What should I do, I've been fired but the company still needs me?
November 10, 2017 7:30 AM   Subscribe

The owner of the agency I work for threw a big fit and fired me because I had too much power and her husband didn't like it. There is no one who can do most of what I was doing, and some of it is essential on a daily basis. Now everyone but the owner keeps coming to me for help, what should I do?

Medical billing/claims, payroll, benefits administration, trustee and administrator of retirement accounts receivable/payable, website maintainance, sales and marketing, insurance, HR, you name it, it's my department. All accounting, all bill-paying, taxes, etc. It has been mainly me doing all of that since the company was started. It was me who filed all the paperwork to start it.

The owner mainly just collects a check, disappears for months at a time, and let me "handle it". After her husband was hired so he could retire from his job, he's been steadily whispering in her ear that she's supposed to be the boss. He's never had an actual job in this company and also just collects a check. We see him every few months. I confronted the owner after I was mysteriously and suddenly removed from all bank accounts and all access cut off, right when I was trying to pay bills. Mentioning her husband's influence, aka "bringing her family into it", got me fired for being disrespectful.

The very next day, the office manager said they don't care what the owner said, and begged me to keep doing what I'd been doing, otherwise it could collapse in literally 2 days. At the very least, I had to collect on accounts receivable for the week and then run payroll with the collections, otherwise no money and no one gets paid. There are over 50 people who get paid weekly. I asked what the owner thought, and the manager said the owner told her "just do what you're going to do". Then the owner left town.

Setting my own financial situation aside and trying to set my personal feelings about all this aside, it seems horrendous to just let everything fall apart like that. I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did. I could use this time to try to teach as much as I can to others and figure out what can be outsourced.

But should I be doing that? Technically, I'm definitely fired. And it's a huge relief! But this feels like I'm in limbo, still handling problems, fielding requests, doing hours of work, and have no idea what's going to happen with my "job" from one day to the next. My work has also been 10x harder because my access was cut off in so many areas and no one else is handling any of that.

Ideally, I want the owner to just fully back off, accept my position in the company, restore all rights and privileges, and retire to live like a queen in Patagonia. But is there something I should be demanding in order to agree to keep working, besides just getting my regular salary?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (77 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should not be doing anything for this company (i.e., "doing hours of work")....FULL STOP.

I understand your fear of fellow EX(!)-employees not getting paid and everything falling apart, but you don't work for that company anymore. It isn't your problem anymore.
posted by kuanes at 7:40 AM on November 10 [178 favorites]


I don't understand the situation.

Are you fired? If so, why are you doing anything? The correct answer to these requests would be "Please see owner, as I no longer work there."
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:40 AM on November 10 [89 favorites]


Ask A Manager would say walk away. Don't do a lick of work for anyone or anything.
posted by matildaben at 7:41 AM on November 10 [56 favorites]


WTF? Don't go to the office, don't do anything at all. You're fired. You don't work there anymore. Tell your colleagues that you don't work there anymore and that's the end of it.

If the boss wants to go through the process of hiring you back, she can try, and you can negotiate something then.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:41 AM on November 10 [59 favorites]


I know you don't want to let things deteriorate but you have been fired. Unless the owner hires you back either as an employee or as a contractor, preferably with a large raise, it is no longer your responsibility to save the sinking ship. Unless you have an agreement that you are getting paid for this you are working for free, and if you try to collect a salary I would not be surprised if the owner charges you with theft. It is up to the manager now to convince the owner they need to hire you back, or deal with the consequences.
posted by impishoptimist at 7:43 AM on November 10 [29 favorites]


You should stop working... until the owner issues an apology in writing... with a 10% raise.

Seriously, the fate of the company is no longer your problem.
posted by Kwadeng at 7:43 AM on November 10 [24 favorites]


Yeah, you don't work for this dumpster fire of a company anymore. Somebody should have cross trained on all of this really important stuff that you do. What would they have done if you got hit by a bus?

