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How do I balance needing to pay my employer back with quitting in less than two months?
December 16, 2011 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I need help with a work situation involving quitting and a major screw up.

I work for as the manager of rental shop. About a month ago we sent out an order for about $3100 which is a good sized order for us. Due to many factors that were ultimately my responsibility the equipment was damaged in the field and we are unable to charge the customer. This is going to cost about $3000 to fix thus making the whole order a fairly big loser. Today my boss asked how I plan on paying for the replacement equipment.
One complicating factor is that I have a new job starting in February that I haven't told anybody at the company about yet. I really do not like my current job and my boss has made my life hell for the past year and there is no way I'm not quitting in February. The other complicating factor is the company is one of two suppliers for my industry in the city. I will probably have to be a customer of this company in the future.
If I was not quitting I would suggest some sort of payment plan of like $25 a paycheck until the equipment was paid off. Since I am quitting in February the payments would have to be 90% of my paycheck. I still need this job for another month and a half and I wasn't planning on giving more than two weeks notice but now I don't know what to do. I don't want to suggest a payment plan that I don't plan on following through with. What are my moral responsibilities here?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Doesn't your company have insurance? This shouldn't be coming out of your own pocket. People who have their company cars stolen don't owe $50k.
posted by Jairus at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2011 [51 favorites]


I don't understand why you have to pay for it at all, but given that you do I'd suggest the $25 payment plan, and when you give your notice just let your boss know that you'll keep paying $25/week even when you're no longer working there. If that's what you can afford, that's what you can afford.
posted by alms at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2011


Your boss expects you personally to pay for the equipment? I get that you accept that it was your responsibility, but you are an employee and this is a business. Employee screwups are paid for by the business unless you agreed otherwise in advance.

I know you said you need this job for another month and a half. Do you think you'd get fired if you just refused to pay? Could you just put your boss off and avoid talking about it until you give notice? (By the way, there's no guarantee that your boss won't fire you immediately after you give notice.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:23 AM on December 16, 2011 [12 favorites]


It is not appropriate for your employer to expect you to pay for this. Accidents happen. Even if you feel like you were responsible, you're really, really not, at least not financially. It's called cost of doing business. If your employer thinks such losses (which WILL eventually happen, in any business) are going to be crippling to the business, the onus is on them to purchase some kind of insurance.

I'd find some way to stall them as long as possible (so that they don't fire you), and then GTFO in February. If they do fire you, you should be able to collect unemployment (although you may get turned down initially and have to go through the appeals process).

Do not pay this. Your boss is doing something unethical (and maybe even illegal) by asking you to.

Consider contacting your state's division of labor and asking what they think of your boss's request.
posted by teatime at 9:25 AM on December 16, 2011 [45 favorites]


It's illegal to make you pay unless your actions were nearly criminal. Don't do it.
posted by michaelh at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Today my boss asked how I plan on paying for the replacement equipment.

This is bullshit. You don't need to pay.
posted by Brockles at 9:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you are in the United States, it is illegal for your boss to charge you out of pocket for the $3000. It's an error and it's the cost of doing business. Businesses have insurance for this reason. Aside from the general feeling you get about your boss, being expected to pay a business expense out of pocket is an excellent reason to quit.

Do not offer to pay it back. It is not your financial responsibility.

Give your notice two weeks before your last day, short and sweet. Then work your last two weeks and go. Keep an employment lawyer on proverbial speed-dial in case your boss garnishes any of your wages or keeps any pay you are entitled to. A stern letter should do the trick if that happens.
posted by juniperesque at 9:29 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unless there's some sort of in-writing agreement between you and the company stating that you are financially liable for damage to company equipment, you don't have to repay this money. Nor should you. If they want to punish you for this, they can fire you. If they think there was something fraudulent or malicious going on, they can take you to small claims court. That's how it works.
posted by griphus at 9:30 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Today my boss asked how I plan on paying for the replacement equipment.

The answer to this is by increasing revenue on future rentals [details here regarding how you're going to bump the rental costs on X, Y, and Z equipment]. You personally cannot be held liable for this unless you signed something saying you would (and even then, a lawyer would just shake his head and explain why that's crazy and full of holes).
posted by Lyn Never at 9:31 AM on December 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


Tread carefully here. If you agree to any sort of payment plan, I think you would be acknowledging the legitimacy of the debt, and if you quit without paying the balance, he might be able to sue you for the remainder. If he proposes something don't agree. Make him force it on you, and you have a chance of recovering it in court.

I see the tough spot though. It may be illegal to enforce this debt, but it's certainly not illegal to fire you on the spot, and if you refuse to pay the debt he might do that. And furthermore a flat out 'fuck you I ain't paying' (easy for us to say) is a hostile challenge and the boss might turf you out of spite alone. I like Lyn Never's answer; be apologetic and vow to work extra hard while carefully never accepting responsibility for the debt. Then two months later you're home free.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:40 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


A few more things:

1. Don't quit. Make them fire you. If you quit, you will not get unemployment. And try to get some kind of documentation about their claim that you owe this money... I'm sure you can get him to give you something, tell him you need a list w/ the exact dollar amounts, or something. An email would be fine, I think. Document everything you can about your interactions w/ your bosses from now on. You'll thank me at the unemployment hearing.

2. I wouldn't give two-weeks notice. They'll probably just fire you if you do. Two-weeks notice is becoming less and less common as it becomes more and more common for employees to be escorted out of the building as soon as they give it. I don't think you owe this guy any favors. It's not like you're going to get a good reference from him anyway.

