my boss’s horrible kids are trying to destroy us because he disinherited them

A reader writes:

I work for a small towing and salvage company as the manager and dispatcher in a very rural area. My duties range from high-stress emergency tow dispatching to legal notice writing and basic administrative duties, as well as selling auto parts and salvage, inventory, writing store policies and negotiating contracts with motor clubs, payroll, and many other things. I am currently the only person handling these duties while the owner is in a semi retirement. I feel I do a great job and I get a lot of praise from the owner and customers.

I should mention that I love my work and for the most part am extremely happy with my job. I like everyone I work with. The job is fast-paced, fun, and different every day. I make very good money.

The issue I am having is that the owner, Ben, has a very toxic family that interferes with my work and the work of my colleagues. He and two of his adult children live on the property, and both of his kids have ongoing substance abuse and alcohol problems. Because of these problems, Ben does not want them involved in the business at all and has taken them out of his will.

They have been going to the work areas and picking irrational fights with my crew, spreading rumors about them, and being all around abusive and cruel. They have gone so far as to call social services on my crew, falsely accusing them of child abuse, screaming at them when they drive by, and attempting physical fights with the lead mechanic. This is all due to what I believe is jealousy and bitterness that they will not inherit the multimillion dollar company. The local police and even the school district know that they constantly make false claims and all of their accusations were proven to be false.

Ben is close to 80 years old and has been in the business over 50 years. He is a veteran and all around decent man who treats us all well outside of this issue. He is the type of man who wants to “die in his boots” and seems to be of sound mind, making solid business decisions, and is in relatively good health.

While I have talked with him about this on numerous occasions, he seems incapable of stopping the problem. I am instructed not to engage with the arguments, ignore them, and continue working because they are “just crazy” and “there’s nothing he can do” because he can’t throw his kids out on the streets. All of us (employees) care about and are loyal to Ben and none want to just quit, we want a solution. We have all worked for him for 10 or more years.

After the most recent attempt from the “kids” berating the crew, I instructed the full crew (six men) to come up to the office and stop all work until we talk to Ben, basically going on strike until he stopped the situation. I didn’t know what else to do.

Ben said he had threatened his kids with legal action, eviction, and criminal charges if they did not stop the harassment, and everyone accepted his apologies and promises and went back to work. I tried to advocate for the crew after they left the office and told Ben that he would lose his whole crew if he didn’t get this under control and that none of us deserved to work in that environment. He agreed and promised to find a way to fix it.

Everything calmed for a few weeks, and then I discovered that Ben’s daughter had been telling people that Ben and I had been having an affair for years and MY daughters had even heard about this at school.

Although he is my friend, and I am loyal to him as my boss, the thought of that turns my stomach! I am half his age! Not to mention the horrible effect it could have on my professional reputation in this small town and the fact I am happily married with children. I already deal with sexism in this traditionally male driven industry every day, and this degrades all of my hard work and abilities.

I know that I need to leave this situation, but I feel extremely sad for Ben and the rest of the people I work with. I am sad to leave a job I am good at and love, and also worry because there isn’t a lot of work in this field available in my area. I worry about my income, and I worry if I quit I won’t be able to file for unemployment. What should I do? Is there anything I can do that won’t hurt the owner but will also protect me while I am searching for something else?

It would take months to train someone to replace me, and at this point Ben does not know how to operate any of the programs or software that we use to dispatch and communicate with the state. He doesn’t know any of what’s in any of our contracts with the police or motorclubs. I feel like if I leave with the standard two weeks of notice, it would be a very low blow. Do I tell him I plan on leaving and put up with this a few more months while I train someone to replace me? Would it even be fair to expose someone new to this situation? And the petty side of me tells me not to quit as that means that his ungrateful and cruel children win and the rest of us lose.

I wrote back and asked, “Aside from the affair rumor, has the berating and harassing stopped since your last conversation with your boss about it?

For now it has, but I expect it will start again as soon they are bored. It has happened repeatedly over the years and they calm down for a while and then go from colleague to colleague trying to make their lives miserable. The rumors get worse each time.

I’m so sorry you, your coworkers, and Ben are all dealing with this. It sounds awful for everyone.

Would it be worth having one final conversation with Ben where you say that you are about to leave over this and so if he was serious about pursuing legal action against his kids, now is the time to do it if he wants you to be able to stay?

Or is it clear he’s not really going to follow through with that? Or, even if he does follow through with it, are you done with the situation and ready to leave regardless? (That would be more than reasonable! And even if Ben does pursue legal action against his kids, it’s not clear that it would stop them from harassing you and your coworkers. It might even make it worse.)

In theory you could talk with a lawyer yourself — some of what Ben’s kids are doing should be fightable on defamation grounds. But defamation lawsuits can be long and expensive, and by the time you’re suing your boss’s family for defamation, it’s probably time to go anyway. It’s possible that a lawyer might be able to stop some of this with some frightening cease-and-desists so you wouldn’t need to go all the way to a lawsuit … but this is all such a mess that I think your instinct to just get out is the better one. Still, though, a conversation with a lawyer about options could be worth having.

In any case, back to quitting. One option is to see if Ben would be open to laying you off. If he does that, you’d be eligible for unemployment. Or, is there an amount of money that would make it worth it to you to stay a few months longer to train someone to replace you? If so, you could propose that.

You’re right that the business will need to be up-front about the situation with whoever is hired … and Ben probably needs to be prepared to pay a premium to get someone willing to put up with that. (Also, any chance one of the employees already on staff, who knows what the kids are like, would want your job and be able to do it? That might be the easiest path if anyone’s qualified and willing to do it.)

However … you don’t need to solve these issues before you go. You can just quit with the standard two weeks notice if you just want to be done. I know you’re worried about the position that will put Ben in, but he has had plenty of warnings that you and others are deeply upset about his kids’ behavior and its impact on your lives, and he’s chosen not to take action to fix that. To be fair, I’m sure he’s in a very difficult situation because he loves his kids! But he’s got to be aware that their behavior means his employees may flee. And two weeks notice truly is standard, even in situations where it will leave the business in a bind.

But if you’re not at the “need to quit today” point, your best next step may be a conversation with Ben where you lay out where you’re at and some of the options you’re considering. See what he might be able to offer once he understands you’re ready to leave. And by that I don’t mean “let him convince you to stay” — but rather that because you’re open to a few different ways of proceeding, talking with him frankly might help you decide exactly what to do next.

{ 343 comments… read them below }

  1. Keymaster of Gozer*

    ‘Boss, this is very serious and if this continues in any way I’m going to leave. This is no longer a ‘wait and see if they behave’ situation, this is the last straw’

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      Honestly, at this point I’d be at the level of “Boss, please schedule some time on your calendar to speak with my attorney and I about how to deal with the legal ramifications of your children’s actions, the actions you will take going forward to protect myself and my team, and possible compensation/payment of legal bills for issues caused on the job.”

      No more “If this continues, I’ll have to do something.” No. I *have* done something. The lawyer is here, and you cannot continue to stick your head in the sand.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Also a valid angle, I guess I’m just more inclined to give someone a final chance before I start pulling out the legal artillery as it can start a conversation on the wrong foot depending upon the person.

        However, this is very dependent upon the situation. I *have* pulled out the legal stance a couple of times in very fraught situations. Unpleasant but needed.

          1. Francie Foxglove*

            Yeah, I think the final chance was when LW pulled the crew off the lot and told Ben that if the harassment didn’t stop, the crew would walk. It’s not a reset just because the “children” changed their target and the form of harassment. This is more of the same, and it’s gonna have to be the end, one way or another.

        1. Ramirez*

          For the employment lawyers out there, is there any way this situation could be regarded as a “constructive dismissal” (like failing to pay employees) so that OP could quit and still receive unemployment benefits?

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          At this point I would call the cops every time these weasels show up and have them dragged away for harassment. But that’s just me.

          1. Library Penguin*

            I don’t know if that would work considering they live on the property. Or does it not matter as long as they’re not in the residential bit?

      2. Berin*

        Being real – if she sues the kids, who do you think is paying their legal bill?? Boss has already made it clear that he feels that his obligation to his children is more important than the wellbeing of his staff. If she sues or brings a lawyer, he’s very likely to take it as a hostile action toward him personally.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I wouldn’t make that assumption – Ben disinherited the kids, after all. Pretty clearly not interested in giving them any financial support.

          1. constant_craving*

            Disinherited from his will, but he’s still providing them room and board. The will being what it is (which can also still be changed), he definitely appears to be covering their current expenses.

            1. Aggretsuko*

              Yeah, I was confused on what “disinherited” actually meant if the family is still around and being supported by him. Also, has he left the business to someone else rather than them, explicitly?

              1. Asenath*

                I don’t think “disinherited” has much to do with whether they’re still around and being supported by him. It just means they’re not in the will, and will not inherit anything – and they could be assuming that he hasn’t actually made those changes, or can be pressured to change the will back. I agree with Troutwaxer that doing the classic paying them an allowance/rent to stay far, far away is a possible solution. It won’t work unless the boss can bring himself to actually cut all ties with them if/when the violate that agreement. It’s a rotten situation, especially if there are grandchildren in the mix, as there so often is. I don’t see a solution to this other than for OP to quit a much-loved job and move on – and small towns don’t often have a lot of job options.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Honestly I suspect strongly that there are grandkids, which is why he won’t turn the “kids” out, no matter how vile they are to his employees.

                  Also possible – kids are being abusive to the employees in hopes of driving them all away so that Ben has to put them back into the Will. (Unsure on likelihood of this, but they don’t seem to be operating with the same rules the rest of us operate under.)

            2. Troutwaxer*

              Maybe he could give them an allowance and rent them an apartment in a far-away city, with the proviso that “if you’re seen in this state again all support stops.”

              1. Old Woman in Purple*

                I think this a reasonable option. Fixes the immediate issues, without forcing Ben to kick his kids to the street, if he can’t bring himself to do that for whatever personal reason.

              2. Middle Aged Lady*

                I actually knew someone whose family did this. And it worked. He became a D&D Dungeon Master and lived off takeout pizza, but everyone seemed happy.

              3. Library Penguin*

                LW says there’s a severe substance abuse problem though, which might make him reluctant to move them out of his sight.

                … Although considering what they’re up to under his nose, maybe that’s not as big of a consideration for him!

    2. WellRed*

      It sounds like they’ve done that more than once. Why should boss take them seriously at this point?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m not entirely sure the tone of voice comes across well in print. From what I gather from the letter there’s been complaints, but not an icy cold ‘this stops or I go’. The important bit is that this is backed up by actually planning to leave.

        Because there are two outcomes here as I see it: boss *actually* does something to fix this or he doesn’t. There’s nothing OP can do to make sure that one of those options is picked.

        So, if he does nothing, they’ll have to leave. It’s better to climb off a collapsing structure under your own will than wait and have it fracture into shards under you.

    3. Judy Johnsen*

      Get dashboard cameras for the trucks and body worn cameras for the employees. You may need them if his kids make a complaint or try to sue. They are very expensive, especially the Cloud storage, but worth it .

        1. Troutwaxer*

          Are there security cameras? Also, would it be possible for everyone to band together and hire a single lawyer?

      1. Sunny*

        If you’re at the point where you’re advocating for body cameras on staff, it’s time to leave. This isn’t a normal workplace/situation. And besides, you’d need all the staff to be ok with being recorded. This just opens up so many other issues. Again, it’s time to just leave.

        He’s not doing anything about it because it’s not actually enough of a problem for *him*.

    4. Artemesia*

      I bet the kids are not disinherited and that the Boss has made no succession plans and that when he dies suddenly the job is gone and chaos reigns. The OP needs to very seriously inventory her skills and try to identify places to use those skills in her community. It sounds like a hard thing in a small place but start now because disaster lies ahead here.

      No matter if the will says it or not, these kids will fight for the money and ruiin the business when the day comes.

      1. Wintermute*

        I am not so sure about that, Ben is a successful business owner, lets not assume he’s an idiot.

        People with problem children like this can end up in complicated situations. I know of one where they are in a similar position– disinherited but still being financially supported– because while mom couldn’t bear the thought of their dear kid out in the cold, she was also no fool and realized that her sentimentality was not reciprocated and at best the kid in question was already mentally spending his share of the inheritance (not to mention that should he actually get his hands on it he’d probably be dead inside the week either from overdose, misadventure, or one of his dubious “friends” trying to rob him).

        just because people have a blind spot doesn’t mean it’s total, people can be rationally irrational, especially around their kids.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          The reason most people don’t trust the statement that “x person I still support has been disinherited” is because there’s a rational disconnect between cause and effect. You are still supporting the person because you care, but disinheriting them means they won’t receive any support when you die… Which leads to the them being kicked out on the street scenario you supposedly couldn’t bear.

          There are ways of squaring that circle – establishing an irrevocable custodial trust fund for the child, for instance, where they may not inherit any cash funds, but their basic needs are met and accounted for by a financial services firm – but most lay individuals don’t know what those methods are, and without knowing what steps a parent has taken, the “well, they have been taken out of the will” just doesn’t ring true.