Tell them they can hire you as a consultant for 5x your salary up front for some training. They'll probably figure it out on their own.
posted by hollyholly at 7:43 AM on November 10 [25 favorites]


You were fired. Technically, depending on how hardball the owners want to be, you could be charged with trespassing if you continue to stay there.

Leave. Let it fall apart. You sound like a nice person; it can be tough for nice people to deliberately be NOT nice. This, however, is one of those times.

Re: the boss hiring you back -- think about whether this is a situation you would really want to return to.
posted by WCityMike at 7:44 AM on November 10 [38 favorites]


In addition to the above great comments consider if you would have any legal liability for doing this work after being fired. If something goes wrong (or the owner wants to just claim something went wrong), then what? You aren't an employee, you don't have any legal right/responsibility/reason to be doing these tasks.
posted by mcduff at 7:45 AM on November 10 [65 favorites]


If they need your help after you've been let go then you should charge them a consulting fee for like 6x your salary.

Obviously, go talk to a lawyer first to make it all legal and official.
posted by bondcliff at 7:48 AM on November 10 [19 favorites]


and to clarify, it's not just because it's ridiculous to be working for free, that you should stop. It's because being fired means you have NO RIGHT to be touching that stuff anymore. It's very literally none of your business and very inappropriate for you to consider yourself still involved, however kind a place your concern is coming from.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:48 AM on November 10 [53 favorites]


it seems horrendous to just let everything fall apart like that

It is. But the responsibility for that is the owner's, not yours. Don't feel guilty. Don't do anything. They may be an idiot for firing you, but that is their mistake to pay for, not yours.

I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did

Why? You were fired. You didn't quit. If any of them think poorly of you because of a stupid thing that the owner did, then they're probably not people you should really care about the opinions of.

Basically, the whole point of being a company owner is that you own the responsibility for everything involved with it - from making sure it runs well, to how it behaves, to what it sells. That's ultimately the price of being able to take home the profits.

If she's not prepared to do that, then - shit as it is for everyone - she's the one who is terrible at her job, not you.

It's totally fine to feel frustrated/disappointed with the situation, but you need to walk away.
posted by garius at 7:48 AM on November 10 [18 favorites]


The 50 people who need to get paid, and the office manager asking you to do things, should be hounding the owner, not you. I am not a lawyer, but continuing to do work might even get you in trouble.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:49 AM on November 10 [23 favorites]


I used to work for a company like this with weird family dynamics dictating the running of the business and man, it is not normal. If you've been there a long time you're probably lost sight of how utterly insane this situation is. Trust me: you don't want to work there any more, even if the owner can be talked down from this decision. Go work somewhere else where the company is run by people who want it to succeed.
posted by something something at 7:49 AM on November 10 [7 favorites]


Not only is it not your problem or responsibility, but you could be in substantial legal trouble if you continue doing work for the company after being fired. Tell your former colleagues you wish you could help but you really can't.
posted by spindrifter at 7:50 AM on November 10 [23 favorites]


Do I have this right: Your work at the company has gotten 10x harder since you were “technically fired” and you want the owner to “just fully back off” and accept that you are at the center of the company’s continued functioning, everyone knows it but her.

Also: You say you are “trying to set my personal feelings about all this aside.” It sounds to me like you have a *lot* of personal feelings wrapped up in this place. Pride in work, self-worth, ownership of your job responsibilities--all great! Being angry at being fired--of course! Gnashing your teeth and continuing to do everyone else’s job because you’re the only one who knows how to do it right and and also they’re begging you to help--step back and take a breath. You are really wrapped up in this place.
posted by miles per flower at 7:54 AM on November 10 [8 favorites]


Someone I know was in a position where a person who was not actually very stable was running their business the way you were running this one and eventually had to be fired for reasons that weren't so much about power as just about needing that person to not be in the office--not saying you're anything like that. But, so, here's the thing: There are people you can pay to come in and help clean those things up. You get a couple clerical temps and an accountant and you pay money to let someone sort out everything that needs to get done to make the business run, or else you clean it up yourself, or else you shut down. The owner has options here and doesn't actually need you--she's just choosing not to actually solve this problem, and at the end of the day that's her mistake to make.

