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AdviceHey, Bonita!

My Friends Hired Me, and Now They Owe Me Money

At the beginning of the year, I worked for my friend’s small business. I don’t want to be too specific because I worry that it might give things away. It’s a cottage industry-type deal that my friend runs mainly by themselves and with their spouse. 

Working for them was not easy, and we actually had a good bit of conflict. My friend turned out to be a workaholic who seemed to resent me when I would do things like go out on the weekends or on my days off. They would make snide comments about the probability of me drinking and how that would affect my work. After they yelled at me while we were working, I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to keep working for them, so I quit. I hate that I had to do that, especially after only a few weeks, knowing how much they need help with their business.  

I’m writing to you because my friend still hasn’t paid me for my work. I provided them with all the paperwork needed to pay me, and it’s been almost two months. I contacted them two weeks after my paycheck should have come in the mail, and they said that they were just really busy but would print my paycheck and send it out ASAP. That was six weeks ago. I sent a reminder email to them last week, and they never responded. What should I do? This is a close, old friendwell, they used to beand I would hate to create any problems for them as a business because I want them to succeed. I also feel like I am now being treated unfairly, with my paycheck being held out of spite, because I left the job after a few weeks due to the conflict.

Regretful Friend-ployee

Hey Friend,

There’s a lot going on here that begs questions. You said that this person is (or was) a “close, old friend,” but you seem surprised by their brusque management style and workaholism. You even seem taken aback by their snide comments on your lifestyle and the fact that they yell at their employees. I suspect that this person wasn’t really that close of a friend if you hadn’t ever picked up on these blaring personality flaws and employer red flags. That’s no fault of yours, though, as it’s clear to me that your relationship with this person was purely friendly before you started working for them. It’s my opinion that friendship doesn’t take well to the inherent power imbalance of the worker-boss relationship, and I have found that friendships require us to respect someone’s personhood more than the worker-boss dichotomy does. Bosses are really good at smiling in a worker’s face, but at the end of the day, workers are also an item in labor and payroll budgets that are constantly trying to be slimmed down. This person sounds like they’re way nicer to their friends than they are to their workers, and I’m really sorry that you had to experience that kind of inconsistency firsthand. 

Two weeks’ worth of pay from someone’s cottage business probably isn’t enough to take to small claims court, plus you said that you don’t wanna create problems for them. I think you should reach out to them again and be confident in letting them know that they owe you money.  There’s no need to give a sob story or talk about how shitty they are for withholding your pay—they know they’re awful for this, believe me. I also suspect that they’re doing this out of spite, just like you do, and if that’s the truth, then I’d say that you don’t owe them any favors. 

Honestly, after months of waiting on this pay from them, I think it’s fair to assume shadiness on their part. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor looks like your only option for recompense in the state of Georgia. File a complaint there, or just chalk this one up to the game. You can’t force these people to pay you, but maybe the government can. 

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