          Add in that for most business owners, the majority of their worth is tied up in the ownership stake of their business, and I’d be leery of trusting Ben’s assurances without a much more frank and direct conversation about his succession planning for the business, and what, if any, steps he has taken to actually mitigate the kid’s influence on it. Because I’d be concerned about how long and expensive a probate challenge might get, I’d actually probably only feel comfortable planning a long term stay with the business if Ben was willing to sell out majority ownership while still alive.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I didn’t realize that the first Knives Out movie had its basis in reality, but it’s sure starting to look like it.

          2. jasmine*

            I don’t know anything about Ben, but I come from a family where you never kick your kids out. The house doesn’t belong to the person paying the bills, the house belongs to the family. It’s the children’s house as much as the parent’s. Disinheriting is bad but saying that your kids can’t live with you is a whole other level. Like you’d only do it if you’re almost estranged.

            A lot of this is cultural in my case, but I wonder if things might be similar for Ben? Tbh I would’ve thought that even through a white American lens that kicking out adult children, while maybe not egregious, has bigger relationship implications than disinheriting them.

      2. Woodswoman*

        You took the words right out of my mouth. It is SHOCKING how many otherwise intelligent humans make terrible financial decisions when it comes to the adult kids. If he’s soft enough to keep supporting them while he’s alive, there’s a good chance he’s soft enough to have not changed the will in hopes that they’ll someday change. And he may not be that invested in keeping them out of the will, since he won’t be around to deal with it when that happens. It may be something he tells people so he doesn’t look stupid.

        1. Ro*

          I am not American so I have no idea how this applies to US law but where I’m from you cannot disinherit anyone financially dependant on you. Usually this applies to underage children but can apply to anyone who you are responsible for housing/feeding. That would mean if the adult kids are living in a property he owns rent free he could not disinherit them as they are dependant on him for housing. I have no idea if this could lead to challenges under US law but this would be a major mess in my country. They’d have to get a share of his estate and it sounds like they’d be hell to deal with.

          1. Artemesia*

            the US does not generally (states control this not the central govt) limit the right to will what is yours. In Europe for example, real estate can often not be willed away from the family or even just to the spouse — the kids have a right to inherit. This is not true in the US. I don’t think even dependent children have a right to the decedents support or wealth once they are gone. I am pretty sure that adult kids do not have a legal claim against a will although they can try and cause a lot of chaos by contesting.

            I just would suspect that someone who allows his druggie kids to harass his employees has not handled succession any better. He could have legal barriers to them coming into the business in place already if he were dealing with this effectively. In his case, I’d have a restraining order in place and my will would include a trust so that the kids were not living on the street but also have clear plans for the business.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Minor quibble: except in certain cases, minor children are protected from being disinherited in almost all of the United States. Some states also protect a disabled adult child (who cannot live independently) from being disinherited.

              This makes sense–the state doesn’t want minors & those unable to care for themselves to be thrown out in the cold, to become dependent on the state. Especially if there had been a parent with the means to provide for them, but chose not to.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                It doesn’t sound like the kids are minors. But if they have kids those are likely minors but I’m not sure that the grandparent has legal support responsibilities toward the grandchildren.

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  I was not addressing this case in particular; I was addressing Artemesia’s thought here: “I don’t think even dependent children have a right to the decedents support or wealth once they are gone.”

          2. AcademiaNut*

            In a situation like this, landlord laws would apply, so the owner would have to follow whatever the rules are for eviction, rather than just kicking them out, but he wouldn’t be expected to be perpetually responsible for them financially.

            What I do wonder is what will happen when the owner dies and his kids challenge the will, and who he’s actually left the business to. I could see that getting really messy, and another very good reason for getting out of the situation soon, as it doesn’t sound like the owner plans to sell before he dies.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Frankly, what ARE the guy’s plans for the business? He’s eighty years old! Even if his kids weren’t the way the way they are, family inheriting a business is a tricky road to navigate on its own and not something to count on.

      3. Overit*

        I agree. Totally doubt they are disinherited. I know quite a few people who were told they were disinherited for a variety of reasons. None were in reality.
        Seems like it is something people say/threaten, but seldom enact.

      4. Autumn*

        Boss probably should put the business up for sale. Especially without a succession plan. He may be a die in his boots kind of guy but probably wouldn’t want all his hard to work turn to ashes when he does pass.

        I watched, from a safe distance, several businesses built by Silent generation people fall apart when their boomer kids took to nose candy in the 1980s. On the other hand I know of a small business where the principals realized there was no next generation to take it on and successfully sold it to a corporate owner with no loss of jobs to staff.

      5. Mark the Herald*

        Came here late but with the same idea. He says he disinherited them. But he lets them hang around and abuse substances on his property and harass his employees all day long.

        Nah. They’re in the will.

    1. constant_craving*

      Sounds like it’s all directed at the employees rather than at Ben, but even if not this probably wouldn’t qualify.

      1. TypityTypeType*

        Ben isn’t dependent on the children, and he’s not the main target of their abuse, so I don’t think that’s quite what this is.

        But as long as Ben’s not willing to “throw them out on the street” — which is to say demand that these adults get jobs and support themselves, and live with the consequences if they won’t — it is unlikely anything will change very much.

    2. Tired SW*

      Likely not. Even if APS did open an investigation, the boss is his own decision maker and has the right to make bad decisions, such as letting his dreadful children continue with this bad behavior. There’s nothing indicating that he’s a high risk individual, other than his age.

  2. Keylee*

    I have so many questions… How old are these “kids”? How does anyone believe anything they say? How did these rumours get into a school?

    You have my sympathies.

    1. Redaktorin*

      This one’s easy. The harassing addicts also have kids, and they’re saying horrible things to those kids in hopes that it will get repeated to LW’s kids in school.

    2. NotRealAnonforThis*

      My suspicion is that the “kids” are adults (based on Ben being in his 80s), and may have children or grandchildren involved in the school system.

      You might not believe some of what I’ve heard as a youth sports coach, and I can only imagine that teachers hear FAR more gossip than I do. Heck, I even noticed it prior to being “adult” myself – sometimes adults don’t edit their thoughts around kids, because they’re just kids, and surely aren’t paying any attention. Spoiler, yes, yes they do. And the younger they are, the less likely they can sort out truth from trash in the gossip that they hear.

      1. Falcongirl*

        Sometimes it’s not even that they’re just “not editing” themselves around the kids–sometimes they just straight up tell the kids the rumor. Just in my neighborhood about a year ago, one kid said to another kid, “My dad said that your mom will sleep with anybody and that’s why your dad hits her.”

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          There’s that, too. (I *think* I’ve witnessed more “just didn’t edit” than “malicious spreading of rumors”, I hope…)

        2. JB*

          LOL, yeah. They’re trying to maliciously hurt people. Why would they care about keeping the kids out of it?

      2. Asenath*

        I once worked as a playground attendant in my small former home town and was surprised how much the younger children would tell me, completely unprompted. They hadn’t been taught what was/was not appropriate chitchat and although there was nothing that might have prompted an investigation into child abuse, I’m sure their parents would have been surprised how much they picked up and repeated. And there are almost certainly school-aged grandchildren involved (the comment about gossip at the school), which probably is fuelling the boss’s desire to not just toss the lot of them into the street.

      3. Barbara Eyiuche*

        Often the kids know what is going on more than the adults do. Children observe the adults in their lives because the depend on them for survival. Adults are often clueless about their children.

        1. Flowers*

          I can’t say this was my experience because I was always lost in my own fantasy world and never paid attention as a kid (really wish I had now!) but I can totally see all of this happening and in fact even learned about it from other books and TV shows. I wish I had been more observant and less stuck in my own head…..

    3. Clisby*

      I don’t know how the rumors got into a school, but having gone to school in small towns my whole growing-up life, it’s not hard to imagine. Daughter spreads rumor around town, people hear it and talk about it in front of their school-age kids, and those kids take it from there.

      1. TomatoSoup*

        Yup. I remember hearing all sorts of stuff because adults forgot I was there. Not eavesdropping, just sitting quietly right there next to them.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This, 100%. My spouse is from a small, rural town, and there is literally nothing to do there except talk about other people, apparently. Whose car was at whose house, whose spouses were seen together at the stop-n-shop, who got what raise at the local mill… hell, I’ve even heard gossip from medical professionals that I’m almost positive is HIPAA-protected.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I would assume that the kids are middle-aged and the rumors probably got into a school via the kids’ kids, or kids of the middle-aged kids’ friends, or other adults who have been harassed by the middle-aged kids. If it’s a rural/small-town area, there are no secrets.

      1. Clisby*

        +100. I guess it’s always possible adults are outright telling their children these rumors, but I think it’s far more likely the school-agers overheard adults talking about it, and then went to school and talked about it more. Adults can be oddly oblivious to the presence of children who know if they stay quiet they can hear some *very* interesting stuff.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, if Ben is nearly 80, it’s likely his kids are in their 40s. At that age, it is quite likely either they or their friends have teenage or preteen children who may well be attending school with the LW’s children. His kids tell friends, friends’ 14 year old overhears and passes it all around the school

    5. CLC*

      Oh man what a terrible situation for everyone! It sounds like Ben’s “kids” are terrorizing half the town. As others have mentioned, I wonder though if anyone believes the rumors they spread. If it’s such a small rural town and rumors spread that quickly, most people must also know what these two are like and how they have been harassing people for years. If that’s the case is it worth leaving a job you love and depend on for income? As bad as this sounds it might be worth taking a step back and really looking at the *reality* of what is happening. Sometimes when stuff like this goes on for a long time and everyone is talking about it and whatever, emotions run really high and it’s easy to get caught up in it. If you can step back, maybe take a few days off to really separate yourself from it and think with a clear head, really analyze the actual effects of what’s happening, it might be worth it. It also might be helpful to think of these people like horrible customers or members of the public. Think through how you and the other employees would react and what you would do if these were not Ben’s family members. Would you ignore them? call the police? Take legal action. Try a thought experiment to remove Ben’s relationship with them from the equation. I only say this because it sounds like the OP really does not want to leave if they don’t have to and yeah, it would be letting these two troublemakers “win.”

      1. Overit*

        IME there are always enough people willing to believe rumors. Too many people are gullible/malicious or enjoy bad info about others.
        We moved out of a small town where we had lived for years due to rumors spread about me by the mother of one of my daughter’s friends. She wanted my daughter to have no other friends than her daughter — told me that to my face. When I told her that was not going to happen because [reality], she told me I would regret it. She then spread nasty rumors about me that got back to teachers and my daughter’s classmates and therefore my daughter. My daughter was in 2nd grade when this went down. We moved.

      2. Your local password resetter*

        It also depends a lot on who people hear it from.
        Sure, most people might not trust the kids. But some will, or at least not willing to dismiss anything they say out of hand. Or they just love juicy drama.
        And then people hear it from more trustworthy sources, and now there’s a bunch of nasty rumours flying around, and then it becomes awfully easy to start believing some of them.

      1. laser99*

        Can confirm. I live in a small town and know intimate details about people I have never actually met.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          LOL, reminds me of my job.

          I had a friend who was in an open relationship and she did not like her husband’s SO (note: husband is a jerk but she won’t leave him) and complained about it in great detail and I heard all kinds of squick sexual details I didn’t really want to hear about the person. THEN that person became what I call a “frequent flyer” at my office. Imagine having that much TMI flow into your brain every time this person submits more paperwork.

          I note that the SO and husband have broken up and SO moved out of town, but they still periodically have some kind of paperwork issue here every few years and they’ve never concluded their business here, so this will continue indefinitely :P

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Seriously, how these rumors got into school is like the least weird part of this whole thing.

    1. BatManDan*

      Including @Pete, below, in this train of thought. Maybe he could / should sell the business NOW to whomever he pictures owning it, and remain as the senior manager or something like that. Once the value is no longer in the BUSINESS (but, presumably, in Ben’s bank account), maybe (maybe?!) the business and the staff wouldn’t be targets any more?

      1. TomatoSoup*

        I can see them continuing to harass employees about “taking” a business the kids see as rightfully theirs. Still, as owners of the company they’ll have better standing to go after the kids.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          If she owns the property, she can at least kick them off the property and enforce a restraining order as needed. But unfortunately, all the legal protection in the world doesn’t prevent determined people from making your life hell if they really want to.

          I unfortunately went through something very similar with my stepdad (a small business owner) and his evil disinherited daughter in our very rural town. When he was alive, she maliciously spread horrible rumors that particularly impacted my little brother (who was still in high school where the rumors led to bullying) and routinely snuck onto stepdad’s property to wreck havoc even though he had long ago kicked her off. It was an exhausting decision every time of whether it was worth the legal trouble / drama / sending his daughter to jail over violating a restraining order, or if he should just let it go and pretend to be unaffected. Its not like kicking her out was a once-and-done hard thing, it was a weekly battle.
          Even after he passed and the will was settled, she broke into my mom’s house and spray painted the walls with all kinds of abusive words, spread rumors, wrote terrible reviews of the business, and generally made it her life’s mission to make my mom’s life miserable. My mom lived in fear behind a wall of security systems for 6+ months. Until my mom finally just sold the business/property and moved out of state.
          The fact is, an unemployed drug addict has unlimited free time on her hand to invent new and horrible ways to torture us. My mom had a business to run, a husband to grieve for, and was limited by the boundaries of ethical and legal ways to react to daughter’s abuse.
          It just wasn’t a fair fight even when someone was willing to fight it. And LW’s Ben clearly isn’t willing to fight it.