Send them all the passwords, etc, that you have so that they have access to everything that you had access to, and then wash your hands of it. The owner is not in a position where you're the only one who can solve this problem and therefore your failure to do so is hurting these other employees. The owner has other people who could be brought in to fix this, just not cheaply, and that cost is not for you to bear.
posted by Sequence at 7:54 AM on November 10 [11 favorites]


You should stop. It sucks, I know, and I would feel horrendously guilty about my coworkers too, but I agree that there seems like a good possibility you could get in legal trouble for continuing to do this work. For that reason if no other, I would not touch another thing.

Walk away now. If and only if the owner comes to you and asks you back, you could (but have no moral obligation to) offer to act as a consultant until they get someone new hired. If you do that, quote a consultant fee that would make it genuinely worth your while to put up with it, no matter how exorbitant that fee is, and let them take or leave it.

For whatever it's worth, were I your coworker in this situation, I would be angry at the owners, not you. I mean, I might spend five minutes with my partner or my therapist wailing OH GOD, THIS SUCKS, WHY COULDN'T ANON HAVE FINISHED OUT THE PAYROLL BEFORE WALKING AWAY purely for the venting. But then I would have thought, "Well, because they had no obligation to, and in fact might have been in legal jeopardy for doing that. Ugh, this sucks." And I would have redirected my anger where appropriate. I would not harbor permanent ill will toward you or anything like that.
posted by Stacey at 7:54 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


I'm definitely fired. And it's a huge relief!

This should tell you a lot. You're happy to be out - don't put yourself through any more stress and stay out.
posted by jontyjago at 7:56 AM on November 10 [3 favorites]


1. You were fired.
2. Leave.
posted by Cosine at 8:00 AM on November 10 [14 favorites]


If they need your help after you've been let go then you should charge them a consulting fee for like 6x your salary.

This. Sign a new contract with the owner if your services are needed.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:00 AM on November 10 [15 favorites]


At the very least, I had to collect on accounts receivable for the week and then run payroll with the collections, otherwise no money and no one gets paid.

Legally, doing any of this could put you in serious jeopardy. The owner has already demonstrated extremely poor judgement. Do not give her legal power over you. Even if you were vindicated, having been investigated for or charged with financial improprieties will ruin your career.

But is there something I should be demanding in order to agree to keep working, besides just getting my regular salary?

A signed contract showing that you've been reinstated with whatever better pay and benefits you negotiate.

doing hours of work

Stop. Immediately. Both for legal and ethical reasons.
posted by Candleman at 8:02 AM on November 10 [30 favorites]


You have got to stop doing any work due to the legal liability factor. You are leaving yourself wide open to be sued by boss and husband and that will not end well for you. You need to find a new job and the people who work there need to stop calling you. Stop now.
posted by rednikki at 8:02 AM on November 10 [3 favorites]


It sounds like a company that's going to collapse imminently anyway, whatever you do. If you are feeling EXTREMELY nice, go in and do the payroll for the staff (and ONLY that don't train anyone or do any other work), and while you're there send out an all company email saying "I won't be here to do payroll next week, I advise looking for work elsewhere."
Disclaimer: I have no idea if this opens you up to any legal bullshit.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:02 AM on November 10


You were fired. It's illegal for you to be working on payroll(!). But also, you need to let this toxic place sink into the sea. Stop answering any communication from anyone at this job. Once it's all fallen apart, you can decide if you want to accept a generous contract to put it back together (honestly, probably not worth it).
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:07 AM on November 10 [9 favorites]


Am I missing something?

