It’s textbook sexual harassment, if we’re sticking to civil law. If we want to get spicy and think about criminal law, a prosecutor wouldn’t be laughed out of the room for thinking about solicitation charges.

    1. Malarkey01*

      YES- I wish Alison had spelled out clearly that You were sexually harassed. A lot of men have trouble believing they can be harassed, and by other men. There’s also a lot of people who jump too quickly to harassment and discrimination outside of the actual law.

      However, this is the clearest case I have seen- pressuring subordinates repeatedly to perform sexual acts for money at work and as part of a work meeting…oh my god. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and they should be very upfront that they should have a very clear case for sexual harassment with damages!

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, 100%. I worry that the particulars of this story (the costumes, the fact that it involves 3 men and so on) are unusual enough that it might allow people to relegate it to the category of “crazy, wacky boss story” when it really is a blatant piece of sexual harassment. This guy is awful.

  34. agnes*

    I’m starting to agree with Alison that small businesses are scary places. This is a power move on your boss’ part–I have money, let’s see what money will buy– kind of attitude.

    Money really seems to bring out the worst in so many people.

    1. irene adler*

      Few, if any, checks and balances, such as an HR dept, to keep people from doing/saying things illegal.

      Sure, one can hire an attorney, but retainer fees might make that prohibitive.

    2. Kiko*

      The combination of power and money really does bring out the worst in some. I also think there’s an emotional component to it. A lot of small business owners tend to be the sort of people who don’t like authority, which is why they prefer working for themselves. Sometimes this is harmless, but other times it can be damaging.

  35. MissBaudelaire*

    I feel like this cannot be the first time he’s contemplated such a thing, given that he even had costumes for it. THat thought disturbs me.

    1. TiffIf*

      Right?! Like, unless you’re in specific industries who just has costumes on hand in the right sizes.

  36. Former Usher*

    “This is a great thing about lawyers that people don’t always realize: they’re not just for suing!”

    This is such a great point. My wife rents an office for her business. After a change in ownership, the new landlord presented her with a more complicated lease. We found that a lawyer was really helpful in interpreting the lease and recommending changes. The lawyer was involved not to resolve a problem but to help us avoid potential problems.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Very true – unfortunately most of the time when we see commercials for law firms the ones that are advertising are more of the ambulance chasing variety. The legal field encompasses so much more than just suing people in court or defending them when they are on trial.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Yes! My cousin recently left a job with a strong non-compete policy, and consulted with a lawyer to help with negotiating that and to make sure he understood the specifics. He said it was absolutely worth the $1000 fee because his old company could sue for exponentially more if he inadvertently violated the old company’s policy at his new job.

  37. Leap Year Conspiracy*

    My eyes – they are like saucers. Wow. OP – get a really good lawyer. A man like your boss has the money to hire a hardball lawyer so don’t skimp yourself. I think of lawyers like word gladiators that fight for us – you want a gladiator at the right level. Look for a reputable firm (more lawyers on tap) and don’t be intimidated by the cost; they will be upfront with you about how that can work and often settlements will include their fees.

  38. Abogado Avocado*

    OP: If you do not know an employment lawyer who represents employees (not companies), call your local bar association – or the bar association in the nearest big city – and ask if they have a referral service. (If you are located in the United States, most medium- and large-size bar associations offer lawyer referral services at no charge to the public.) Usually, lawyers who are referred by a bar referral service agree to engage in a half-hour or hour consultation for a reduced-price fee. Therefore, once in touch with the referral service, ask if the reduced-price consultation is offered and find out how much it is. Ask also for a referral to an employment lawyer who represents employees. Then, set up the meeting with the lawyer.

    At the meeting, your first question should be whether the information you’re planning to tell the lawyer will be privileged, which means protected by confidentiality regardless of whether you hire the lawyer to represent you. If the answer is no, leave. You have a right to a privileged consultation. If the lawyer is not willing to provide that, you don’t want to deal with that lawyer.

    If the consultation is privileged, but you decide you don’t like or can’t trust the lawyer, do not hire him or her. You want a lawyer who you like and can trust. It may take meeting more than one lawyer to find the right person. And that’s okay.

    Wish you all the very best!

  39. I'm just here for the cats*

    WOW! I’m thinking (not a lawyer) that this would fall into sexual harassment What a lot of people don’t realize is that it doesn’t matter what the gender is of the employee. I could totally see this boss being, “But he’s a guy, it cant be sexual harassment!”

    1. Ally McBeal*

      I didn’t even notice the genders involved until it came up in the comments! It’s so clearly sexual harassment no matter the genders of the people involved.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That was my thought as well. It doesn’t matter the genders involved – this is textbook sexual harassment.