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Yeah, that is the big issue I am seeing here. I am a lawyer, and honestly, I do not think the boss can do anything to really make a difference in the behavior of these adult kids. He can kick them off the property and even get them trespassed after that if they come onto the property, but that is unlikely to deter them. Even orders of protection can be really ineffective and are often something we suggest pursuing more for the creation of a record for when they finally go far enough that it can constitute a felony. OP’s best bet is to get away from the whole situation. Even the boss would do better to sell everything and disappear to another state without letting his kids know where he is at this point, but I doubt he can bring himself to do that.

            But OP needs to get out and encourage the others to do the same.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Exactly. The new owners won’t be embroiled in this Faulknerian soap opera from hell–they can straight up default to legal action.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I came here to say this. He should sell or give the business to whomever he wants to have it and stick around as a consultant, senior manager, or whatever.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        This is what Ben should consider even if his kids weren’t a factor, especially since he values the business so highly. If he wants it to keep existing, he can’t just “go with his boots on” and hope for the best–arranging a sale now is the best way to go about things (with the provisio that he’s senior manager or whatever, since he want s to keep working.)

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Lying Around*

      Best case scenario is Ben makes you co-owners. You will have equity/a stake in the business and the crap rumor mill won’t hurt you professionally. Because a passel of vindictive addicts in a small town is a permanent issue—even if you quit.

      1. Janeric*

        Alison is right to focus on what the LW can do — there are a lot of things that would be easier if Ben or his kids acted in everyone’s best interest, but the LW has no control over that. I do not see a solution that allows the LW to continue doing this job at this time — and honestly, Ben is using LW’s good qualities: loyalty, empathy, pride in good work, to keep her in an abusive workplace — at a minimum I’d suggest LW take a long vacation to get her head clear about her job.

        (But also this is the sort of circumstance that “I’ll consult after my notice for 4X my hourly fee” was invented for.)

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I am a lawyer, and I doubt there is much of anything Ben can do either. He can evict them, and then call the police and push for trespass charges if they come on the property, but that is a misdemeanor and I doubt they would care. At best, it would have no effect, but it could make things worse, because once Ben cuts them off entirely, he has no leverage either. Not that his leverage is availing him much now. OP needs to separate herself from the situation. And while I agree with Mark This Confidential that the vindictive addicts aren’t going to go away if she quits (and likely will still harass OP for a while after she quits), they will eventually stop singling her out and focus on someone still there in the business.

      2. Starbuck*

        This would still mean having to evict the kids from the business property that they are currently living on, which sounds like a nightmare. Does LW really want to become these people’s landlord?

    3. The Buddhist Viking*

      Yes, this was my thought too. At Ben’s age, he may be very willing to be bought out, especially given his decision not to leave the business to the children. I don’t know that this will stop the harassment in and of itself, but it would give them more legal tools to use against these people. It could save a great business from a bad situation.

    4. Tired of Working*

      I don’t know if this is a good idea. OP said that Ben and his children live on the property. Would they still be living there if the business was sold?

      1. Pomegranate*

        If the business was sold, the owner may be able to buy a different house where his adult children can live.

      2. EPLawyer*

        The new owners can decide who is allowed to live on the property. They can let Ben stay there but kick out the kids.
        Ben is willing to disinherit his kids but not put them out on the street. LW doesn’t care if the kids are out on the street.

        1. Starbuck*

          You make it sound simple and easy but you’ve got to know, this would be a nuclear option and would be pretty nasty for LW to deal with. It could probably be accomplished – eventually – but doesn’t sound like the kind of chore LW would be eager to take on.

      3. constant_craving*

        I can’t see why Ben would choose to sell. He wants to continue working and selling would jeopardize his ability to do that and whether he can continue residing in his home.

        I don’t think OP should count on any solutions that aren’t within her own control.

      1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*


        Inaction is a choice. He has made the same choice repeatedly. Unless other evidence is presented, assume he will continue to make the same choice.

      2. Ellie*

        Yes – OP, you need to see a lawyer, slander and harassment are crimes. Unless these are literal children, it shouldn’t be on Ben solely to pull them into line, its a police matter. Leave Ben out of it and get some legal advice.

    5. Stitch*

      I don’t think buying him out stops the behavior. It might actually get worse because “you stole Dad’s business”.

      1. t-vex*

        Yes but now OP is the owner and isn’t waiting on anyone else to take legal action, they can do it themselves.

        1. MK*

          Even if the OP was the owner, or even if Ben was willing to take legal action, I think people underestimate the power of irrational animosity against even the might of the law. The legal system is built on the premise that citizens are behaving in a rational (even if not always ethical or legal) manner. If someone’s main goal is to make other people miserable, it’s very difficult to fight. In this specific case, none of the behaviour described by the OP is likely to get these people incarcereted immediately and for a long period of time, and anyone who tries to fight it will likely find themselves entangled in long and possibly expensive legal proceedings.

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            “none of the behaviour described by the OP is likely to get these people incarcereted immediately and for a long period of time, and anyone who tries to fight it will likely find themselves entangled in long and possibly expensive legal proceedings.”

            While I think what you are saying is true, it seems that OP and coworkers have already put up with this for years. Disregarding protection orders repeatedly can lead to increased penalties, even if it is not for the actual behavior against OP but for ignoring the courts orders can have bigger punishments.

            1. MK*

              Absolutely, but that would take considerable time. I don’t know how many restraining-order-violations need to happen for these people to get a stiff sentence in OP’s jurisdiction, but I doubt it would take less than a year. Not many people would be willing to sign on for this kind of prolonged aggravation.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This really is the crux of the problem. OP and her coworkers are being rational, Ben is semi rational (he did disinherit the “kids”), but the kids have gone full blown irrational. So even if they buy the business and kick the kids out – how do they enforce that?

            Also, the kids have been living there for a while, so there would have to be a notice period before the kids are gone.

          3. Smithy*

            Absolutely all of this.

            This reminds me why ultimately conservateurships become so fraught so often. The law operates from this good faith assumption that family appointed guardians have the best interest of their family members in mind. And putting aside the definition of what exactly “best interest” ever means, an unfortuante reality seen over and over again is that so many families include such a spectrum of abuse and/or neglect that the legal system isn’t amazing at catching.

            Unfortunately, nothing about this sounds simple.

        2. Starbuck*

          You make that sound like it would be a boon for LW, but that’s another huge chore and would make them an even bigger target for these children!

    6. EPLawyer*

      I was thinking that too. then you would have standing to kick the kids off the property and bar them from the property.

      I know the harassing comments and rumors are annoying but its a small town. I am betting EVERYONE knows about Ben’s kids. The adults are going “Can you believe the latest BS Ben’s kids came up with?” Unfortunately the kids only hear the rumors and being kids like to spread shocking things. But I highly doubt this is hurting your reputation.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I was wondering the alternative– can the BUSINESS move property?

        It sounds like the whole business is very closely tied up with Ben’s family and Ben’s household. But look, Ben is 80, and the dying in his boots is could happen any time from now to within the next 10-15 years. It wouldn’t be weird to ask Ben to start thinking more deliberately about separating the business from his household and the property he lives in, even if he stays as semi-retired owner.

    7. Maxie's Mommy*

      Can the business be moved elsewhere, so Ben’s kids could continue to live on the parcel? Moving the business may cut down on the harassment. May make it cheaper to purchase, too.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Or if you do go this route can the property be divided – So the yard and business is one property and the house and some yard are a separate property. This way the business and its property can be sold (I can see a tow business and storage yard being very hard to relocate), but Ben still has his house. And it also makes a restraining order possible and enforceable- as the kids are now on the business property – which it sounds like they’ve been told in the past to stay off of.

    8. Princess Sparklepony*

      Yes! This! I was even wondering if Ben would work a deal with the group that they buy him out over time and he still keeps his position (mostly.) He doesn’t seem to want to will it to his kids, so why not work on the succession plan now.

      This assumes that the LW is willing to stay on. Or if she leaves, take the crew with her, find some capital (more easily said than done…) and start up a competing company.

    9. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      This might be worth looking into. If it is a profitable business, then it might be worth the investment as long as Ben understand the kids will be tossed off the property.

  3. greenland*

    Yikes. OP, I’m so sorry you’re in this position. You are trying to behave like a reasonable adult in the workplace and then there’s this horde of howler monkeys shrieking vengeance on you!

  4. Pete*

    I’d be curious about Ben’s plans for the business after he is gone. If he is cutting off his children, who will end up with the business?

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      This was my question, too.

      In addition to the current situation, I think you also need to think about your future and the rest of your career. Even if Ben has a solid succession plan, his children don’t seem like the types to meekly go along with things so I don’t think things will ever really get better.

    2. lost academic*

      He’ll probably end up selling it. My guess is he won’t actually die on the job without putting together some plans, but the kind of thing must happen often enough so it probably matters how the incorporation and ownership is set up. Would love to hear from a lawyer who has handled that before!

      1. Melissa*

        Except that he’s in his 80s, and could die unexpectedly! (I mean, a person of any age could, but it’s more common as you get older.). He may be just putting off making decisions in the hopes that something will magically happen to solve the problem. But if he passes away next week, it is likely to turn into a legal mess.

        1. Andy*

          That legal mess is not really Ben’s problem at that point. And it is also not something that his employee can manage … and also not a reason for Ben to retire sooner then he actually wants to.

          But also, Ben apparently has a will, since he wrote the kids off it. Which turns it into standard “business owner died and has a will” situation.

          1. Samwise*

            But it is the OP’s problem — could very well be without a job, even if Ben does address the business succession or ownershop in it.

      2. Smithy*

        I’m curious about this as well. Given that my own father passed a month after being convinced to put in his own retirement paperwork, I certainly understand the mentality of family who don’t have the retirement outlook. And at least for my dad, part of it was that what he saw on the other side of retirement wasn’t a reality he wanted to deal with and therefore dying before he would have to deal with that was better.

        So for Ben, given that he’s already disinherited these children but not kicked them off the property – if this is a dynamic where as long as he’s in control of his estate, he’s ok taking care of his kids. But after his passing his estate must go some where? Perhaps another sibling or grandchild gets the estate in trust and then will be expected to given them an allowance? Or be the “bad guy” and evict them?

        Either way, given how untenable the situation is – it makes sense for the OP to ultimately ask to work with whoever is part of succession plan. And if there is no succession plan, then going back to my own father…OP, it’s really time to leave. If this is a case where Ben has disinherited his kids but then left his estate for all of his children/heirs to go through probate as some kind of test…..then this business isn’t about being here beyond Ben passes.

        1. Clisby*

          I wondered about the disinheriting part, too. If he doesn’t want his children to get his estate, then surely he has to leave it to *someone* else.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I understand that Ben doesn’t want the kids involved in the business, but could he leave money to them after his death (preferably as some sort of trust that could pay their housing)? It seems like that might be a good point of leverage (since Ben seems unwilling to cut them off while he is alive).

          2. Smithy*

            It’s either someone – and then an evaluation of how good that answer is. Maybe the someone is invested and involved. Maybe that someone only plans to engage following Ben’s passing. Who knows. But an assessment can be made if the OP knows the answer.

            But from my only family….there have been times when it comes to inheritance when the answer is “worse than you had previously imagined.” And for a man who has taken the steps to disinherit his children but also still lets them live on his property – taking a step like letting his estate go into to probate in the hopes that they’d get their act together and fight for it…..doesn’t seem like an option beyond the pale.

          3. Asenath*

            Or state that it is to be sold up with the rest of his estate, and the proceeds given to, say, a home for cats or other charity – ideally, one with the funds to hire a lawyer and the ability to deal with the harassment.

    3. Nea*

      I like the co-owner suggestion above. It keeps a business going, keeps LW in her job, while also giving LW the power to file her own complaints with the police instead of waiting for Ben to “do something” that isn’t being done.

    4. ferrina*

      I’m also curious about what Ben’s plan is for where he and his adult children currently live. LW says they live on the property. When Ben passes, will that property all go to the company? When his children don’t get the house, how much harder will it be to get them off the property?

      I agree with A Poster Has No Name- I don’t think his kids will go meekly.

      1. Wintermute*

        exactly there’s roughly 0% chance they just walk away, they feel way too entitled. The best case scenario is a long and ugly eviction fight where they may actually prevail, the worst case scenario is violence and/or arson.

      2. Hibiscus*

        I would bet there is no plan and there is no will. Ben may plan to work until he’s dead, but he’s in his 70s and a sensible man would have tied everything up and let someone know, like another child or grandchild who works in the business or LW as general manager, or something. But LW really indicates they are the day to day manager/driving force and Ben doesn’t know the ins and outs of the service agreements or the software that dispatches, inventory, etc. That coupled with two agents of chaos living on the property, with their dad, makes me think that yeah, Ben has not really disinherited them or planned for the future–he’s leaving an expensive mess for the lawyer/executor to clean up.