You should let the company collapse, never look back, and refuse all further communication with your former boss unless it is about paying you a severance. And, even then, it should only be in writing, via post.
posted by paco758 at 8:07 AM on November 10 [7 favorites]


If you are feeling EXTREMELY nice, go in and do the payroll for the staff (and ONLY that don't train anyone or do any other work),

Payroll is in fact the thing you most 100000% should not be doing, along with anything else that involves money or financial accounts. The closest I'd say you should be doing is, again, making sure that the owner has the passwords for stuff, and that people know where to find things if they ask directly, like if you had a particular file system setup it probably can't hurt to tell someone that this particular spreadsheet is in "I:/anonymous/2017/reports/". But definitely not anything that involves money. Money is the sort of thing that could land you in actual jail.
posted by Sequence at 8:14 AM on November 10 [54 favorites]


I had a boss very much like this, and he tried to sue me for leaving his company "unprepared" for my "sudden" absence, even though I gave 4 months' notice and spent that time training staff.

None of these people are your friend. Walk away. You are going to become their scapegoat whether you like it or not, and trying to "help" will actually give them more ammo to use against you. Just walk away, document what happened, and be prepared to retain a lawyer, just in case.
posted by Wossname at 8:27 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


You should be putting your time into starting your own business. You've already got many of the skills for it. Brush up on the skills you're missing, and then go for it.

You might discover that you end up with the pick of your former co-workers as employees. Check with a lawyer first, though, to make sure you don't run afoul of any non-compete restrictions.

When your former co-workers ask you to help them, tell them that it's probably illegal for you to do so and you don't want to put yourself in that situation. If a lawyer says it's okay, you might also mention that you're thinking of starting your own business.
posted by clawsoon at 8:30 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


I agree so much with everyone. If you've been fired, you cannot (legally, ethically, financially) continue to do work for this company. However, it's really unclear what your current status is with this company. Are you being paid? Are you going into the office and/or accessing company property? Did the office manager rehire you when the owner told her to just do what you're going to do? Are you actually fired? If you're definitely fired, stop everything immediately. If you're not, give notice and start working on a transition. If you don't know, talk to a lawyer.
posted by Mavri at 8:33 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


What you're doing is probably a HIPAA violation. STOP.
posted by gregr at 8:35 AM on November 10 [10 favorites]


Payroll is in fact the thing you most 100000% should not be doing, along with anything else that involves money or financial accounts.

Fair enough, I was thinking of the staff who are going to get fucked, but if this is actually going to get the Asker in trouble then I definitely retract my answer.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:37 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


Yeah, all your effort now needs to go into redirecting everybody but the owner to go to the owner with their requests for help, not doing things to keep the business running. You can tell them it's for legal reasons, if that makes it easier to hold your boundry, but you and I both know that keeping things running will delay the consequences for their whack-a-doodle decisions, and you need to start recovering from that nasty case of Stockholm syndrome they've laid on you.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:38 AM on November 10 [4 favorites]


Offer consulting services to the former boss. For $100 per hour you will train Bad Husband on how to do your former job. Be sure to establish that if you do not get paid promptly every week you will walk away.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:39 AM on November 10


Congratulations! You don't work there anymore. You have no further responsibility to the company or to any of these people. None. Don't look back, guilt-free. If you need permission, I grant you permission.

In fewer words, fuck that shit.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:41 AM on November 10 [5 favorites]


"I'm sorry I can't help you, but as you know, X fired me."

Then either:
"I'd be interested in returning. Please communicate that to X."
"I'd be willing to serve as a temporary consultant to help with the transition. Please communicate that to X."
"No, I'm not interested in returning."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:49 AM on November 10 [7 favorites]


Say no. You don't work there anymore.
posted by 41swans at 8:53 AM on November 10


TURN OFF YOUR PHONE AND SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS.

I agree it is illegal for you to do payroll or anything else for this company No No No No No.

Start job hunting on Monday. Stop talking to these people, block all emails, remove them all from your life.

You were F-I-R-E-D.

I know you are confused because it was a dysfunctional abusive environment, but you need to help yourself stay away from these people and this company. Legally you can be held responsible if you do anything - give back all keys, delete passcodes, give back any devices, sever all ties and insulate yourself from this.
posted by jbenben at 8:54 AM on November 10 [5 favorites]


My work has also been 10x harder because my access was cut off in so many areas and no one else is handling any of that.

If you've been fired, you don't have any work. Not with them.