  40. Robin Ellacott*

    This is just… incomprehensible. The story is obviously shocking in many ways, but the weirdest part to me is he seemed so sure they’d all be on board. Boss is clearly unhinged.

    I agree, he did this in front of witnesses and it is indefensible. Lawyer time.

  41. The Other Katie*

    I guess it’s time to close the bad boss awards, because this right here is the all-time champion.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Exactly – we are still giving out Darwin awards every year – do not challenge the evilly stupid, they will hand you a “beverage” and ask you to watch this.

  42. Jennifer Strange*



    OP, I sincerely hope you’ll have a happy update for this one soon. I don’t believe this guy doesn’t have other skeletons in his closet, so I imagine that having a lawyer will either uncover them or make him amenable to ensuring you have a smooth transition into your next position.

  43. anonymous 5*

    I have been known, when faced with situations that leave me all-but-speechless, to use the phrase, “whoa, back the truck up…”
    I might need to reconsider how benign that statement is. :O

    1. RosyGlasses*

      I probably shouldn’t have been drinking coffee at the exact time I read your comment… LOL!

  44. Pam Poovey*

    I’m making the same face Oprah did when Meghan Markle told her someone asked about the baby’s skintone

  45. thatoneoverthere*

    Imagine the conversation you would have at your next interview.”Why did you leave your last job?” Eek.

  46. nnn*

    I realize this is not the point, I realize this does not change the answer for OP, but I’m super curious:

    Does anyone know how $45,000 compares with the going rate for this kind of sex work?

    1. NeutralJanet*

      I mean, assuming that the owner did not intend on joining the sex act, which he did not say he wanted to do (though he might well have done so), the owner was essentially asking them to create pornography, which pays significantly less than $45k per video (whether it’s $45k each or $15k each). It sounds like part of the appeal for this guy is specifically that they’re his employees and they aren’t sex workers, so there’s a coercion factor, because you can buy a lot of porn for a lot less money than that.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Just used up my one “the FBI are gonna see this google search, oh well” allowance for the year to check on this, and apparently “name brand” gay male p0rn stars can command up to $5000 per scene (and can also make extra money from personal appearances at conventions, etc.), but the average gay male p0rn actor only makes $500-1000 per scene (that’s not per porn FILM, that’s just per scene).

      So simply from a monetary point of view, OP would be making a good deal more than the going rate, but – as you pointed out – I imagine that doesn’t make a lot of difference to someone who’s being sexually harassed and coerced into making p0rn when p0rn has absolutely nothing to do with their job.

  47. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    I am a lawyer, and thank you, Allison, for noting that we are for more than suing! Actually, most lawyers don’t do litigation and mostly engage in transactional work. I am a litigator, but I spend far more time settling matters or advising strategy to get the best results to avoid court than I do in the actual courtroom. The best lawyers focus on how to get the best outcome for their client, not “winning” the case – it’s about the client, not our egos.

  48. Chriama*

    I have no words. It’s only funny because of how incomprehensibly awful it is.

    I want to strongly encourage the OP to talk to a lawyer. Often in a situation like this, people feel uncomfortable pursuing the issue because they don’t want to get anyone “in trouble”. They want to keep their head down, or leave quietly. What I like to remind them is that you have choices here – to stay employed or leave, to talk to a lawyer or not. In the heat of the moment you had the choice to say “no” to the boss. There might be someone who can’t make the same choice. Someone who doesn’t know their legal rights, who’s a single paycheque away from homelessness, who needs to keep this job to maintain custody of their kids or meet the conditions of their parole or any number of other reasons. If you stay silent, maybe the boss propositions someone else with something worse, that they can’t say no to. How many times does news about a predator come out and it turns out there are tons of previous victims? Taking action now might save someone a lot more vulnerable later.

  49. Jennifer*

    Lol, twitter has been waiting on this one. Major Wolf of Wall Street vibes.

    And yes, all of what Alison said. Get a lawyer. Negotiate yourself a nice severance and a reference and ride off into the sunset. If you think it’s safe, suggest the other people involved in this incident do the same.

  50. Titi*

    Wow! I know the trucking industry is weird and small family owned outfits are weird and dysfunctional. I’m in fact trying to leave my dysfunctional trucking company but I can not even imagine this scenario! I’m so sorry LW and I hope you are able to get out as quickly as possible.

  51. AnonInCanada*

    I don’t think my eyes can bulge any more after reading this letter. I’m sure the boss had a certain other body part bulging when he suggested this one . Lawyer up, OP! And get out of Dodge before his next PornHub-inspired “suggestion”

  52. Some dude*

    Poor Allison for having to respond to this. Poor OP for being in this situation.