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I think this is the conversation to have.

      “Hey Ben, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and am concerned about the future of the business. I know you want to die with your boots on, but I’m worried that this great business that is providing such value to our community and to our employees will get chewed up by drama if your kids make trouble after you go.

      I have loved working here and would hate to leave, but your kids are really making it hard on all of us, both at work and in private. Do you have a person in mind who wants to take over the business? Maybe you could do a partnership now so that things are in place to protect your legacy.

      I am concerned that I will have to leave if things continue along the path they’re on now.”

    6. Onward*

      Seriously, though. If he dies tomorrow, what happens to the business and, by extension, the employees? If he’s just engaged in some magical thinking here that this would never happen, he’s leaving his employees in a real lurch.

    7. RagingADHD*

      If, god forbid, he handles his succession plan the same way he handles people abusing his employees, then he will have a hodgepodge of legal documents that will eat up the bulk of the estate (and the business’ assets) in legal & accountancy bills to sort out after he’s gone.

      The employees will probably not get paid for months at a time while everything is tied up in probate and there is no authorized signatory on the bank account. And of course, most or all of them will have to find other jobs because who can afford to wait that long to get paid?

      The business will lose contracts because there will be nobody authorized to sign off on major decisions. And ultimately, there won’t be a business left for anyone to inherit anyway.

      Maybe not. Maybe he’s dealt with things better than that. But the avoidance and denial are strong here.

      1. LW/OP*

        I do have signatory authentication on the business accounts and write checks every day. I also get the payroll done. I feel confident that I can get people paid if the owner does get sick or, God forbid, pass away. I don’t know how much good that would do for the rest of the issues though because no one would work for the family if he passes

    8. Rosa*

      These two were described as two OF his adult kids. So there is presumably at least one other who is not an addict and who will inherit.

  5. Lena Clare*

    Ah all of this is really sad. How awful for everyone involved.
    Addiction is truly cruel.
    All the best with what you decide, OP, and do write in with an update if you’re able to!

  6. BatManDan*

    I’m at a loss for words, and ideas. And that’s rare – just ask my wife! LOL. I’m amazed that the crew hasn’t come up with an answer to this that involves all of them giving witness statements to the effect of “I didn’t see anything.” (A case of a local town bully in, I believe, South Dakota was handled this way a few decades ago. Man turned up dead in a parking lot full of people, and none of them “saw anything.”)

    1. Artemesia*

      The classic German masterpiece ‘Der Besuch den alten Dame’ by Durrenmatt. There have been several situations like this in. real life.

      1. Anon4This*

        Saying “I’m surprised the people involved haven’t already done [violent action]” is not in any wsy advising, condoning, or joking about committing violence.

    2. virago*

      The local bully whose killing elicited the “Too bad, so sad” response from his fellow townspeople was Ken Rex McElroy of Skidmore, Missouri. Prepare to spend the afternoon online if you do a search on “Ken Rex McElroy” — it’s a classic rabbit hole.

      1. Citra*


        And something to keep in mind: those townspeople tried for /years/ to get the law to do something about McElroy. They did all the things they were supposed to do, and every time they ended up with McElroy back on the streets and committing even more violent acts as revenge.

  7. Critical Rolls*

    The step I’d try that hasn’t been taken is to get some physical distance between the business and the kids. If Ben can get them moved across town and bar them from the yard — really bar them, like call the cops to remove them if they show up — there will be way less opportunity for direct confrontation. It won’t stop them rumormongering, but at this point I doubt anything will. Even quitting might not do much on that front. For what it’s worth, people are probably aware that they’re lying troublemakers. It’s an awful situation for LW and I feel truly sorry for Ben.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      -I am instructed not to engage with the arguments, ignore them, and continue working because they are “just crazy” and “there’s nothing he can do” because he can’t throw his kids out on the streets. –
      He won’t even make them live in a place he pays for off of the property.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        One thing this letter doesn’t mention is employees just calling the cops on these people who are harassing them. I get that calling the police is often an undesirable option for a lot of reasons based on worker composition, and that there are lots of important conversations to be had about policing. Despite this, it’s extremely reasonable to call the police on people who are showing up at your job and threatening you. And in this case, it seems even more necessary because the people who are harassing you are also making false claims of child abuse!

        Having the police around the property with high frequency may also help kick Ben’s butt into gear about addressing the situation in some capacity.

        1. pope suburban*

          Yes, I would like to know more about why the employees don’t feel that they can deal with this directly. I understand that they are probably worried about upsetting Ben (or maybe worried about jeopardizing their job, though I don’t get an image of Ben as someone who would retaliate in that way, and then of course there are remedies for that exact situation), but this stuff sounds legitimately scary. I’ve worked in a dysfunctional place with a couple volatile employees, and while thankfully it never came to it, if I had had to make the choice between my personal safety and keeping the boss happy? Yeah, you bet your bottom dollar I would have called the authorities. No job is worth risking my life and limb, and the same is true of anyone. I wouldn’t fault anyone for calling the police when someone is threatening them, even as I understand there are a lot of good reasons to hesitate too.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Or some paid security at least. Just some people to take the fire while the employees get on with business. I would definitely combine some strong security with moving them off the property. It must be like trying to work around poltergeists.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I’m not sure Ben has considered paying for them to live elsewhere, and I think that’s a good option for keeping distance between the business and the “kids”. For that matter, could he move the kids to a different state and pay for support services there?

        1. a clockwork lemon*

          This isn’t a solution for OP’s problem, and it’s not really workable. If Ben wanted his kids to live elsewhere, or was willing/able to pay for that, the kids wouldn’t be there. Also, moving the kids off the property doesn’t guarantee that the kids won’t continue showing up to harass employees.

          OP has standing to call the police in the moment harassment occurs, not to tell Ben how to manage his family.

        2. Aphrodite*

          One thing to think about is whether the kids might not want to go because they live on the property they want now, and Ben is in his eighties. If they are somewhere else when he dies it might be harder for them to harrass all the employees and the business. If they are right there, it would be much easier for them to do so.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        My guess is that this is a small-town or rural area and they’re on a big plot of family land that no one’s paying for, beyond maybe property taxes. This is not an uncommon setup in the poor, rural county my in-laws live in where parents keep their ne’er do well kids on the land because there’s nowhere else for them to go and they can’t afford rent/mortgage anywhere else. (When my spouse’s grandmother got older, they set up a single-wide trailer for her to live in on their land because no one could afford senior or assisted living until she got really ill and Medicare covered it. She was not a nice person, and my FIL only had her there because he adores my MIL and MIL couldn’t say no.)

        Maybe Ben could afford this as a business owner, but, even if he can, the options for rental properties in rural towns, especially renting to people who are known around town to be addicts and problems already, is not abundant.

    2. Pucci*

      It might be possible for Ben to split the property into house and work properties. Then the kids could be prevented from entering the work property

      1. Is it Wednesday yet?*

        My thoughts exactly. Put up a fence to separate work and residential areas, have a card/key access only to work area.
        Yes, fences are not cheap, but so worth it!

      2. LaLa*

        Or relocate the family home or the business, if possible. A 10 mile distance between the two would eliminate a good chunk of the confrontations I bet, especially if the kids are satisfied with whichever plot of land they end up living on. Since Ben seems bent on supporting his grown adult abusive “kids”, he can at least physically separate them from his employees.

  8. Just Another Zebra*

    OP, I feel for you here. At OldJob, we were in a situation with an employee where she was making everyone miserable. Everyone else on the staff had spoken to management individually, but nothing came of it. When the DM came to do one of her routine visits, a dozen of us (out of 14, so a vast majority) sat down with her and the store manager to basically say “The behavior with Jane needs to be corrected, or we’re leaving.” Jane’s behavior was not corrected. Over the next 6 weeks, everyone on staff either handed in notice or just ghosted the job. They went from a full staff of trained, tenured employees to Jane and a receptionist in just over a month.

    You have to do what is best for you and your family. Have that final conversation with Ben, but put feelers out and prepare to leave. I would anticipate Ben doing nothing, and his children not stopping. Is that something you can handle?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Wow, that’s unbelievable that your OldJob chose to keep Lousy Jane rather than 12 decent employees. OTOH, I commend all of y’all for doing what you did and holding to your threat to quit.

      1. ferrina*

        I don’t find it unbelievable- I’ve worked for a lot of managers that would rather believe that the reasonable people just “deal with it” forever than actually confront a problem employee (professionally confront, of course, by serious performance conversations, consequences, and firing). They’d believe the reasonable people “would do this to me”, and probably aren’t that serious about leaving anyways.

        I’m proud of Just Another Zebra and their colleagues for actually leaving! That’s beautiful.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, somehow I forgot that in retail TPTB don’t often care about their worker bees. Lucky me, having barely ever worked an actual retail job and therefore I am able to forget this fact.

          1. LW/OP*

            I do worry I may get attacked, but I feel the time has come to gleefully pepper spray her a s s if she does. I am prepared to defend myself I just don’t want to have to. Thank you for the laugh, it’s been another long day

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        I mean, it was retail, so I think they considered us expendable and replaceable without considering we were specialized retail (bridal gowns). The business closed less than a year after this went down. While I think there was certainly more happening behind the scenes, I think having the staff quit en masse was certainly a fatal blow.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I can only imagine how smug y’all must’ve felt when the business folded, given how smug I am at hearing that lovely news. :-D

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            Very curious, too.

            Just Another Zebra…any chance you can tell us and keep it sufficiently anon?

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            Jane would often make comments to customers who were not working with her about any number of things, but especially dresses that their consultants were pulling and generally discrediting our efforts. She was also notorious for measuring “big” to bring in more in alterations. And she was just nasty to us. I always presumed it was because of the age gap – most of us were in our early twenties, she was in her sixties.

            Because we worked on partial commission, every bride who left without buying was a hit to our paycheck. Having an employee tell them she would find a better dress if they made an appointment to see her made all of us angry.

            1. ferrina*

              Wow, Jane was really awful! Nasty to coworkers, costing customers money…but not actually costing the business anything until you all walked out. Good for you, Just Another Zebra!

    2. Yvette*

      I’m sorry, are you new here? :) What happened to the business after “They went from a full staff of trained, tenured employees to Jane and a receptionist in just over a month.”?

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Lol the whole business closed less than a year later. They were part of a chain, and we were the #1 store in the company (and one of only a handful that were actually profitable). So, there was certainly more going on, but losing the profits of an entire store for 6+ months was catastrophic.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            The DM had a soft spot for her, because she had been there a while. At one point, she asked Jane to do a measuring clinic with us in place of the Sunday morning meeting. It went poorly, as her advice (measure on the larger side and tailor down) was not well received by the rest of the staff. We were all aware how to measure, and the person with the most complaints about sizing was Jane! It was bonkers.

  9. Rosengilmom*

    Move the whole company away from where the troublemakers” live on site” to a secure location they cannot access.

      1. Your local password resetter*

        It honestly sounds like Ben has chosen his children over his employees. He isn’t taking steps to protect you or stop the abuse and harassment, or only taking steps that everyone knows are temporary band-aids at best.

        I don’t think this problem will go away as long as Ben is in charge. I wish it would, but this site is littered with managers who never managed their terrible employees, even when the good ones leave in droves.

        1. Dust Bunny*


          It’s easier to ignore it, especially now that he’s semi-retired and on his way out, than face and deal with his kids. Plus, they live on the property so they’re all really entrenched.

          LW, I know you love your job but Ben is not going to fix this.

        2. turquoisecow*

          Yeah I think it’s clear Ben is unable or unwilling to put his foot down with regards to his kids. They’ve been getting away with this behavior for years and he probably doesn’t have the slightest idea HOW to put his foot down. They’ve probably been taking advantage of his generosity for decades at this point. Frankly, I’m surprised he did so much as to not give them the business, because that is a clear line in the sand.

          I agree with whoever above said to talk to Ben about what the next step is. Maybe he sells the business to his employees so the kids don’t have any status, and then OP and the others can really enforce keeping the kids away. OP says they live on the property, does that mean an adjacent house or is like the office run from Ben’s basement? Can they put up a fence between the business lot and the residential area? Or just move the office elsewhere?

          Waiting for Ben to do something I think will continue to not be a solution. OP should come up with a solution and/or an ultimatum, and stick to it, because all they’re getting from Ben is empty promises.

    1. Mr. Shark*

      Move the troublemakers to a different location is probably the better answer. If you can’t kick them out, then get them apartment across town or another city. I’m assuming these “kids” are like 40 or something, given the owners age.

      1. ferrina*


        This will also make it much easier on the kids when Ben dies and they don’t inherit the house (since he cut them out of his will). Honestly, sounds like where family is concerned, Ben wants to kick that down the road and leave it someone else’s mess.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, Ben should find a city with really good addiction support services and pay for an apartment there, then get a restraining order to keep them away from the business. Maybe set up a trust to pay for the apartment and give them a living stipend on the condition that they live there (rather than at the business in a tiny town).