I understand how difficult it is to realize you are replaceable at work, but that's the sad truth.
posted by lyssabee at 8:54 AM on November 10 [14 favorites]


You're free. You’re free!
posted by bq at 8:58 AM on November 10 [13 favorites]


Focus on finding a new job. Don’t do anything for them unless they hire you back with a raise; even then I’d be looking for the next gig.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:00 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


Way to not hose former coworkers, as you are a kind-hearted soul with concern for human welfare:

Have the office manager hire professional accountants etc. to fill your duties.

Return as a paid consultant at your rate (which should include compesation for all this uncertainty work already rendered) to get said replacement services up to speed.

Cash your check. All this should happen in the next three days, with zero interaction between you and owner+husband.

If they ever wish to talk with you, hire a moderator or lawyer, give them the facts of your situation (e.g. hand them this question) and never interact with these people again without the presence of your moderator/lawyer. Even if they say its to apologize. Especially if they say its to apologize.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:03 AM on November 10 [3 favorites]


I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did.

You were fired out of the blue by a vindictive owner, who apparently isn't respected by her staff (the office manager told you they don't care what the owner says/thinks), and now you're afraid your former coworkers will think poorly of you because you can't do your old job for free? This is deeply toxic and dysfunctional; please disengage from this flaming dumpster fire before it consumes you too.

I really love the old Emily Post/ Miss Manners line: "I'm sorry, that won't be possible." You may even be able to set it up as an auto-reply to emails and texts from your former co-workers!
posted by basalganglia at 9:06 AM on November 10 [7 favorites]


I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did

They're not your co-workers anymore. The owner is not your boss. The manager is not your boss.

If people call you, tell them, "I'm sorry; but I don't work there anymore. Please take it up with [manager] or [owner]." You are very, very much not responsible for the future well-being of the company. You were fired. If that makes some people (in addition to you) unhappy, it is out of your hands to fix it.

If you enjoyed working there, decide on a raise that would be reasonable to you - don't accept less than 10% over what you were making - and let them know you'd come back for that. Or that you're available on as at-needed basis, as a consultant, for at least 25% more per hour than you were making before.

If working there was stressful enough that you really don't want to go back, go look for employment elsewhere. Feel free to mention in interviews that, after you left over personal differences with upper management, the team you worked with very much wanted you back.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:12 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


Secondary issue: if you "help them out," and anything goes wrong with payroll, if anything gets filed in the wrong place - you're on the hook for a huge lawsuit. I bet Owner would love for you to be financially responsible for all problems with the company that happened after you were fired.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:15 AM on November 10 [12 favorites]


Well, this is bananas.

We had a situation here where someone got unexpectedly fired leaving the rest of us with a ton of extra work suddenly, at the busiest time in our year. You know who we blamed? Not the person who was fired.

Block their number on your phone, auto-forward their emails to your trash. Don't look back. You owe these people nothing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:26 AM on November 10 [9 favorites]


Yeah, how many days has it been since the owner fired you? ANYTHING you've touched since then could get YOU in big legal trouble. You need to talk to an employment lawyer NOW. You need to be not going into that office, logging into that work email, doing *anything* for that workplace, *especially* payroll or medical records anything oh my god.

Protect yourself. That is the only thing you should be doing. You do not work for free, you especially do not work for free for a place where the person legally in charge laid you off, and you do not work for a place so completely dysfunctional and subject to the whims of somebody that unreliable.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:29 AM on November 10 [8 favorites]


Nthing all of the comments above. If the owner is vindictive enough, she could even have you charged with trespassing. Not to mention all of the legal violations you may be committing by accessing confidential and sensitive information you no longer have access to.

Talk to a lawyer, walk away, and don't look back.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:31 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


I'm 100% in agreement with the "don't do anything more" crowd, but also want to acknowledge and credit your basic kindness and empathy for not wanting to leave your co-workers in a bad spot.

I know it will be very difficult to stop working when you know it will cause trouble for your work friends, and you should be proud of yourself for having a very decent-human-being reaction to all this instead of just saying "Fuck 'em" and walking away in anger at the absentee boss.