    But really, who among us hasn’t tried to pay our employees to film a sex tape? Are we getting so politically correct that we can’t even horrifically sexually harass employees and suffer zero consequences? Cancel culture has truly run amok. /s

    1. Jennifer*

      Before you know it, we won’t be able to make racist jokes anymore over lunch! What is the world coming to? Buncha snowflakes. /s

    2. Van Wilder*

      This hard-working, small business owner is about to be the next victim of cancel culture. /s

  53. EventPlannerGal*

    Alison, I totally agree with your advice to see a lawyer, but I am wondering if it might be helpful for you to update the post to make it clear that this is pretty serious sexual harassment?

    I know that it doesn’t change the advice and that a lawyer would probably make that clear to the OP, but so many male victims of sexual harassment never come forward because they conceptualise it as such. It gets explained away as just something weird or crazy, which in this case seems especially possible because the particulars are very unusual. I think it really benefits everyone if we recognise and name sexual harassment for what it is.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Also, I don’t know if comments with links will go through but this – – is a great article from a few years ago about men who came forward during #MeToo. I think these bits especially really speak to why it’s important to acknowledge sexual harrassment/assault against men as such:

      “The men who have come forward… have faced a unique set of challenges, from naysayers who believe men groping other men is just horseplay to a heightened stigma that makes male accusers less likely than female ones to identify themselves as survivors—and makes it more difficult for them to process emotions born of trauma.” and ““By the time I came out with my story, I was not feeling like, ‘Oh my God, I’m jumping off a high dive,’” Winter said. “I felt like I’m just stepping into a pool that there’s a bunch of people in already.””

      OP, of course it is totally up to you how you view this or want to proceed, legally or otherwise, but please know that the scenario you’re describing goes FAR beyond “weird” or “inappropriate” and there is support out there if you need it. Wishing you nothing but good things going forward.

    2. peasblossom*

      I 100% agree. I waded through the comments and was pretty appalled by the number of them approaching the OP’s harassment with a joking tone. Even, as EventPlannerGal has indicated, downplaying it; some even suggested that they’d glad be in OP’s shoes!! Comments like these minimizes the very serious sexual harassment the OP underwent and–since he’s still there–is still undergoing.

      OP, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to deal with this and also feel like you can’t immediately get out. I hope you’re able to get the support you need; wishing you the best.

    3. Annie Moose*

      Yeah, I have to agree… I feel a lot of comments here are really downplaying the seriousness of what occurred! It’s not “weird”, it’s not “funny”, it’s not “a great story”, it’s… serious sexual harassment. It doesn’t become less serious–or less sexual harassment–because it’s a bizarre situation or because it involves men.

  54. yala*

    Well, after I picked my jaw up off the floor…

    I really hope you get a good lawyer who can get you out of this situation ASAP. Shoot, if y’all are lucky, you lawyering up for this might help the other two, who were probably just as uncomfortable.

    Your boss is…your boss is weird.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      No, boss isn’t weird – boss is a stupid predator. There is a very big difference.

  55. Scott*

    45k . . . . each?

    I’m already gay, but I’d need more than 15k per person. 45k each though . . . That’d solve some problems.

    1. Amber Rose*

      You say that, but allowing a person like that to have blackmail material on you is usually not worth the money.

  56. Me*

    Small, family owned businesses seem to be a nightmare more often than not, but this OP truly takes the cake.

    I’ve worked for a small business where the three sons of the owner ran the show in some capacity or other. They were all deeply flawed individuals, but as a 20-something it was rather fun to party. But… yeah, the 50-something in me absolutely cringes at the fact that they bought me a dress one alcohol fueled night. It seemed harmless at the time – but I think that’s just the couple of years of distortion of what a normal office culture should look like.

    Best advise ever – lawyer.

  57. I don’t post often*

    ……And here I was during my lunch break complaining about my job.

    But seriously, where do these people (the manager) come from? And why in his wildest dreams was this even a thing to ask an employee?!?!

    1. James*

      I asked some folks about that after a CEO of our company got caught doing some illegal stuff and started having legal trouble (assets frozen, federal investigation, that sort of thing). What I was told–and it makes sense–is that few people start out this way. The way most people start is that they just push the lines a little. Then a little more. Then a little more. And gradually, imperceptibly, they lose sight of where the line was. It’s easy to start down that road. With financials there are things where we have some latitude on how we deal with them–do we accrue subcontractor revenue this month or not? Do we put off processing that invoice until tomorrow, when it hits next month’s billing cycle? I have friends at work, and I build proposals and run field efforts; can I bring them on to help them out? A friend of a friend? Is it legitimate for them to bring me on to an interesting project as a thank-you? At what point does this go from networking to something more sinister?