  10. Rainforest Refugee*

    Ben needs to sell this business ASAP, while OP is still working there. Then she can decide to continue under the new owner or to move on. The minute she walks out the door, the value of that business drops significantly. If he’s still rational, OP should explain to him why it’s time to sell the business.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      This is the only viable course of action for Ben and the best one for LW.
      Unfortunately, I think LW will talk to Ben following AAM script, Ben will guilt her into staying, and the status quo will remain until Ben passes away.

    2. Former Gremlin Herder*

      Wouldn’t the value of the business already be impacted by the kids? It sounds like they’ll be nasty to anyone who they perceive as infringing on their “money”, and since it’s a small town a buyer is likely to be aware of that. Not disagreeing that Ben needs to sell if he’s not willing to deal with the kids, but it seems already impacting the value of his business.

      1. Wintermute*

        this is a good point, I don’t know these “kids” obviously but I’m not unfamiliar with their sort (the failed-to-launch kids of a successful business owner in a midwestern small/medium town) and there’s a decent chance that any prospective buyer knows they’d better plan for harassment and property damage– sugar in the company trucks’ gas tanks, slashed tires, maybe arson attempts.

        The overall value of buying an already successful business with a book of clients and established reputation for 60 cents on the dollar when it comes with the former owner’s whacked out daughter and/or her on-again-off-again boyfriend/drug dealer maybe shooting you.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. He also needs to get a lawyer and make sure his will is rock solid, so that his kids don’t inherit any money (or the business, if he hasn’t sold it).

    4. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Came here to comment this.

      Ben is 80 years old, retired, and owns a multi-million dollar self-sustaining business, with no succession plan. It’s time for him to divest in the business and the property. This is not something to dump on his estate- which will surely sell it immediately anyway.

      From OP’s perspective, take a page out of Ben’s book and recall “there’s nothing you can do” when it comes to other people’s behavior. Give him a heads up, and if you’re comfortable, put in your two cents advising sale. But assuming he’s going to “die in his boots,” feel free to use his generosity to take the time you need to plan your next career move and finances over the next year assuming a new job.

      1. Anti-ageism*

        It is not OP’s place, and certainly not the place of random internet commenters, to say when should or should not sell his business. That is up to Ben.

        1. Somehow_I_Manage*

          I don’t think we disagree. The spirit of this feedback is that it is up to OP to decide how to react to Ben’s choices. Regardless of whether or not selling the business makes sense to Ben, his choice to “die in his boots” is what OP has to go on.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Selling would be the best solution all around but, Ben and his kids live on the property. That complicates matters as it means Ben would have to either subdivide the property or move everyone, and I would guess he wouldn’t want to do any of that. Giving up your business and your home in your 80s isn’t something he would likely do, Then, after Ben dies, things will probably get even messier.

      Still, getting a group of senior employees together to talk to Ben about selling the business is probably the best thing to do. At the very least, they should tell Ben they’ve had enough. If the LW is alone in this, she’ll have to weigh what’s best for her. If leaving is what’s best, give notice, train who you can during your notice period and move on.

  11. CharChar*

    These kids have learned that Ben threatens actions, but does not take them in the moment except for the taking them out of his will (good on Ben). I wonder about boundary setting and enabling in that family. The kids hurt his business but they’re still allowed to live on the property? Threatens his employees but still allowed to live on the property?
    Addiction is a sad situation but OP, I highly recommend you get out, its not your problem to solve, protect yourself. You sound like you do a lot and I hope the money you earn reflects that. If you want to remain in the job, tell Ben to move his kids away and tell them they would trespass if they get onto your job location. (Note: tell, not ask)
    Good luck, this sounds rough.

    1. irritable vowel*

      Yes, the enabling situation is what struck me as well. Essentially, this is severe family dysfunction that OP has no standing to effect any real change on, since she’s not a member of the family, and yet it affects her every day.

      OP, it sounds like your skill set would transfer really well to a setting like emergency services dispatch (e.g., 911 call center, ambulance company, etc.), or office management for a trade provider like a plumber, a utility company, etc. I encourage you to think broadly about where you could move to that would benefit from your skills without involving you in family drama!

    2. ferrina*

      Oh yeah, I could armchair diagnose this family all day (don’t worry Alison, I won’t do it here!)

      But the end result is that LW cannot make Ben deal with his family. LW is already walking on eggshells as she waits for the next terrible thing the kids will do. I hope LW will do whatever she needs to take care of herself. Good luck!

  12. Blue*

    After reading the headline, I involuntarily said “what!” out loud. The letter has stunned me into silence. Great advice from Alison though. LW, you sound so incredibly competent. I hope you’re able to land on your feet somewhere else.

  13. carcarjabar*

    Do you have a sense for Ben’s plans for the business in the future? Would you be interested in owning it? Is there a scenario where Ben sells the business to you (or you+partners) using an installment sale, and he can parcel out his home, but you can take ownership of the other homes and the kids have to move out? Or even maybe he can parcel out all of the homes, but then the kids would be tresspassing on the business property and you could get law enforcement involved? This sounds like the most win/win situation for everyone.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Except that OP with still have a connection to that family. The “kids” are not going to stop abusing and harassing the employees even if they are new owners.
      That place is a bag of bees. OP needs to get farther from, not more tied into it.
      “OP stole my father’s business. Cut us out. He just GAVE it to OP because she’s been sleeping with him for years.”

      OP sunken cost fallacy. GTFO

  14. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If this is a multi-million dollar business, why can’t they afford a few thousand feet of fence and an access control system? Even if the arrangement of the land means the ‘kids’ are driving through the active lot to get out to the nearest road, you could probably subdivide the property, put in an alternate easement on the edge of the land, something.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Agreed. Then if there are trespassers on the property being aggressive, you can call the police directly without needing Ben to do anything. Depending on the details (especially “attempting physical fights”), sounds like a few of you might have a case now for involving the law.

      But this might still be more trouble than it’s worth to you.

  15. Middle Aged Lady*

    In my opinion, the LW is being too easy on Ben. He needs to deal with his family issues. If he loved the kids so much, he wouldn’t disinherit but would set boundaries on their living with him. He could set up a trust where they get an income but no capital to burn through. Why is he letting them live on the oroperty? There is a middle ground between on the streets and actively harassing my employees. His current way of dealing is putting the onus on his employees. LW can be sympathetic to Ben, but his inaction has caused LW’s daughter some real suffering with this affair bullshit. This is Ben’s issue. He needs ti deal with it.

    1. Grandma*

      Easier said than done. Many parents, recognizing that their offspring are Big Problems, still can’t bring themselves to go the tough love route. Ben actually made a huge move by removing the kids from his will, but he’s having a hard time with the next step. My alcoholic brother was a Big Problem, yet Mom continued to bail him out. In her last week of a long life, she told the rest of us to please take care of Johnny. A parent’s love….

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        I realize all of that. My point was the LW is super sympathetic to Ben, when he is not helpless, and he has let this go on. His inaction is hurting LW’s family, and the sympathy seems a bit misplaced. I sympathize with Ben. Our family has problematic members who have caused issues. I had to draw a hard line about alcohol in my closest relationship. But sympathy doesn’t mean closing your eyes to another person’s weakness causing you major issues in your life, and offloading those issues onto innocent people who work for you, and their kids. I don’t think LW can make a move until they get real about their feelings for Ben. Ben can’t make a move until he gets real about what he thinks he is helping by loving his kids in this way. I do know it’s hard. Really, I do!

  16. Loaf*

    I’m confused, is Ben leaving you and the other employees the business? If not, why are the kids harassing you? It’s not like you guys are getting rich at their expense.

    1. CLC*

      I think it’s because *someone* other than them will get the business, and they want to run it into the ground for spite. They don’t seem like criminal masterminds—it really kills me that they are succeeding in not only hurting the business but also causing these individuals so much stress.

    2. TK*

      Given that the kids have substance abuse and alcohol problems, they’re likely not thinking rationally when the harassment happens.

    3. LG*

      This is what I’m wondering as well. Why try to ruin the family business that is supporting you and your habits?

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        As well ask why shoot up before going into the job that lets you support your habit, or while taking care of your child that might find you overdosed.

        There is a reason that addicts are not exactly renowned for their rational and cogent thought processes, forethought, and consideration of consequences.

  17. Stitch*

    The thing is Ben’s a bad boss. He’s allowing you guys to be mistreated.

    The next time his kids show up and harass you at a worksite, call the police.

    But also, just quit. Ben sucks and he’s not going to change. This will only get worse after he dies.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Yes, Ben sucks. Ben is a doormat, and he’s not going to stop being one.

      It’s sad, bordering on tragic, but those are the facts of the matter. :-(

  18. Feen*

    You and your fellow employees might consider buying the business from Ben.
    And if you decide to leave, 2 weeks notice is perfectly appropriate. How much notice would you be given if Ben can’t take the stress of his awful children anymore and suddenly closes the business? Or drops dead from the stress? Good luck to you….. I hope you’ll write in with an update.

  19. Aggretsuko*

    I think in the war between disposable, replaceable employees and kids, the kids are going to win no matter what here. Plus Ben’s in his 80’s and has no succession/ownership plan beyond, lemme guess, the kids inherit the business?

    I think y’all need to leave, unfortunately. “It’s them or us” is going to inevitably be them.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      It sounds like the kids *won’t* inherit the business. Unless he has other kids/relatives who haven’t been disinherited, I suppose.

  20. AnonyLlama*

    OP, your answer lies in whatever Ben’s plans are for the business after he’s gone. He may be in good health but he’s smart enough to understand that no one lives forever and he likely does have some plan for the business after he can no longer run it. Ask him his plans then consider what he tells you to make an informed decision.

    1. Theodora*

      I used to be a receptionist for a law firm, the amount of people I had ringing us up for advice on things we didn’t deal with (many laymen do not realize lawyers specialise until they need one), I had a list next to the phone of other lawyers to refer them to for divorce etc who could deal with their case. You may wonder what this has to do with anything.

      I had a HUGE amount of people ringing me and bursting into tears when I picked up the phone and gushing out some family drama when someone died, or stressed because they don’t know what will happen, because someone had died and made no preperation or planning at all. Including some rather successful people (including a medical doctor in one instance). You would be shocked to find out how often it happens, even for otherwise smart, successful people.

      Ben is in his 80s the average life expectancy for a US male according to google is 76.6 years (less for Hispanic, African American or Native American men more for Asian Americans) I do not know Ben’s race but it is safe to say he is likely over his life expectancy, of course some people live well into their 90s or even into their 100s but the risk of Ben suddenly dropping dead or suddenly developing severe health issues which mean he cannot work are very high.

      Unless OP has missed out a key detail like “another more responsible adult child of Ben’s deals with a lot of the day to day” I suspect Ben’s solution is to hope the problems go away, they won’t, then he’ll die and it will be someone else’s problem. Even if he has legally made sure adult children cannot take anything and someone responsible is in place to take over his adult children can still contest the will, costing money and time for whoever inherits and evicting them will probably take time.

  21. Former Gremlin Herder*

    This is such a sad situation for all involved. As much as Ben has an obligation to protect his employees, I feel for someone who has to take those measures against his kids. Oof. OP, I hope you’re able to find an amicable way out of this and find a better position that doesn’t involve harassment or nasty rumors.

  22. irritable vowel*

    I think you ultimately have two options – leave under your own control, or leave in the chaos that will undoubtedly arise when Ben dies. You don’t specify what Ben’s succession plan is, or if he has one, but he could die tomorrow and what happens then? If you are envisioning that you’ll keep managing the company or maybe even become the owner, and that that will be a smooth transition, you should probably think a little harder about what’s actually likely to happen. If you quit now, you’d be way more in control of the situation and its effects on your life/income/etc.

    1. laser99*

      Yes, I agree. This is only going to worsen. It’s a very sad situation, but it is not in her power to fix.

  23. KatKatKatKat*

    OP – any chance you could look into purchasing the business from Ben? Perhaps through seller financing or a traditional bank loan? You run the entire business, if you could make the change to ownership, then you can call the shots!

    1. Ramirez*

      You run the entire business, if you could make the change to ownership, then you can call the shots!

      Maybe. The kids may have a constructive easement to be on the property.

      1. KatKatKatKat*

        Do you mean a prescriptive easement? Are you thinking of adverse possession? I’m an attorney and I don’t think either of these apply.

  24. I don’t post often*

    …. The kids have attempted to start physical altercations, have called in false CPS claims, and otherwise harassed employees? WHY IS ANYONE STILL WORKING THERE?

    I must guess that this is a rural area with little job opportunities. If that is the case, I live in such an area and the rumors about the affair can be detrimental. And your children hear this rumor at school? WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE? Go. Get out now. Don’t wait.

    1. I don’t post often*

      I may have missed this, but why haven’t any of the employees filed harassment or other charges against Ben’s kids? These are serious things they are doing. I firmly believe that those with substance abuse should be offered treatment, but it doesn’t sound like this is a one time thing, this sounds ongoing.