My advice to you would not change, but I want to acknowledge the difficulty that you're facing!
posted by mccxxiii at 9:32 AM on November 10 [11 favorites]


Have you considered just starting your own company and then hiring your coworkers as the old company falls apart? Would that be legally feasible? Could you get investors if you need them?
posted by amtho at 9:42 AM on November 10


Now everyone but the owner keeps coming to me for help, what should I do?

You should emphatically decline, but maybe stay in touch with a former co-worker so you can hear how this all turns out. Because the lesson the owner is about to learn about how valuable you really are/were is going to be a heaping helping of some seriously, seriously tasty schadenfreude. I'm talking (mimes chef's kiss) TASTY, like most of us can only dream.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:45 AM on November 10 [12 favorites]


Read Sick Systems and stop turning up.

You were fired. You don't work for her any more. So don't work for her any more. Start your own agency and poach all her staff.
posted by flabdablet at 9:48 AM on November 10 [6 favorites]


The office manager is in the wrong. If he/she needs you, either they can re-hire you, or you can't help. It's really that simple. Either "just do what you're going to do" means re-hire you (and I'd insist on a raise), or it doesn't. If it doesn't, the office manager is out of luck. That sucks, but it's not your problem. And all the being-a-good-person in the world won't change that.

You can't even do the job effectively because your firing led to you having your access cut off to the the tools you would need to do it. You may not even get paid for any time you're putting in now.

You don't have to be bitter or snarky about it. "I'm sorry, I'd love to help, but I can't do it for free" is an answer everyone can understand. Because whether they say they'll pay you or not, if you don't have an employment contract with them right now, you're working for free. And no one will think you're a bad guy for refusing to do that. This is 100% on them.
posted by Mchelly at 9:50 AM on November 10


I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did

Explain to them that you've been advised that as a non-employee, you would be putting yourself in legal jeopardy to continue.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:10 AM on November 10 [6 favorites]


OP, I hope you are threadsitting this. This is more than 50 people telling you the EXACT same thing.

I understand you are feeling bad about your ex-coworkers, but the operative here is the ex- part.

Doing anything involving Payroll or Accounts Payable puts you in serious legal jeopardy.

To paraphrase Nike: DON'T DO IT!!
posted by indianbadger1 at 10:41 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


You might be feeling that the unpaid work you've been going in to do has great value. And you can guess at the consequences to the business of you not doing it.

But at this point the company is valuing your work at precisely $0 per hour. Nothing.

If the company places this $0 value on it, why do it? The company may be making a mistake in valuing that work at $0, but they don't know that yet because you're continuing to show up and do it. You're telling them they're right for valuing that work at $0. Because you're willing to accept that rate to keep doing it!

If you want to be called back to doing your job, don't help them at all. It's better if your departure causes sudden and drastic problems there. If you keep going in, management will start to think, "well if anon is willing to do it for $0, it won't be hard for us to find someone else to do it."

You may find, however, that no one is irreplaceable. I've worked at a couple of places now where I've seen layoffs of great managers and teams of skilled people let go. It happened to me. The product still got out the door. If there was a decline in quality, it wasn't as bad as I expected. People figure out a new process, they make do. It can be tough to watch that happen. Part of why you might be going in there is to be reminded, 'hey, they still need me.' I'm sure the people there enjoy the relationships they have with you, and appreciated the way you did your work. So be friends with the ones who are important to you, look for a new job, or start your own, and move on.
posted by thenormshow at 10:45 AM on November 10 [10 favorites]


When is or was your last day, according to the idiot who fired you? If your last day is in the past then you should not be responding to any requests for help. If your last day is in the future, like the end of the month or whatever, then keep doing your job until that day.
posted by mareli at 11:23 AM on November 10


Oh my god. Do not touch or pay or claim or process ANYTHING. Nothing. Back away. Go talk to a lawyer right now. Whatever you've done since you were fired can be used against you in all sorts of ways, no matter how great your intentions were.