      If you start pushing the boundaries and don’t get caught, it affects your perception of where the boundaries are. It’s easier to push them next time. It’s easier to go further next time. Iterate this a few cycles and you’re quickly so far past the boundary that you don’t know where it is. Add in alcohol, and the line may as well not exist. (I’ve nothing against alcohol–I enjoy a beer in the evening as much as anyone–but I avoid it at work functions for a reason.)

      In larger companies this is why whistleblowers, internal audits, and the like are so important. They make sure that people keep a sense of where the line is. That’s not to say no one goes over the line, but at least there are mechanisms for catching it or addressing it if it does happen (how well that works is another question). This is why a good mentor is so important as well–sometimes the line is legitimately difficult to see, and it’s important to not start crossing it.

      Unfortunately small companies lack these checks and balances. Often the boss has all the power, and if you try to oppose a decision either you get fired, or the business will fail (most small companies operate on VERY thin margins as I understand it). So there’s not only no way to call out bad behavior in the initial stages, it’s actually disincentivized. People only feel they can speak up when it’s bad enough that risking their jobs is worth it.

      1. Observer*

        Often the boss has all the power, and if you try to oppose a decision either you get fired, or the business will fail

        I think that the part that I highlight is important. It’s true, and it DOES help reign in the craziness. Because there are some types who may not care about legality or the right thing per se, or may not recognize that what they are doing is problematic in this way, but they DO understand risk to the business. And, when that’s not the case, often enough the business does fail.

        Obviously, that often does not happen often enough or fast enough, but it is a real factor and it often works much faster in a small business than in a large one.

  58. Observer*

    You know that a letter is something . . . special when Alison’s only take is “find a lawyer”. Yeah, I know that the lawyer is not for the purpose of suing, but for the purpose of extricating the OP from crazy town. But still.

  59. Exhausted Trope*

    Jaw drops onto keyboard.
    I actually had to read the headline twice.
    WTH is going on over there?!

  60. Julia M*

    All of that is horrible. But one thing that should not be overlooked when talking to your lawyer – the tequilla. That is beyond a bad idea in a regular workplace, but in a trucking company?? OMG, no. Especially if that is fueling all of his great work ideas. Sooooooo many issues it raises. Get a lawyer, listen to her/him and have them get you out of there ASAP.

  61. DJ Abbott*

    Since you don’t want your next employer talking to this guy, maybe get him or someone of the company to write you a letter of reference and use that instead.
    Good luck!

  62. Funbud*

    In truth, I would have been on my knees in no time flat.
    Probably the main reason I’ve tried to avoid morally ambiguous situations in my work life.
    Still, $15,000 easy money…(sigh)

  63. Ann Nonymous*

    I can picture OP as Edward Norton as Tyler Darden whistling on his way out after being fired with a large payout, but without OP having to beat himself up.

  64. Jennifer*

    I find it so fascinating that people are so worried about previous references and feel hindered by that. Why??? I work in HR and almost never conduct reference checks and if I did, we would only contact approved reference lists. You don’t have to leave this off your resume and you don’t have to disclose this craziness during an interview. An acceptable answer is that you want to further your career and there’s no upward mobility in such a small company. End of story, there likely won’t be any additional follow-up. This will be a fun story for a cocktail party though!

    1. Jeanne*

      Do a lot of people view sexual harassment as fodder for amusing cocktail party anecdotes?

      Glad I haven’t been invited to those parties.

      1. Amber Rose*

        This kind of sexual harassment? Yes. Solicitations and inappropriate sexual commentary are so commonplace that they are often treated as funny stories. I have heard many while drinking with groups. Usually followed by a refrain you’ll see in this comment section: “This reminds me of the time…”

        It helps to be able to laugh. It helps to know you aren’t alone.

        1. Eirene*

          Yeah, until OP explicitly says he’s personally fine with it, I’m going to go with “this isn’t funny.” Your way of coping with it isn’t necessarily everyone else’s. My friends and I certainly don’t think telling stories about the times we were made to feel unsafe by men while at work is totally hilarious over a pitcher of mimosas, for example.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            What Eirene said. If OP wants to laugh about this, more power to him, but I’m not going to laugh at it on his behalf.

      2. Observer*

        Do a lot of people view sexual harassment as fodder for amusing cocktail party anecdotes?

        Funny? Not at all. But I could see this as a good “war story” of the “bizzaro situations I’ve been in” sort.

        On the other hand, for a lot of people this is upsetting enough that they would not find this good fodder for that type of conversation either. And they are NOT being “snowflakes” or “too sensitive” or whatever.