      1. Lilas*

        Yeah, definitely the false reporting, particularly the false CPS claims, demand a legal response. Even if “everyone knows” not to take them seriously, that still has the potential to haunt someone for their whole life in a way that is impossible to explain to outsiders. People of color in particular are especially vulnerable to this. At the very least, a restraining order seems in order, even though in practice those are rarely enforced. But it’s at least a start.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Because harassment charges can be difficult to prove, and if this is a rural/small town area without a lot of resources, the police and courts probably have other issues they are dealing with. Sad, but true.

  25. Pomegranate*

    OP, sorry that you are in this situation. Perhaps it would make you feel a bit better to document everything you do in detail over the next weeks/months. So in case you do end up leaving with short notice, you will have left some useful guidance for the new person. This would be useful even if you just got sick or wanted to take a longer vacation.

    1. nuttysaladtree*

      +1. LW may already be doing this, but no harm in double-checking all the documentation and updating as needed. Never know when it may come in handy, regardless of Ben and his family.

  26. KatEnigma*

    Ben is never going to do anything.

    What I don’t understand is why the crew haven’t all gone to court to get restraining orders against being stalked, harassed, and abused. Then people who aren’t Ben could call the police when the addicts show up. Surely there is enough evidence that all of you could easily get restraining orders against them.

    It won’t stop the rumors at school, etc, but maybe a couple nights in jail for breaking the restraining orders will make them decide to find something else to do with their time.

    1. Seashell*

      I would think Ben wouldn’t be keen on having his (horrible) kids arrested, so that would cause more drama for the OP.

      1. KatEnigma*

        Like Ashloo says, he can’t fire everyone. And if he does, or he even yells at anyone for it, that might be the impetus they all need to quit.

        Honestly, I could GAF what Ben would be keen on. I’m not keen on having CPS called on me. He is incapable of doing what’s necessary- but why should everyone else be held captive by that?

    2. Ashloo*

      Yeah, I was thinking restraining orders as well. You don’t need Ben’s permission and Ben can’t replace everyone; they run the business more than he does.

      Aside from the harassment, though, it seems wise to have like a five year plan on exiting this business. Ben WILL die or step away fully at some point, and then what happens to your job? Maybe there is a plan in place already, but I don’t think live-in harassers are appealing to someone looking to purchase this business.

      1. Odditor*

        I third this. Ben does not have to give you permission. The “kids” have demonstrated enough threatening behavior to justify you and all the other employees filing for a restraining order. You can even split the cost and have one order apply to everyone. You deserve to have a safe workplace and it’s clear that Ben is not capable of protecting you even while he’s alive. The restraining order won’t kick them out of their housing, but it will allow you to have them removed from your worksite if (when) they are harassing you and your coworkers.

    3. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      Your first sentence says it all. Sadly, the number one takeaway from many of the posts on this site tends to boil down to “your boss will not help you. Plan accordingly.” That’s certainly true here.

  27. Khatul Madame*

    A large business like this should have a lawyer/law firm representing them in all kinds of legal matters. If LW has a good relationship with the lawyer, she should talk to them off the record – not so much about the ugly rumors, but about the liability arising out of the “kids” situation”. The legal counsel may come up with options to protect the business.

  28. Momma Bear*

    Aside from nudging Ben along into Plan B (whatever that is – a co-owner, kicking the kids out, etc.) I would tell him straight up that I can no longer ignore the damage they are doing to my life and will be taking steps accordingly, including but not limited to backing up my children when they are harassed at school by his (grand?)children. When a situation that shouldn’t starts to impact my child, that’s a firm line drawn for me.

    Since Ben is 80 and the future there is uncertain for many reasons, I encourage OP to look for a new job. Loyalty only goes so far and I agree with the rest of the comments that think his kids aren’t going to go easily when he passes. It will be chaos and OP needs to be ready to get out of it.

  29. Moveem*

    Ben isn’t going to change, but maybe you can suggest a change in circumstances? They live on the property…Ben sounds solvent. Maybe he should buy a piece of property further away, like in another state, and move the kids there. Even it if means selling his current business property and buying something a little smaller so he can afford it to own both properties.

    1. Somehow_I_Manage*

      I think you’re making the mistake of conflating Ben’s problems with the OP’s problem. Ben has family issues. OP has Ben issues.

      OP cannot solve Ben’s problem. Ben is unwilling to solve his problems. The sooner OP sees that, the more straightforward the path forward gets.

      1. Jojo*

        Absolutely. Ben isn’t going to change. He’s not going to do anything about his kids. This is going to be the reality until he dies. Then, things will only get worse.

  30. anon for this*

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is you may be able to file a protection (aka restraining) order against the adult children. I know they live on the property, but you may still be able to prevent them from contacting anyone on staff and coming within a certain distance from the offices/equipment storage spaces. (Assuming they live in a different building, but still within the property). Protection orders vary a LOT by state in terms of what criteria you need to meet to file an order, civil vs criminal (this would more than likely be civil), and you may need Ben’s blessing—he’s said he’d take legal action and he clearly hasn’t, but maybe if you offer to take the lead he’d be open to it. Protection orders can’t magically prevent them from contacting you, but can result in legal consequences if they do so anyway. Again, it will depend on your state as to whether this even meets the eligibility for a protection order, so do your research, but it is possible in some states to file one without a lawyer for $100. It might be a reasonable option for an unreasonable situation. Sorry you’re dealing with this!

    1. Coverage Associate*


      I have seen civil restraining orders between people who live in the same building. They can definitely be crafted to keep the kids away from the business and its workers, but not off the property/their housing. If the kids violate the civil restraining order, it becomes a crime. OP can call the police and hopefully have them arrested.

      Some states even have special civil restraining orders for workplace problems, but those usually require the employer’s cooperation.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to say basically this. Not a lawyer, though, so take anything I say with a large grain of salt.

      The adult children have an ongoing pattern of harassment. Perhaps a step before this would involve Ben telling the kids super clearly that they are no longer permitted on any parts of the property used by the business. After that, their incursions may be trespassing. The challenge is that dealing with trespassing / enforcing a restraining order involves the police. In places where police tend to shoot first and ask questions never, getting the cops involved could end tragically.

      Alternately, any time the kids show up and get disruptive, anyone working could put down their equipment, walk away, and notify Ben. It sucks for the business, but helps to stop the employees from being harassed.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, this sounds like a more reasonable option than trying to sue for defamation. OP likely has grounds for such a suit, but they take a long time and it can be hard to quantify damages. And these kids are likely judgment proof since they live on the property, probably do not have jobs or money, and likely have no property. They won’t even inherit the business down the road, and OP cannot sue the boss for his grown kids’ acts of defamation.

      An order of protection, on the other hand, at least allows the police to act and potentially pursue criminal charges against the kids. The consequences are more immediate and do not rely on the kids having money in order for it to have any real teeth.

  31. Podkayne*

    A lot of this is a classic Al-Anon dynamic, for both the OP and the business-owner dad.

    Logical, rational dialogue is unlikely to change the dad’s behavior, and certainly not that of the adult children.

    The OP can only change their behavior. And know that they are not a savior to mitigate a deep-seated problem that was decades in the making. We know what happens to saviors.

    The “I love this job, if only …” sounds so similar to an abused spouse saying, “I love my mate, if only they would stop hitting me, it would be good!”

  32. JustMe*

    In defense of OP’s boss Ben, I’ve seen a lot of situations like this in small, rural-type communities. You can’t abandon your family, even if they’re toxic and have substance abuse issues, in part because they may have nowhere else to go, and employees also stay on because they also have nowhere else to go and you have close personal ties to the business owner. Unfortunately, in that kind of environment, getting a lawyer involved is like a nuclear option, so I would proceed with great care. Part of me honestly thinks it’s worth getting local law enforcement involved the next time there’s an issue. Definitely should also discuss having Ben either divide the properties or evict his children so that they can be charged with trespassing. What a mess.

    1. Properlike*

      See, and in a small town, I don’t trust that the police are going to be “hands off” or, since Ben is a successful business owner, willing to look the other way with a phone call.

      I see this in my mid-sized suburb of a major city. Calling police and the court system sometimes doesn’t lead to jail, but acceleration of the bad actions. If they’re active addicts and not in jail or have had their kids removed by now, I don’t see the cops behaving differently if OP calls.

      I say start your own business across town (or in a nearby one.) Get Ben to invest? I bet you take over his contracts within a couple of years, since you’re so skilled and your clients are all going to notice. (Also – police use Ben’s service, right? Kind of a conflict arresting his kids.)

      1. JustMe*

        Yes, definitely depends on the town. In a midsized city/suburb, I agree it would not necessarily make things better. In a very small town, I’m imagining there is a sheriff who everyone knows who can intervene more as a friend of the family.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same, I shot a link of this to my spouse to see if it sounded like anyone he knew is his rural hometown where there always seems to be this sort of drama going on somewhere.

      And his hometown’s law enforcement is worthless. The ones who are not outright corrupt are looking the other way. At one point, the locals in the town next to my spouse’s were running their own drug ring and used at least one officer-involved shooting to get rid of a competitor. My FIL would rather light his own business on fire than call the sheriff. It’s a hell of a good-old-boys network where they care more if you were a state champion football player than qualified for the job.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I do not think getting a lawyer involved is going nuclear, and the police may not be doing everything they should in such a community. A lawyer can tell OP the options and give her a realistic idea of how that looks (we don’t just advise you on whether the law supports you but on its limitations and practical implications, including the effect it can have on important relationships in your life). Any lawyer will tell OP that suing the kids is likely pointless, as they are probably judgment proof – I doubt they have stable jobs or any property of worth, and she cannot sue the boss over their defamatory statements. But a lawyer could advise as to an order of protection. Honestly, it sounds like the community and other employees would actually be on OP’s side.

      As for the boss, there probably is not that much he can do. Even if he makes them move away, they will likely still live in the community and keep up with the harassment and lies. He can threaten to have them arrested for trespass if they come on the property after, but that charge doesn’t have much in the way of teeth, and I doubt they care if they are violating the law or facing a minor misdemeanor charge. So talking to a lawyer and taking action like getting an order of protection or other similar actions is probably OP’s best bet. Because honestly, even is boss evicts the kids, it likely will not have a positive impact on the situation with the kids.

  33. HighSchoolisHell*

    Big unanswered question for me is, if the kids aren’t going to inherit the business, who is?

    Ben could live and run the business for another 20 years, but statistically that’s unlikely. Is the transition planned? Is the heir going to be able to handle this problem?

    If not, making your exit plan now seems wises regardless of what happens with the kids in the short term.

    1. irritable vowel*

      I wondered this as well, and then noticed that OP mentions that “two of Ben’s children” are the problem children. So, possibly there are other children who Ben is planning to leave the business to. But that’s definitely not going to go well, if the problem children’s behavior now is anything to go by.

    2. Pinto*

      This is exactly where I was going with this. Ben is 80, what situation is LW going to find herself in when he passes. She may want to be pursuing other opportunities merely based upon that uncertain future.

  34. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, find a new job. There is no good outcome here – no matter what Ben does, those addicts are going to continue this behavior. At least until someone ends up dead, in jail, or some other unsavory outcome.

  35. Grits McGee*

    OP, there is a lot of advice in the comments talking about what Ben needs to or should do, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect or prudent to plan on Ben doing anything other than what’s he’s inclined to do- nothing. I have been in your shoes with a stressful, unpleasant working environment and deciding whether to leave. I ended up leaving, and the place I left is still just as toxic as when I left, after years of me and other staff trying to change things.
    That said-
    1. There is no downside to at least looking for other jobs and seeing what is out there. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised at your options. Or maybe you will decide that dealing with the kids’ abuse is worth the salary you’re making now- but at least it will be your choice.
    2. There is no downside to at least getting a free/low-cost consultation with a lawyer to see what your options are as far as the abuse directed towards you. Tbh, I think legal action will significantly increase your stress levels rather than lower them. However, again, then you can make an active choice, rather than being a recipient of Ben’s (lack of) actions.
    3. Make plans under the assumption that nothing is going to change. If you can’t get another job that pays you as much as this one, can your spouse try to get a higher-paying job? Is a move at all possible? Can you game out what unemployment would look like for you if the situation becomes completely untenable? If Ben can’t deal with his kids, would he be willing to help you find another job?*
    *It’s a remote possibility, but something I’ve seen before when a boss/employee are close.

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this OP. The lack of agency and feeling trapped was the worst part for me, when I was in a similar situation. I have my fingers crossed for you that you will figure out the best path forward for yourself!

    1. HannahS*

      Yes, this 100%. Starting to look for a job doesn’t mean that you have to take it! It just means seeing what’s out there. Make the most informed choice possible; gather more information and then decide.

      The truth is, you work for a company owned by a man in his 80s. You are probably going to have to look for a new job at some point.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. It’s totally worth looking at what jobs are available in the area that are interesting. More information is usually better than less information.