If your ex-employees end up without pay, well, they will demand restitution from the owner. I'm sorry for them but please please please do not put yourself in serious legal jeopardy for this bunch of assholes.
posted by lydhre at 11:40 AM on November 10 [3 favorites]


You cannot do this. You would be misrepresenting yourself as an agent of the company. You just say no. NO NO NO.

Your thinking is backwards because you've been in a toxic dysfunctional environment. None of this is your responsibility and you were FIRED, any employees who think badly of you are stupid. Do not touch anything. Go do anything else. Call a friend and go walk her dog or anything!
posted by warriorqueen at 12:04 PM on November 10 [2 favorites]


The owner needs to feel the damage caused by your absence. Do nothing at all to help these people unless you are re-hired with a raise.
posted by w0mbat at 12:14 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]


If firing you causes the company problems, that won't be the first time that's happened:
The European office couldn't wait, however, so James “used an aggregated on-demand international ISDN connection so the databases could sync as required.” ...

James was escorted from the premises by security and prevented from speaking to his colleagues.

Before he placed an order for broadband.

“Two months later,” James wrote, “I received a call from the horrified IT Director (the IT Manager himself had been made redundant straight after me), to ask if I knew why they faced an ISDN bill for over £100,000.”
Insta-firing means the company is on the hook to deal with any mid-process events going on at the time. Those aren't the ex-employee's problem to fix. The more companies that flounder because of stupid impulse decisions by upper management, the safer all of us will be in our jobs.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:13 PM on November 10 [10 favorites]


the office manager said they don't care what the owner said, and begged me to keep doing what I'd been doing, otherwise it could collapse in literally 2 days.

Accepting that this is true, balance this against the fact that you personally are risking civil liability and possibly criminal charges if you make substantive decisions for your former workplace. With no agreement or contract, anything you do could easily be interpreted as fraud or who knows what else. In a healthcare field in particular, as I'm sure you are very well aware.

Don't let their panic result in the real possibilities for personal destruction as well. this is especially important with chaotic and erratic owners who will be likely looking for people to blame for their chaos. It's really important that you are not a candidate for them to scapegoat.

I would take some time off and think about your next steps. Give your self some time an distance, and maybe consider talking to a lawyer very soon.
posted by bonehead at 1:28 PM on November 10


I would respond to any further reqeusts for help with an email quoting your rates and giving them an invoice.

If they want you that bad, get paid for it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on November 10 [1 favorite]


I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did.

It's a lot better to be thought ill of than to be sued or in jail. You will want to think about your own survival here first.
posted by bonehead at 1:31 PM on November 10 [2 favorites]


I also think my co-workers would think poorly of me if I did.

When, (not if) a lawsuit is filed against you for disbursing a company's funds that you do not work for and are not employed by, will those co-workers/employees defend you in court? Pay your legal fees? Pay your bail? Save your ass in any way when the company wins the case against you because you kept working on its finances when you were no longer an employee?

Of course they won't.

You got fired. Congratulations. This is no longer about your co-workers' feelings. You are not their hero or savior. Their boss screwed up. Which sucks. But that's not on you.

This is now about covering your own behind from the lawsuit that batshit, ungrateful owner will most certainly file against you for acting illegally if you file the company's payroll.

Get to a lawyer. Immediately. Send any passwords and access codes to the ex-manager. Walk away. That is the full extent of your responsibilities right now.

If they want you, tell them they can hire and pay you what your services are worth. But under no circumstances should you be spending a company's money when you're not employed by or contracted with them. That's theft in the eyes of any court, even if you have fantastic intentions.
posted by zarq at 2:06 PM on November 10 [8 favorites]


I asked what the owner thought, and the manager said the owner told her "just do what you're going to do". Then the owner left town.

Also, you did not hear this directly from the owner herself. You have no idea whether this is true or not. If I were the office manager I might justify any lie to save the company that employed me.

The owner owns her company. Cell phones exist. Email exists. If she has truly vanished and is utterly unreachable, saving people from her irresponsibility is no longer your job.
posted by zarq at 2:13 PM on November 10 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's very very illegal to decide where someone else's money goes like that.