        This kind of event is the kind of thing that people handle differently, and it’s important to respect that.

  65. Phony Genius*

    Something just occurred to me. If the owner is this cavalier about these sorts of things, I start to wonder about other parts of the company. Such things as whether the trucks are safe. If he’s making this much money, is he putting some of it back into the company in the areas that it needs to be?

  66. Corporate Drone Liz*

    I read the title and my jaw dropped. I finished the letter and my jaw is now firmly planted on the floor below me.

    What. The. FACK?!?!

  67. Mike*

    Nothing constructive to add here. I will say though that whenever I read about rich guys like this, I think about all the worthwhile things I’d do with that money. Like my own personal string quartet for starters, and my own personal jazz trio on weekends.

    1. Banana Bread*

      I’m really shocked by how many people here seem to think this situation is funny, a great anecdote to tell at parties, a story to compare with other “amusing” tales of bad bosses. This is sexual harassment, and, to me, a kind regards response would be “LW, I’m sorry this happened to you.”

      1. Eirene*

        Right? I honestly hope OP is not reading the comments. But OP, if you are, I am really sorry that this happened. You did not deserve to have your boss abuse his power in this way, and you do not deserve to have people making light of it now.

      2. Banana Bread*

        Nesting fail, my comment was meant to be a stand alone comment, not a reply to Mike.

  68. Just wondering*

    Is anyone else thinking this is a VERY SPECIFIC letter and that after Twitter blows up the boss/owner will hear about it?

  69. LibbyG*

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP. And I’m sorry that people are making jokes about it in this comment section. It’s not funny. Good luck with everything.

    1. Dee*


      OP, I hope you are able to find a new job soon and that coping with this goes as easily as it can.

  70. employment lawyah*

    Whether or not there’s HR, that is a great lawsuit and you will win.

    Call an employment attorney in your area ASAP. Google “NELA employment [yourstate]” and “[yourstate] employment lawyer association” to find them.

    Feel free to respond if you need more help.

  71. Berkeleyfarm*

    OP, if you are in California, a friend of mine is a very good employment lawyer. I would be happy to send contact info to Alison for you. I am sorry you are going through this.

  72. Anonymous Nonprofit Lawyer*

    “This is a great thing about lawyers that people don’t always realize: they’re not just for suing! When the law is potentially in play, they can guide you step by step to maximize your chances of getting what you want. They can even do it all behind the scenes if you want.

    A lawyer is who you want here.”

    1000% this.

    I will add that you want to seek out an employment lawyer and be willing to pay the consultation fee they quote you. You do not want a general practice lawyer or your lawyer friend who practices family or criminal law (nothing wrong with that – I’m not an employment lawyer).

    Google or call the most reputable lawyer you know who has no political ambitions for a referral.

    1. Observer*

      Google or call the most reputable lawyer you know who has no political ambitions for a referral

      Well, if the guy has political ambitions and is smart, that could actually work in the OP’s favor (depending on what the lawyer is after.)

  73. Good Vibes Steve*

    I… I have nothing here.
    Sorry LW. This is awful. Good luck on getting out of there.

  74. Scorch*

    Could your boss possibly be involved in organized crime? I can’t think of why anyone would select a shipping company at a hobby project, it seems plausible he’s using the company for money laundering. Just something to maybe bring up with the lawyer.

  75. DiscoCat*

    How to recover my eyebrows that disappeared into my hairline as soon as I read the headline and stayed there…

  76. boop the first*

    …”the longer I write this column I more I think that no one should ever work for a small business”

    I completely agree! And not from this column ( I could never blame you lol), but rather from real life. Heck, even working at a hugely-known grocery store felt like a breath of fresh air. 2-week advanced scheduling! Written policies! Defined roles! Uh… hmm… er…
    w r i t t e n p o l i c i e s

  77. Pink Geek*

    Worth mentioning that you often don’t need a reference from your current employer when looking for a new job? All my job hunts have been done confidentially. After that, maybe a peer or employee from this train wreck of a job (or the next) can help with a reference. I mean, talking to a lawyer seems like good advice but if that’s daunting don’t let it interfere with getting out.

  78. Hexiva*

    God, it gets worse the more I think about it. Like, the /best/ read of his behavior is that he has been creepily fantasizing about his employees this whole time, and came up with this whole setup, including the party and the costumes, in order to coerce them into having sex for his entertainment. Or worse – this was a spur of a moment thing, and he’s not even in this for the sex – it’s just about the thrill of getting to control and abuse people with his wealth, on a whim.

    y i k e s

Comments are closed.