Collecting an unpaid invoice from a sleazy client. Is it better to pursue and get dirty or to let go and go unpaid?
posted by nedpwolf to work & money (19 answers total)
In January, I was offered a job by a small-business owner under the following terms. I would would work as a contractor for 90 days, invoicing bi-weekly, getting paid one week later on the following Friday. After this time, assuming everything went well, I would become an employee.
I accepted this offer at about half my standard contracting hourly rate, both needing the money and knowing that my work and skills would prove my worth and that I could then become an employee, with standard benefits and protections. After the 90 days, I was told that I had become "indispensable", but when I brought up changing my status, he told me we should "just keep things the way they are."
Obviously, I wasn't happy with this arrangement, but the work was steady, and I was able to take in additional work from other clients to make up the difference. I simply wasn't in a position where I could afford to walk away. I figured that I would stay until I found not just a better position, but one I would want to sway in long-term.
The longer I worked for this individual, the more uncomfortable I got. My office was next door to his, so I have direct knowledge of his business practices which are shady and deceitful. Not paying vendors is the status quo. Collectors call literally all day, every day. I have heard him lie and cheat day after day. The atmosphere there is toxic.
Getting paid was always a chore. They started out writing checks, but soon switched to paying via credit card. I always had to bring up that it was payday. If I didn't, they "forgot". I would often have to try two or three cards before one was accepted.
Obviously, they're running on fumes. I always knew it, but, again, I needed the money.
Three weeks ago, on a Monday, the owner said he was calling it quits. That would be my last week. He was going to let the lease on the building expire at the end of this year and was moving to a cheaper location (yeah, right). The kicker was that he said he was going to withhold his final payment to me, so he could "review my work". When satisfied with everything, he would pay me. After a three hour discussion, I got him to change his mind about this ridiculousness. I worked through that Friday and was cut a check immediately ( well, after another hour-long meeting).
He then asked if I would be able to come in the following week to "finish up some other stuff". We agreed that I would come in at my standard contracting rate, not the rate he had been paying previously.
Well, after all that, he snookered me after all. I worked for over twenty hours, made a detailed list of all thing accomplished and sent out a bill for a little over $1500. After a few emails from him saying he was busy, then that he was reviewing everything, communication has stopped.
Am I surprised? Not at all. Kind of expected it actually. I figured, though, it was worth a shot to see what would happen. The question now is, what do you think I should do?
Let it go? Would this be best for my soul? Just let the whole unpleasant experience float away?
Threaten him with the state labor board? As far as I've been able to discern, legally, I was actually an employee the entire time, just not labeled by the business as such. I worked on-site, in their offices, on their equipment, with their employees. The possibility of a sudden bill for unpaid employment tax should scare him.
Have a lawyer write a letter to him? This seems pretty simple and might be kind of fun.
Post his name, business and my experience with him all over the internet? This, too, could be fun, but seems kind of distasteful. I don't want any of the smell to attach itself to me.
Fortunately, I have had no shortage of interviews and meetings the past couple weeks. Last week I accepted an offer with a company that I like and respect and am looking forward to starting there very shortly. Things have worked out well. I just have this lingering irritation with the sleazebag just sitting there, festering.
What do you think is best, not just for my wallet, but for career as well?