It would be, if the manager hadn't asked her to do the work. With that, it's just an issue of the manager re-hiring a recently fired person and not negotiating pay in the middle of an emergency. The real liability is on the manager who bypassed company policy and hiring practices.

Proving in court that that request happened, depends on the media involved - is there an email chain establishing permission to work with the company's finances? Text messages? At least a record of phone calls? Between whatever documentation exists, and the potential of former co-worker testimony, OP is probably not on the hook for millions just for "helping out a friend at work."

But yeah... this is not a good legal situation to be in.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:16 PM on November 10 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a great business opportunity to me. With how many people do you work? If you all walked across the street and started a competing company, how many clients could you take with you, and how long before you were cash positive? MeMail me.
posted by at at 3:50 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]


Do not do any work. Tell them to contact owner to have her hire you on as a consultant at double your previous rate to train everyone in your role.
posted by Toddles at 5:04 PM on November 10


This happened a lot in a non-profit I am familiar with. Managers and directors being actively or passively abusive and counting on employee bonhomie to pick up the slack. It is toxic and dysfunctional. Do not play this game. Because they are in the power position they seem to win either way - "See? This is why I treated that employee like crap. They are selfish and disloyal". That is too bad, but, still, don't play.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:18 PM on November 10 [1 favorite]


The owner cut off your access because you are no longer allowed to do those things. Take the the hint.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:39 PM on November 10 [3 favorites]


If a business can collapse in two days because of the absence of one person that business is very poorly run. I understand that you feel very responsible to your coworkers and the business as a whole. I get that the owner is a jerk. But if you really want to go back and help everyone the only choice is to apologize to the owner. Kiss his/her dumbass, follow their stupid time consuming procedures, feel good about yourself but ultimately hate your job.

Or you could take a trip and not be available. Let them sort it all out. Loosing a job is always hard no matter the circumstances. Take care of yourself.
posted by cairnoflore at 6:56 PM on November 10


bondcliff: "If they need your help after you've been let go then you should charge them a consulting fee for like 6x your salary. "

Billed in full days.
posted by Mitheral at 7:42 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]


Just as a point of reference, I recently left a position at a small company, during their busiest time of year, and I'm irreplaceable enough that they may be restructuring several other roles just so that have a job description that they can hire someone into.

I trained some temporary contractors who will cover some immediate projects, so clearly I'm at least a little replaceable, but the company valued me enough that they're paying me (low) 4 figures a month to answer their phone calls, plus 150% of my previous hourly rate (still as a W-2) for any time I actually spend talking to them on the phone.

And this is a company that can issue payroll, etc, without me. Food for thought :)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:58 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]


Medical billing/claims, payroll, benefits administration, trustee and administrator of retirement accounts receivable/payable, website maintainance, sales and marketing, insurance, HR, you name it, it's my department

I would like to point out that if you were doing everything listed, there is no way that you were doing a really excellent job at all of it.
Also, if the company needs this week's < collectibles to meet this week's payroll, it is in trouble.
They need to redistribute responsibilities so that one person is not killing herself trying to do it all. (I am guessing at the pronoun, just based on the situation.)
This is a turning point for the company. It will sink or swim, but it needs to do it without you.
Sorry if this sounds harsh. You have a lot of skills that you can take to a new place where they will be used properly, not abused. Best of luck.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:11 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


Let the owner come to you when she realizes how well and truly fucked she is. Unless/until that happens, do no free labor. I feel for your coworkers, but only the owner can help them now,
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:07 PM on November 11


If either owner of the company knew anything about properly managing a business they would have waited until payroll had been processed, at the very least, before letting you go. If the remaining employees are not getting paid, that's now the owner's problem, not yours in any form or fashion!

You owe them nothing at this point. If they can't figure out how to run their business without you, it's time they either do it themselves or find someone else to get the job done.

I haven't read through all the replies, but you might be eligible for Unemployment Compensation given that they let you go and immediately wanted you back. It'd at least be worth exploring. But whatever you do, do not do Any More Work for this company! Better things are ahead.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 2:58 PM on November 12


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