3. Contact a lawyer, or if you can't afford that, your local legal aid. Just for a consult and to learn about the laws that apply to your situation.
posted by teatime at 9:42 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Call a lawyer, immediately. Anonymize this post, immediately.
posted by ellF at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Nthing the need to find a really good lawyer. This is completely unreasonable. Best of luck to you-
posted by chatelaine at 9:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: please keep in mind that there are people responsible for renting out $30,000, $300,000 and probably $3,000,000 pieces of equipment out there. I can 100% guarantee that this has happened to them as well and no one was asked to how they were planning to pay back three million dollars.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't pay for this. Shit happens and it should not under any circu,circumstances come out of your pocket. Many of us have made costly mistakes at work. One time I broke nearly 500 dishes on accident. Another time I wasted money fucking up a proof for a print order. Mistakes happen and it is a part of doing business. Don't agree to a payment plan, it is the businesses responsibility for replacement.

I seriously mean this, dont pay a goddamn thing.
posted by handbanana at 10:01 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nthing everyone here, you are absolutely, 100% not liable for damage to the equipment, even if it is your fault. That's the risk he as a business owner takes on (in exchange for the profits he takes).

Noting also that, in addition, this rule applies to waitstaff at restaurants. Break a glass or a plate? Table walks out on you? Don't pay a goddamn cent, and walk out if you have to (there's enough turnover at restaurants that you'll get a new job soon enough).

This is some slimy, slimy shit.
posted by downing street memo at 10:09 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unless there's some sort of in-writing agreement between you and the company stating that you are financially liable for damage to company equipment, you don't have to repay this money.

I'm pretty sure that, even if there was such an agreeement, it'd be non-enforceable.
posted by downing street memo at 10:10 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have received some excellent advice above. Look at it this way: either this arrangement is business or it's personal. If this were an oops-I-took-your-$3000-camera-on-vacation-and-left-it-in-a-taxi situation with a friend, yes, you'd be on the hook for the camera. In the situation you've described, you were acting on behalf of your employer. This is not your problem to fix, not in the way your boss proposed anyway. I get that you feel badly, (even though you're on your way out and there's no love lost) but this is not your responsibility.

Nthing those who have said this is the cost of doing business.
posted by heathergirl at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tell your boss you plan on paying for the replacement equipment through the use of the insurance proceeds from the policy the company of course carries.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm glad this is anonymous but without a location it's hard to point to good legal resources.
posted by phearlez at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2011


Others have given very good advice above, and I'd like to add that if "the other complicating factor is the company is one of two suppliers for my industry in the city. I will probably have to be a customer of this company in the future", if it comes down to it, should you need to let him know your exit plans, if he'd like more of your business rather than your using the competition in the future, it would behoove him to let this matter rest.
posted by peagood at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


n-thing the "do not pay"s above.
Legally, I can make no statement. Ethically / morally, however, I see it this way: You were acting as an agent of a legal entity, not in a private capacity. If things were the other way around, and you had for example made a killer deal for the company and pulled in 50 kUSD, they would have no obligation to pay you any of that money, because you already get a paycheck.
Another aspect is that if there is any fuck-up, that would be not having any insurance. Things break all the time. If I were a stakeholder in a company where something broke I wouldn't mind about the specific person who broke it (well ... the first couple of time at least :) , but I would get a bit livid with the boss who forgot to insure it.
posted by labberdasher at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd just avoid answering his questions. If he threatens to stop paying you, threaten to sue him. If he does stop paying you, sue him. If he fires you, you're probably SOL, but for god's sake don't basically work for free for the next two months. We outlawed slavery a while ago.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:06 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why are you paying for this? Your Company (unless totally inept) will have insurance to cover this, so they will be getting paid twice. But that's not the point. The point is you should not have to pay for this. So don't pay for it.

Your boss sounds like a bully.

Tell your boss you plan on paying for the replacement equipment through the use of the insurance proceeds from the policy the company of course carries.

Yes
posted by the noob at 4:08 PM on December 16, 2011


Due to many factors that were ultimately my responsibility the equipment was damaged in the field and we are unable to charge the customer.

Unless this means "we rent ski-doos and I took it out on the weekend without permission and wrecked it", I don't see where you have monetary liability.
posted by dhartung at 5:09 PM on December 16, 2011


Everyone who is telling the op to lawyer up and tell his boss to kiss off seems to be ignoring this part of the question:
The other complicating factor is the company is one of two suppliers for my industry in the city. I will probably have to be a customer of this company in the future.
If the op needs to maintain a professional relationship with the company and his current boss in the future, he can't just hire a lawyer, flip his boss a bird, and quit with no days notice.

Does that mean he should pay the $3,000? Not necessarily. But resolving the problem requires handling this complicating factor.
posted by alms at 5:38 PM on December 16, 2011


If the op needs to maintain a professional relationship with the company and his current boss in the future, he can't just hire a lawyer, flip his boss a bird, and quit with no days notice.

He shouldn't be a jerk about it, but I don't think standing up for himself, politely but firmly, will necessarily be so bad for future business. I would prefer that someone I was doing business with didn't think I was a pushover, and it sounds like this is a relatively small industry/market, so the boss may need OP's business as much as vice versa. I think OP has some leverage here and I think that he can stand up for himself without burning that bridge, at least professionally (even if the two end up disliking each other personally).
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:59 AM on December 18, 2011


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