Friend scammed by boss, what to do?

My friend is going to be on a discovery TV show fixing old cars. He was told he will be making x dollars per week, for 5 weeks. An hour after he told me the good news, he told me that his boss is saying that he wants half of his pay because he argued for him to be on the show rather than the shows original mechanics.

He is doing this to 4-5 mechanics.

This is clearly wrong, and although the cheques are being written out to my friend and not his boss, I don’t want him to burn bridges by not giving the money. Right now my friend is saying that he is basically going to let his boss take the money.

How can we approach something like this? I am baffled and pretty angry that he has to even be put in this position.

We are in Canada, if it matters.

First thing I would do, if I were your friend, is contact the show’s producers and find out how much work the boss did, and as a side note let them know what he is pulling and with all the other mechanics too. And ask them if the press is supposed to know about this too…

Get some little digs in to them like asking if they plan to issue a T4 to the boss as well for the money paid. Heck, higher income tax brackets in most provinces are about 42%; so your friend may end up netting close to diddly squat after taxes.

If he doesn’t want to do it, there’s nothing to stop you from calling the show’s producers and offering to call the press.

Maybe then the show will clue in the boss about what not to do to employees.

If not, he has a decision. He can either knuckle under (and keep his job) or tell his boss where to shove it.

If he does pay, there’s always the CRA tip line. Once it’s past tax filing time, call them and report how much each of you paid to the guy and that he insisted it be “under the table” or you lose your job. Hopefully, he’ll pay the tax man double. Oh, and claim the “commission” paid to his bos as an expense deduction from his income on his personal return to avoid taxes on it. (Hopefully, pay boss with cheque - paper trail).

My first thought is that this may be a bridge worth burning, but of course that’s not for me to decide.

Other thoughts:

Obviously, this is the sort of thing that should be agreed upon beforehand.

Your friend may not have been willing to accept the job for the reduced amount.

Half is ridiculous. Professional agents and headhunters get what, 10-20%?

All of the mechanics should get together and agree to a unified course of action.

Some government labor agency may take a dim view of this.

Some public news medium may find this to be newsworthy.

The boss’s boss or parent company, if there is one, might take an interest.

Regardless of the outcome, finding another place to work sounds like a good idea. Who knows what kind of shenanigans this boss will try next?

What you are describing would be called a “wage kickback” in the United States. Probably with some Google searches you can find out if it’s legal where you are. And if it’s illegal, what agency you can report it to. Then call them for advice.

Your friend should also try to discretely document what is happening so that the boss cannot deny it later if it turns out he broke the law.

Fuck that - you have to have some backbone sometimes or this kind of shit will happen to you left and right. He has no right to that money if it wasn’t a pre-negotiated deal. Tell your friend to be a man and tell his boss to suck it.

Well, if your friend is willing to just give his boss money whenever the boss wants it, I’m not sure anyone can help him. Could you give me your friend’s name and address to I can randomly demand money from him?

My advice to your friend is (in no particular order)
Start looking for a job where the boss isn’t an extortionist.
Try and get their boss to put something in writing – casually e-mail them asking something about it (i.e. play dumb and ask in writing, ‘So do you want me to sign the check over to you, or cash the check and then give you half of it as a referral fee?’) If e-mail is a no go, try texting.
Innocently ask the TV company (again, via e-mail not phone) if this referral fee is standard practice.
Politely tell the boss (again in writing as much as possible) that no, he’s keeping the money, thanks. See you at my next shift.
Contact a labor lawyer about how to keep documenting things so there he’s got a case if the boss fires him.

Why on earth would he agree to this? The only bridge being burned in this case is the “I’m a sucker and please take advantage of me” bridge.

If he’s going to roll over I’d at least demand a written contract explaining why he’s giving up his pay and to whom. I bet he balks.

On the first day of shooting, the mechanics should tell the producers that their boss has demanded a 50% fee as a booking agent and let them handle him. Trust me, they will handle him as in hand him his ass. You need to be licensed in order to get a booking fee.

That’s what I was thinking. Maybe I’m wrong but after being ‘that mechanic from TV’ he might be in higher demand. Maybe he won’t have such a hard time finding a job. Maybe after the show airs it would be a good time to tell the boss that he’s had some other job offers come in and not only is he not going to give him half the money but he’d like a raise.

I’d probably be all passive aggressive about it. “Hey, my boss said your supposed to split our checks. He said that he gets half of it because he got us these jobs” Hopefully the producer will know enough to say “Um, know” OTOH, the producer might also be way to busy to deal with this piddly crap and say ‘talk to payroll, they’ll divy it up however you want.’

Is the answer to this question not fairly obvious?

It is because he wants to remain employed in a difficult job market.

There are a few things going on:

He is still an apprentice, nearing the end of his hours to become a full mechanic. Im not sure how easy it would be for him to get another job.

He didn’t “agree” to the deal, he was told it was happening after the fact and that his boss would discuss it more later. Almost a month of talk about the show and after everything was finalized it was kind of thrown in his face with no notice or hints from his boss.

He gets good hours at the place and it is a convenient location, but I am with you guys in thinking it is a bridge worth burning.

Turning the whole show down isn’t really an option, because we are both under the assumption that it will benefit his career in some way in the future.

I have a feeling that any discussions with the crew or director will burn bridges with the boss, and that he needs to discuss it with the boss directly. Personally I think he needs to find a way to show his boss how ridiculous he is being, and if all else fails and he is going to give the money, Ill have him bargain a deal on the basis of 50% commission is way too high.

So given that information, do you guys have any ideas of how he could approach his boss directly about it? Also, do you know of any other ways he could use the same “reasoning” his boss applied to the TV show to his daily life in the shop to make his point even more clear?

I dunno, but did you consider that the details you’ve given here in this public forum are enough to identify the show and the boss in question? The cat might already be out of the bag, and the bridge already burnt.

But whose bridge? If it is indeed a crime or violation of contract, the best move for the boss at this point may be to not follow through with his demands, lest he be sealing his fate.

Have your friend tell the boss that his accountant asked for an invoice

If the checks are going to be made out to your friend, then he should say nothing else to his boss, continue to go to work and collect his paychecks and his checks from the show until the shooting is over, then not give any money to his boss. If boss wants the money and brings it up again after your friend has collected, tell him no. It’s not his money, he has no rights to it and he’s not getting any period. The worst he can do is get fired. It’s probably the best he can do as well. Mechanics (good ones anyway) can always find work - either with a shop or as a shade-tree. After the show airs, provided your friend is edited in a good light, he’ll be able to put that on his resume.

Friends don’t let Friends appear on the Discovery Channel. :smiley:

50% is way to high. between 10 and 20% would be reasonable but even that should be discussed ahead of time. