help me with my job drama.
March 8, 2012 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Jobfilter: I recently got a second job serving a similar product to my first. My boss is strong-arming me into quitting and I need to know where I stand.

I work three days a week running the farmers market operations for a small bakery. The bakery creates bread and baked goods, which I sell at the market. They also serve, among other things, coffee, but the coffee is terrible. For simplicity sake, let's call this Job A.

I recently got a second job at a "third wave" coffee shop in the same town, serving high quality beans/milk, using high end equipment, extensive training, etc. Let's call this Job B.

Before I went in for my interview, I cleared it with the manager at Job A, aware that it might constitute a conflict of interest. She assured me there was no conflict, so I went in to the interview and was subsequently hired.

When the owner of Job A who is rarely present and minimally invested in the day to day operation found out, he heavily criticized the upstart coffee shop and told me that he could get me a job at a much more respected coffee shop nearby and that I should quit Job B within 2 weeks.

He called me this morning, following our conversation and advising me how to quit my new job (without even working a shift) to get a better one.

I'm afraid that if I don't quit job B, I will be demoted or fired from job A, even though I had managerial approval and to my knowledge, never signed a contract with a conflict of interest clause.

Let me know what my rights are, metafilter.
posted by punch_the_mayor to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Assuming you're in california, Owner A is well within his rights to fire you for any reason or no reason at all.
posted by Oktober at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure there's much question here - your employment is at-will in California unless explicitly deemed otherwise in a contract, so your employer at job A doesn't really need much of a reason to fire you. Also, as a practical matter, doing anything about such a firing would likely require going to court, which may get you negligible gain.

I'm confused why you think your employer would want to fire you. Nothing you've said indicates anything other than your job A employer thinking that there is a better coffee shop for you to work at.
posted by saeculorum at 1:16 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Explain that you need the cash. Tell the owner of Job A that you'll happily not work at Job B once he's helped you secure a job at the "superior" coffee shop, but it needs to be a sure thing before you quit Job B.
posted by ldthomps at 1:18 PM on March 8, 2012 [23 favorites]

I think deflection is the answer in this situation. If you don't want to quit at job B, don't. Just tell them you're "thinking about it" if they bring it back up. Repeat as necessary.
posted by zug at 1:18 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is so strange. So, have you had an offer from this much more respected other coffee shop the owner wants you to work at?

If not, I just don't think I'd quit Job B. It seems like there's some hidden personal issue or connection here that is bugging the owner, because honestly, otherwise why would he care which coffee shop you work your other job in?

How about yet another idea: what about writing up a business plan for Bakery A that involves them getting much more serious about coffee and establishing a stronger line in that department, since you seem to have knowledge of it? Maybe it's really not the right kind of place, but I wonder if you couldn't essentially become the merchandising manager for coffee products and enhance that aspect of the business.
posted by Miko at 1:18 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Without knowing where you are, and what employment laws cover you, it's hard to say. I'm not a lawyer, but in my understanding, if you're in the US and you don't have a signed contract (and often if you do, too), you're an at will employee and can be fired for anything that is not explicitly prohibited by law (race, ethnicity, sex, religious beliefs, and depending on jurisdiction, sexual orientation).

That said, you've got your manager on your side, and, *if* the owner wants to fire you, perhaps she could point out to the owner that (a) he is being an idiot and (b) he is risking losing a good employee (presuming you are one) over a trivial matter. It's not as if you're full-time; the owner should realize that you might need another job to make ends meet.

Why do you think the owner is taking this interest in your employment when you're not punched in on his time clock?
posted by brianogilvie at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2012

How about yet another idea: what about writing up a business plan for Bakery A that involves them getting much more serious about coffee and establishing a stronger line in that department, since you seem to have knowledge of it? Maybe it's really not the right kind of place, but I wonder if you couldn't essentially become the merchandising manager for coffee products and enhance that aspect of the business.

Yeah, this.

For all you know, the owner at Job A knows that his coffee sucks, and might very well wish he could do something about it. Seeing you go off to work at his competitor (whom he knows to sell the kind of coffee he only wishes he could sell) pisses him off.

You catch more flies with honey ...
posted by John Borrowman at 1:23 PM on March 8, 2012

Doesn't sound like the owner of Job A wants to fire or demote you. He just sounds pushy. It sounds like he thinks he knows better than you and is a steamroller type who thinks he's helping you out.

Question: The coffee shop he's talking about. Would you even want to work there? If so, tell him when there's a job offer that pays more than Job B, you'll give notice to Job B.

If you're not interested in the Respectable Coffee Shop, tell him that you need the money, the hours won't conflict with Job A, and you "appreciate that he's trying to help" but you're all set.
posted by vivzan at 1:28 PM on March 8, 2012

As others have said, you really don't have any rights, most likely. As I see it you have several options, that vary depending on how much you like jobs A, B and C (the other coffee shop).

1. Call his bluff. Brush off his demands as best you can and continue working both jobs. You may get fired from Job A, but Job B is stable, and if you remain a good worker at Job A and brush him off long enough, he will probably let it slide eventually.
2. Ask him for a raise or more hours to compensate for quitting Job B. Not a great option if you are not thrilled with Job A.
3. Tell him you will be happy to quit Job B once you have Job C lined up, but not before then. Assuming he agrees to this, ask him to do whatever he can to help you secure Job C. This option has the advantage that, if he is not particularly motivated to help you, you can keep the status quo with plausible deniability -- "I really tried to get that job at C, boss, but they don't seem interested in me. I'll let you know if I hear from them again."
posted by Rock Steady at 1:29 PM on March 8, 2012

not like you need to be reminded, but you screwed up when you cleared job b with job a. it's none of their business what you do when you're not there. it's not like you work at los alamos and you've started working for the chinese government on your days off.

boss a is totally, completely out of line trying to "help" you by demanding you quit a job that's none of his business. unfortunately you have no rights in this situation, so you're just going to have to ride it out. if you want to work at job b, you may end up having to quit job a. i think the best thing for you over the long haul would be to stick up for yourself with boss a and tell him (politely) to butt out. you'll feel proud of yourself later, and you probably won't mind losing a job with such pushy people.
posted by facetious at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Have you thought about discussing the situation with the Job A manager who gave you permission to interview at Job B? Can she talk to the owner and get him to back off a bit, seeing as she told you it was okay? The owner may be able to fire you, but he can't make you quit your other job. In fact, if you feel Job A is threatened then that's even more reason to stand your ground with regards to Job B, to protect your income.

But honestly, other than the fact that you both sell coffee, I really don't see why this is a conflict of interest or any of their concern at all. It's not like you'll be promoting Job B coffee at Job A bakery, right? How you supplement your income is your business, and if they don't like it they can give you more hours or a raise (if that's what it would take to get you to be exclusive).
posted by sundaydriver at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2012

I would start by asking your manager if she knows why owner wants you to quit job B. I don't know what the relationship between manager and owner is like, but you could just play it as genuinely confused. "Why does owner want me to quit my other job without having something else lined up? I need the money, I love both jobs, what's going on?". If your manager doesn't know, then I would ask the owner. Be straight up and ask him what the deal is.

He has a grudge against the coffee shop you work at in job B
He is worried you will transition to full time or managerial position at job B and quit his job
He is crazy control freak who doesn't want you to have any other job
He thinks the other coffee shop is an awesome place and he wants you to work there because he just knows you will love it!
He is worried you will badmouth his crappy coffee to your customers at either job, so he wants you to work somewhere with mediocre coffee.
He views coffeeshop from job B as a genuine threat to his business (do they sell pastries?), and views it is a conflict of interest, even if your manager doesn't.

You don't say how you feel about job B, and the other coffee shop, or your owner, manager, or their relationship.
posted by Joh at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

So wait, the owner isn't upset that you're working at a competing coffee shop even though he sells (crummy) coffee ... he just wants you to work at a different competing coffee shop? Competing coffee is either a conflict or it isn't. There must be something else going on between & among the owners of these various small businesses.

I would reassure Owner A that job B won't have any effect on your work at job A, repeat the reassurance as needed but otherwise deflect further discussions about it.

And next time don't clear a second part-time job with your first part-time job. As a variation of "it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission," it's easier to justify something you've been doing successfully for a while, than to seek approval to do it in the first place.
posted by headnsouth at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2012

Before I went in for my interview, I cleared it with the manager at Job A, aware that it might constitute a conflict of interest. She assured me there was no conflict, so I went in to the interview and was subsequently hired.

You basically invited management at your current job to weigh in about your other employment, and they did. Unless you signed a conflict-of-interest clause, this was never their business. Yes, they can fire you if they so desire.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:20 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Could you just rent the stall yourself and sell whoever's whatever you want?
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on March 8, 2012

I'm of a mind that one doesn't give in to bosses who pressure you about how you spend your non-work time. Where you are working when you're not working for him is none of his business. Tell him "no." Just "no." You can tell him "if you want to increase my hours here, make me an offer and I will consider it."

Don't let this nutty person manage your life for you.
posted by jayder at 2:53 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Let him know you appreciate his willingness to find you an opportunity at this other coffee shop, and that while you appreciate his counsel, you have to consider your own financial position -- and so you'd like to see the potential offer from this coffee shop before considering any actions.
posted by davejay at 3:12 PM on March 8, 2012

I'm still trying to wrap my head around what makes one coffee place 'more respectable' than another.
posted by incessant at 3:29 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

As others have said, if you're in California --- an at-will state --- the owner of Shop A can fire you for any or NO reason. It doesn't matter if he's being pushy or, as jayder says, your time outside of his shop is none of his business.... but not sure what to suggest you do now, other than leave one of those jobs for something else.

Generally, in the future (and I say this as someone who has successfully held two or three jobs at a time for most of the last 30 years): don't have two SIMILAR jobs at the same time --- if one job is a retail food establishment, like Shop A, get a job at a gas station, sell shoes, wait tables in a restaurant, ANYTHING but Shop B or its clones. Both bosses will be happier with you if they know there's no overlap between your jobs.
posted by easily confused at 4:54 PM on March 8, 2012

Does the owner of Job A perhaps have an interest in the 'respected' coffee shop? If so, he may see Job B as a direct conflict with his interests.
posted by dg at 5:32 PM on March 8, 2012

Remember you an always get another job. Don't let him have power over you. Also don't write up a business plan for him. You might suggest the idea of coffee at the bakery, but the business plan is his responsibility. If you are going to write a business plan do it to open your own bakery / cafe.
posted by humanfont at 6:14 PM on March 8, 2012

I don't read this as him strong-arming you into quitting or threatening to fire you if you don't. I don't think "rights" are the answer here; I think having some more clear communications with Job A is the answer.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:23 PM on March 8, 2012

Response by poster: I suppose I should clarify. Job A is not a serious coffee shop. It's strengths are baked goods, which I sell at the farmers market. I am not directly involved with counter service in the store.

I went in for my first shift at Job B today and I love it. I am looking forward to working there. As much as there are more prestigious places with more room for advancement and better pay, I would be starting out at the bottom and would have to work my way up. Right now, I am a valuable member of a vibrant team and that is a welcome alternative to doing everything by myself.

Additionally, and I apologize if I didn't properly convey this, boss A has given off an air of ill will and for lack of a better word, harassment, throughout our conversations on this. Usually any problems I have are handled by lower level managers and while we have a friendly working relationship, there are very few things we regularly deal with directly.

And Job A's coffee sucks, will always suck and even if it got better, 90% of the customer base would complain about higher prices and longer wait times. Guess it just comes down to the difference between established businesses operating in a cushy, static niche and upcoming businesses trying to do something new.

I can't pay my bills without my first job so it will have to take precedence, which is what worries me.
posted by punch_the_mayor at 7:37 PM on March 8, 2012

Okaaaayyyy.... how about this: hold onto both A and B for the time being, but look around for a job to replace A? That one sounds like it's not a very good situation even if it was your ONLY job. (Since we're heading into spring, maybe somebody at the farmer's market is hiring!)
posted by easily confused at 2:47 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Tell boss at Job A you'd like to get the job at the other coffee shop (Job C), but due to these rough financial times you'd want it to be secure before you quit Job B.

Get Job C.

Quit Job A.

Work Job B & C.
posted by mikepop at 5:30 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

« Older Quick! Eastside quiet whiskey bar.   |   Because I can't just photoshop the thing in real... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.