    3. Boof*

      Generally true, but going to add:
      4) until you leave, keep telling Ben about any bad behaviors, make it clear it’s unacceptable and refuse to work until the immediate problem is resolved, and generally do your best to make Ben feel the problems rather than ignore them.

  36. Indubitably Delicious*

    It’s not the same, but this reminded me of the plot of a Leverage: Redemption episode. I wish it were, because then the people at fault would see some just desserts.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      Leverage was such a good show. Never watched the reboot, but the original? One of the greats, man.

  37. learnedthehardway*

    It sounds to me like Ben needs to sell the business or at least, sell the property and relocate his adult children somewhere else.

    But that’s Ben’s issue. The OP needs to just get out of there. You can’t fix Ben’s management issues, or his family, and things are going to go to hell in a handbasket when Ben does die.

    I would be actively looking for another job, in the OP’s shoes.

  38. higheredrefugee*

    This is a 180° solution, but who will own this business after Ben dies? Could you (or someone else, or a group of you) work with Ben now to start buying him out, say, transferring the property new ownership name so then they’d be trespassing? I’m sure that there may be a few people who listen to such silly rumors, but most in your small town know that they are not to be trusted or believed, including your local bankers and loan officers. You might be able to pull together a really compelling loan and business plan pretty easily as you’re operating as at least COO, if not CEO.

  39. Margaret*

    Ultimately, you have a Ben problem, not a problem with his kids. He’s unwilling to take the critical step of evicting them from the property and then hiring security to trespass them when they show up to harass you. He’s stringing this along and expects his employees to bear the brunt of his irresponsibility.

  40. Cobol*

    So I’m guessing a lot, but the letter writer gave us enough info.
    -Ben’s kids are deep into addiction, and are acting like such
    -Ben loves his kids and his employees. He likely has an avoidant personality and has probably done everything that he is going to do (especially given his age)
    -It’s a small town; which means
    -people know what Ben’s kids are about and very likely don’t believe anything they say
    -there’s likely not a better job for the letter writer to get

    LW my advice to you is disregard Ben’s kids actions as much as you can. It seems that regardless of what is in Ben’s will, you’re positioned to take over/start your own service when he passes.

    I’m guessing that what makes you good at your job is how personal you take things, and how you are solution oriented, but I think not being able to let things go that are causing you stress is what is making this hard.

    1. SadieMae*

      I agree with your assessment of the situation, but I’m getting stuck on OP staying on because I think the kids sound like they could actually be dangerous. Like, if they’re willing to do all this, it doesn’t seem at all unlikely that this will escalate to serious physical fights (which have already been threatened repeatedly) or one of them will go to the workplace (or even OP’s home) with a gun and shoot up the place. I hate to say it, because it isn’t fair at all, but I think OP should just get out of there ASAP.

      1. Cobol*

        Do you know somebody hiring? It’s hard to find a decent job in a small town. Get a new job only works if there are jobs to be got

          1. CowWhisperer*

            The one issue might be how far away police support is depending on how remote the small town is.

            Where I live, non-emergency but urgent calls can take an hour or more even if you are the first call because the nearest officer available is on the NE side of the county and you are on the SW.

            Maybe they’ll be faster – but it’s still a long time with people who will likely escalate between the call and the cops.

  41. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    This is a horrible situation all around and I am sorry you deal with this OP. But what speaks to me loudest is that Ben says his children are “just crazy” and there’s “nothing he can do.” When realistically, there are a lot of things he can do. What it sounds like is that he’s hoping you’ll all just put up with it and keep his business running, and why he doesn’t see that this is ultimately going to ruin it is baffling. Same with his kids. If the whole thing folds, they get nothing. Or, if they do get the business one day with their reputation, good luck hiring anyone to work for it. Can you see them asking you to stay on if they inheirit it (rhetorical, not a real question)… Ugh, terrible.

  42. Pink Brownie*

    Someone else commented to have the employees buy Ben’s business out. If he’s amenable to it, y’all can form an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and purchase the business for the benefit of the employees. That’s a thing, and many businesses (mine included, Publix is another) buy out the original owners in that manner. It’s not a quick solution, though, but it’s something worth looking into if for no other reason than the fact that Ben would still have a stake in the company – albeit, as *just* another employee – and all of you who love working there would be working for yourselves. There are associations all over, but the two I know of are the NCEO and the ESOP Association. Look them up if you’re interested.

    1. Grey Panther*

      Wow. That’s a great suggestion, and the more I think about it, the better it sounds.

      It would not only give the employees a voice and a bigger stake in the company’s operation, but also give Ben some backup so it’s not just Ben-alone-vs.-the-offspring (I can’t call them kids—these a grown-up people, right?).

      And even if it does take some time to execute, well, the sooner it’s begun, the sooner it’ll be completed, right? (Also, maybe there’s an outside chance it’ll give the offspring the kick in the pants they need to get themselves straightened out.)

      1. Despachito*

        This is what I was thinking, and if this happens, the new owners would be stuck with the “kids”, while as employees they can simply walk away.

  43. Healthcare Manager*

    “ and “there’s nothing he can do” because he can’t throw his kids out on the streets.”

    Then they’re never going to get better.

    OP – Ben is enabling his children and he’s already shown he picks them over staff every time. Why worry about what happens when you leave when he’s shown he doesn’t care about you.

    Do whatever’s best for you.

    1. Picklecommentator*

      Ben could move the business. Separate his residence from his salvage yard, move the yard across town to to new location.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        Or the reverse. Some small towns have a few rundown houses that never sell quickly. Move the kids into one and settle the business with his house included for a life time lease. It’s done on farms being sold out of a family frequently to house the retired farmer and spouse while allowing the sale of the business and all the property.

  44. KYParalegal*

    OP, you like Ben; that doesn’t make him a good boss. A good boss would, at the very bare minimum, have taken stronger steps when his children called in false CPS reports and attempted to physically assault his employees (calling the cops and reporting them for trespass, sending his own cease and desist letters, etc.)
    At this point, you have enough information to know that this is what the situation is and will be, for as long as Ben or his children are alive and out of jail. The least Ben can do at this point is to give you a GLOWING recommendation for any future employment, because his children are actively engaged in an attempt to ruin you and your coworkers.
    I’m sorry you’re in this situation, but the only realistic solution at this point is to leave with your head high and a lawyer on speed dial.

  45. Clown Eradicator*

    I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but stop feeling bad for Ben. He is making the issue worse for everyone and obviously doesn’t feel bad for you all since he seems to just make empty threats to his children. If his entire workforce leaves? So be it. He made the bed with the empty threats.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Thank you for saying this, I was looking for it.

      Ben may be nice and have many admirable qualities, but he is not acting like a good boss. There are always options when you have this kind of money to throw at the problem. Ben’s pity party about how he can’t throw his kids “out in the street” is just a cop out.

      I actually know a family with certain similarities to Ben’s, and in their case the parents invested some money in “rental” properties for the problematic adult kid (and grandchildren) to move into, so they would have a decent place to live that was not the same property as the parents’ home. (And there were tax benefits as well).

      They tried giving the kid a job in the business, but when it became a problem, they fired the kid.

      There are a lot of ways Ben could address the problem besides telling the employees to suck it up. He just isn’t willing to consider them.

      1. Boof*

        IDK if it’s quite that bad given Ben does push back some on his kids, but yes, Ben sounds like classic enabler. There are options beyond letting his kids terrorize your employees vs his kids dying in a gutter. It involves very firm boundaries and being willing to let them feel the squeeze for their behavior (ie, maybe no money that month if they are nasty, or maybe rent or buy them a property somewhere else and if they trash they have to deal with it / work it out for themselves / no rescue, hire security/bouncer to keep them away from the employees if they come back, etc)

  46. VMD*

    I haven’t read all the comments – but would Ben consider hiring security to deal with these meddling kids?

    1. Mill Miker*

      Oh, that got me thinking: If you can’t get Ben to hire actual security, then maybe the OP should consider going to elaborate lengths to convince Ben’s kids that the place is haunted.

  47. Angry socialist*

    OP, RUN. Run now. Run as far as you can. I know that “just move” is facile and privileged advice, but these adult children and possibly their children are going to continue to poison this town.

    Ben’s not going to rein in his children, not ever, no matter what you say. There are no magic words that can make him stop enabling the harmful behavior of his drug-addicted family. You will continue to be harrassed and threatened until you leave. The fact that Ben is “nice” doesn’t pertain.

    Leave while you can still get a recommendation from this guy.

    1. Generic Name*

      I agree. I’m shocked at all the “buy the business!” suggestions. People who are willing to make false reports of child abuse won’t suddenly leave OP alone if she owns the business. I think it’s likely their attacks on her will get worse. I know this because I’ve had personal experience with an unhinged person who is mad at me. Every time he has a setback, he doubles down and the circle of people who are “against him” grows and he lashes out at more and more people.

  48. wordswords*

    I’m sorry, OP, this is so rough. It’s awful to love your job, respect your boss, and feel powerless to stop horrible people from ruining it. And there’s an extra edge of awfulness in a small town where you feel responsible to Ben as your neighbor and part of the community as well as to Ben as your boss (and also where new jobs may not be thick on the ground). But it’s also true that this is an untenable situation, and that Ben either won’t or can’t shield you all sufficiently from it.

    I really like the owner or co-owner suggestion mentioned above. I don’t know if it makes sense for your situation, but I think it’s at least worth thinking about.

    – If Ben died, fully retired, or decided to sell the business and buy a mobile home tomorrow, what would be the situation? What are his plans?
    – Do you WANT to be a co-owner? It seems like you’re doing a lot of the work of an owner already, from your description, but that may not be fully true. And, more importantly, owning a business means equity and control but also potentially risk. Is this something you’re interested in, or would you prefer to continue being solely an employee?
    – Would you want to be a co-owner with Ben, or to talk with him about buying him out, or to talk with him about being co-owners where you have the majority share and his semi-retirement gets a little less semi, or what? When Ben dies, would you want to become the sole owner and carry on the business, or is that not something you actually want to do?
    – If you do become a co-owner, and you and Ben disagree about steps to take to keep the kids from interfering (more aggressive property fencing and access controls, make the kids move across town, etc.), how do you foresee that working? Is that something you could work out, or would you be signing yourself up for a lot of miserable arguments and butting heads?

    If none of this is something you’d be interested in, or if it’s not something you think Ben would go for, then you’re probably back to one final conversation laying the stakes on the line, and then (if that doesn’t pan out with real, effective change), reluctantly starting your job search. I’m sorry.

  49. She of Many Hats*

    I don’t know if it is feasible but can the corporation take legal action on behalf of the business and employees? I assume the company has legal counsel so they could take the lead vs the father. And if it is possible, go for the direct police involvement for harassment, threats, damages, libel, etc. You may be able to get them out of there by getting them in jail. Harsh, but just like in office conflicts, their superior (dad) may be leaving the message too soft and not following through on the consequences (aka PIP).

  50. RubyJackson*

    Ben needs to be convinced to sell the company. What’s going to happen to it when he dies if his kids don’t get it? Whatever that is, it needs to happen now. Ben can do a lease-back or something to continue to be involved if that’s what he needs. If there are new owners, the kids can be arrested for trespassing.

  51. keiteag*

    Oh my gosh, poor Ben. If I had an employee who had a family member acting like Ben’s kids, I would suggest AlAnon. It’s harder when it’s the boss, but his kids are destroying his life, his business, his reputation, and it’s spilling over into OP’s life, business, and reputation. Ben has been willing to live with this because he’s been unwilling to let his kids hit bottom. He needs to talk to someone. A pastor, a therapist, someone who can advise him how to change. If he doesn’t, he’s going to lose everything.

  52. triplehiccup*

    Personally I would think long and hard about the financial consequences of leaving. You know your local economy and the likelihood of finding something equivalent. That’s not a small thing. I think it’s worth pushing Ben some more to find a solution.

  53. Generic Name*

    As much as it sucks to leave a longtime job you enjoy, I think your instinct to remove yourself from the situation is spot on. In my life I’ve learned that some people enjoy drama and some people are unreasonable, and some people are both. It doesn’t matter why. Nobody can make an unreasonable person bent on sowing chaos suddenly stop. This is why attempting to buy the business from the owner is a terrible idea. These people will not suddenly stop bothering the OP once their dad is no longer an owner. They will likely intensify their focus on OP and become even more difficult for her. Is it right or fair? Absolutely not, but I think moving on is the best choice for the OP to regain their peace.

  54. Kapers*

    OP, start seriously looking for work (even throw some money at it if you could use a resume service.) Put up a linkedin profile, ask around in your network.

    Even if the kids stop for now, he’s 80 and he’s not going to be around forever. If the business continues after he passes and his kids still live on the property, you have no protection. They’ll have no incentive to behave.

  55. Purely Allegorical*

    One idea to consider, if you have no other job prospects in the area: tell Ben that you’re ready to leave, the behavior has to stop, yada yada and what the impact to his business will be if you do leave. Then ask for a HUGE raise. If there are no other jobs in the area and you like this one, and Ben has shown he won’t do anything about his kids, then how much does he have to pay you to put up with the abuse? Might be a way to build up a nest egg for a couple years so you can eventually quit without having something else lined up, and then either move/start your own business/do something other than have to stay in Ben and his kids’ orbit.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’d also be curious about the prospect of OP buying the business from Ben. From the letter, we don’t know if Ben has other children who aren’t totally disruptive who would be set to inherit the business. So this may be a non-starter. If there is someone else who is next to take over the business, OP could try to bring them in. Perhaps they’d have more luck in getting through to Ben.

      From the letter, it sounds like OP is basically running the business for Ben. If she was able to buy it, she would have a lot more authority to deal with the abuse from the two kids. The kids would probably escalate other shenanigans, though, so OP would need to decide if the benefits are worth the risks.

  56. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’d guess that most of what the two kids say is treated with a lot of skepticism. So there may be less reason to worry about your professional reputation than you fear. Not zero (thanks sexism!), but less reason. Though I’m sure it’s very upsetting to everyone that your children are being told these lies about you.

  57. dustycrown*

    I’m assuming that because Ben has “disinherited” his kids, that means they won’t be taking over the company when he’s gone. What happens to it then? Any chance he would sell it to you (or to you and a group of other employees) now? That way, his business doesn’t die with him; you (and maybe others) get to continue his legacy and (more importantly) make the rules that let you deal with his kid within the context of the company. You don’t know if you don’t ask. He might be delighted at the prospect of his loyal employees carrying his business legacy forward.

    1. Rosa*

      OP said the two addict kids are two OF his kids, so there’s presumably at least one other who isn’t an addict or a nutjob and will inherit. But it would definitely be a good idea to suss out what his/her intentions are, when the time comes – will they run it themselves, sell it, or keep it but have someone else (the OP, perhaps) manage it? It’s reasonable for OP to talk to Ben about this – she’s entitled to know what her own long-term career prospects here are.

      She should also try suggesting to Ben that if he can possibly afford it, he gets the two “kids” somewhere else to live – preferably in another town. Perhaps he can own it for as long as he’s around and then leave it to them when he dies – but nothing else.

      In the meantime, OP and her colleagues need to agree among themselves that if someone – anyone – trespasses in their workplace and threatens / harasses / assaults staff, they’re calling the police. Don’t talk to Ben first, just call the police. If he asks you not to, tell him it’s not happening. Call the police, every time. Stand together on this; he isn’t going to fire you all.

  58. Overit*

    Given Ben’s age, he could pass at any time. When he does and the disinheritance becomes real, these irrational and malicious and abusive people are going to lose whatever grip on self control they have.
    The work situation is going to get worse. Possibly physically dangerous.
    Get out.
    Also, OP, I sadly have to say that there are some people who will believe the kids’ lies. I am BTDT from the Small Town School of Life. Your reputation has indeed been damaged. One way to help repair it is to leave and be clear about the reasons why with anyone who asks. It will do your reputation no good and in fact may make you look guilty if you keep your mouth shut to protect Ben or “be the better person.”
    Get out now.

  59. Peanut Hamper*

    He and two of his adult children live on the property

    Well there’s a problem that needs to not be a problem, but it doesn’t sound like Ben is going to do anything about it.

    seems to be of sound mind, making solid business decisions

    But letting your employees be harassed by your kids is not a solid business decision.

    Ben said he had threatened his kids with legal action, eviction, and criminal charges if they did not stop the harassment, and everyone accepted his apologies and promises and went back to work.

    For now it has, but I expect it will start again as soon they are bored. It has happened repeatedly over the years and they calm down for a while and then go from colleague to colleague trying to make their lives miserable.

    Do you see the pattern here? Kids harass, Ben threatens, kids stop, lather, rinse, repeat. Ben needs to stop threatening legal action and actual take legal action.

    This is very much a Ben issue, and there isn’t much you can do about it. You need to protect yourself and leave. (Perhaps your leaving will be the thing that pushes Ben to finally do something.)

    You have a lot of experience, you are good with people, good with schedules, and good with software. There are other jobs out there for you, and without having this kind of stuff hanging over your head every day, you would probably be excellent at. (Just thinking of the stuff you do every day, I bet the local school district would have some positions where you would be great.)

    OP, I am sorry you are in this position, but you are powerless to change Ben or his children. Please find a job elsewhere, don’t look behind you, and update us when you get a chance.

  60. Farnorth*

    Chances are the boss has never addressed a succession plan & odds are he doesn’t have a will as he is waiting to see if his kids change, so he can formulate a plan. The writer should realize she does not have any job security in this situation or protection. At his age he could pass at anytime & it will be chaos.

  61. Readyforwear*

    Would it be possible for Ben to put up a physical separation between his home and the business?

    A fence, a wall, etc. something that removes the visibility and access to the work area from the kids.

    I would not want to work in a building that allowed non-employees who have substance abuse issues access. You have a right to a safe workplace, and one that is free from harassment.

    And if there is a separation, between residence and business, could the children be arrested for trespassing?

  62. raida*

    I think the conversation should go along the lines of:

    “Ben, you need to sell the business. Your connection to the business is why your kids are here.
    If you want to pay for their day to day living costs, that’s fine. But stop doing it where it keeps them so very close to onsite. Offer them apartments in another state!
    Let someone else buy all of this, let them – fingers crossed! – trespass your kids if they come here, let them call the police if a driver is harassed, let them do all the things you can’t do because they aren’t related to the aggressors.
    Wanting to be involved with the business while your involvement means all the staff deal with abuse is just, I’m sorry, it’s just selfish.
    And I’m going to leave, because there’s no faith that you will follow-through on threats to your kids and I don’t think that’s going to change. I don’t want you to hurt your kids, but I don’t have to stay and be harassed and rumours spread about me – oh have you heard that apparently you and I have been having an affair? Yeah my kid brought that home from school, I’m sure that’s not going to follow me forever and taint my professional reputation.”

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I don’t think OP (or anyone, really) has standing to tell Ben what he ‘needs’ to do with his business. Telling him that he ‘needs’ to sell it will likely put his back up, and the chance of a productive conversation are gone.

  63. Cobol*

    I hope this isn’t off topic, but I think some of the criticism of Ben is unwarranted. Yeah he’s obviously not doing what is best for his kids, but he seems like an old man who is trying to keep his kids from being homeless, and yeah maybe I’m being classist here, but given it’s a tow company that is on the same property as his residence, he probably didn’t have access/hasn’t internalized the latest thinking on how to best help people overcome addiction.

    More importantly the letter writer can’t really change what Ben does, so telling them he’s not helping his kids isn’t super pertinent.

  64. Ex-prof*

    Ben should not have told the offspring he was disinheriting them. That was a completely unnecessary move and seems to have been the source of much of this misery.
    I mention this just in case anyone was thinking of telling their own relatives they are disinheriting them.

    1. Boof*

      I don’t think that matters. Don’t know why they’re so nasty when ben isn’t, but why would they behave any better if they expected to inherit than when he’s paying their room and board? It sounds like Ben needs to either kick them out for good and only allow them back if/when they’ve shaped up, or else essentially pay them to stay away* if he’s unwilling to give up supporting them
      *make their money contingent on them staying away from his business and have them live somewhere else. Have consequences if they don’t like IDK less money that month.

    2. Mark the Herald*

      I don’t buy this. Trash is trash. People who act like this don’t have another option in the settings. This is their factory default.

  65. Jay*

    > I feel like if I leave with the standard two weeks of notice, it would be a very low blow.

    Failing to protect you and your family from abusive slander is a low blow, and that’s what he’s done.

  66. Betsy S.*

    IMHO the key question is – what is the owner’s ultimate plan for this business? Who inherits – his spouse, other adult children, other relatives? Was he planning on selling eventually? Or are there no plans at all?

    If someone is in line to inherit or take over this business, that person or group of people needs to get involved at this point before the business is destroyed. Or, if he plans to sell, this sounds like it is the time.

    But, that’s not a problem the OP can solve.

    (I used to be involved with someone who managed his family construction business. I could not fathom how he put up with so much ambiguity about the future of the business).

  67. Darn, heck, and other salty expressions*

    I didn’t read all the comments, but one thing I would suggest is relocating the business off of the owner’s property. If he can be convinced to lease office and garage space and maybe a storage lot, then the landlord could get restraining orders to keep the children off the property. It would be a big investment on the business owner’s part but if he is wanted to keep his employees and not willing to take serious action with his children this may be the only way to keep the business going, even if OP quits.
    The other issue is owner is in his 80s. He could have a stroke tomorrow and be incapacitated but live for several more years. While incapacitated one of his children could get power of attorney or guardianship and then the owner’s wishes wouldn’t matter at all. Kids get what they want, and OP and co-works likely get kicked to the curb.
    OP, you may be loyal to this guy and feel sorry for him, but you and your co-workers are in an abusive relationship. You wouldn’t stick around with a life partner who allowed their family to treat you this way. You wouldn’t advise your friends to stick it out and hope things get better if they were in this situation. Give 2 weeks notice. Maybe start your own business with the knowledge you have. No one to run the business is the natural consequence of his actions. His kids are going to talk crap about you no matter what. Its just who they are.

  68. AJ*

    Can you request a hefty security budget from Ben? Change the locks, secure a fence, prevent the “kids” from coming through the area even if their housing is technically at the same address?

  69. CarlDean*

    In Washington DC (and maybe other states/places), you may still be eligible for unemployment if you leave voluntarily “for good cause.” I would think persistent harassment on the premises from owners family would fall in that category.

    It may be worth looking into before just concluding you don’t get unemployment if you quit.

  70. Luna*

    He definitely can throw them out on the streets. He just doesn’t want to, be it because he still has hope that they’ll behave, or some sense of loyalty because ‘family’, or worries that he’ll be labeled as a bad parent for doing it.

    I want to tell both sides, Ben and the LW and their colleagues, that you need to stop threatening to do things and do them already. Threaten with legal actions? Well, they clearly aren’t stopping, so throw legal actions at them — slander, false reports (to CPS! We had an LW whose boss faked being CPS to ‘prank’ an employee before!), if their actions are interfering with business, they might even be able to be hit with that.
    Threaten to walk off? Do it. Actual consequences for actions, or lack of actions, must be seen and occur for it to potentially do anything.

    At this point, I’d almost feel like telling Ben to scorch the entire company and salt the earth would be the best bet for him. Get rid of it all, close the company, lay off all the employees, and enjoy whatever retirement he can get. And throw the kids out, then go no-contact. Brutal end, but it goes with the German proverb: “Better a terrorizing end, than an unending terror.” (Loosely translated)

  71. HPK*

    Disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve worked in domestic violence/stalking services in several states. Based on the behavior you’ve described, you may be eligible for whatever your state’s form of a restraining order/protective order/peace order/anti-stalking order is. If you’re interested in going that route, I’d recommend reaching out to a local attorney or legal aid organization and getting their thoughts. The process would definitely be faster than a defamation suit. And I’m so sorry you’re going through this!

  72. noname12345678*

    LW: I have a few simple suggestions for you:
    1) Ask Ben to rent or buy an off-campus apartment for his children. Tell Ben that everyone at work needs his children to stop harassing them and this is the best way for Ben to continue to provide for his adult children, not allow them to be homeless, and get them out of your space.
    2) Once they are off campus, tell Ben that he needs to bar his children from the work site. If your site is fenced (presumably), change the codes so that his children can no longer access the campus.
    3) Have an attorney send a “cease and desist letter” to Ben’s children to get them to stop spreading false rumors about you.
    4) File a restraining order against Ben’s adult children, and suggest to your coworkers that they do the same.

  73. Simone*

    I know this probably isn’t an immediate solution and would be expensive, but what if you propose that you will need to leave this job, unless the business can move away from the kids? It would be expensive presumably compared to having the business on his property, but thats giving him an option at least. “If we are able to move to a site, away from the kids (sound’s like you guys are pretty much at their house) then I’m happy to stay here, I love what I do. But I can not subject myself to this everyday and I am also concerned the rest of the team will leave”.

  74. Odditor*

    If local law enforcement is already familiar with these “kids”– which it sounds like they are– you might be in a good position to file for a restraining order. Even if Ben continues to allow them to live on the property, your order can specify that they are not allowed to interfere with the work site. Violating a restraining order can carry serious consequences, although that does depend on the courts and the law enforcement in your area. (I have a lot of personal experience with restraining orders due to a dispute with a woman who lived in the same apartment building as me, and was constantly harassing me and the other tenants and damaging our property and the building itself.) A restraining order, ideally, allows you to set boundaries and expectations, and it provides a low-cost framework to find legal protection.
    I wish you the best OP, and I’m sorry you and your coworkers are dealing with this awful situation. Please let us know how things go for you.

  75. Candace*

    Someone, someday, needs to find a way to make these “kids” face the consequences of their actions. They are going to get themselves in serious trouble. And should.

    1. Candace*

      BTW – I don’t mean someone doing something illegal. I just mean that they’re going to end up in jail or something. And they ought to. This is awful.

  76. Candace*

    BTW – I don’t mean someone doing something illegal. I just mean that they’re going to end up in jail or something. And they ought to. This is awful.

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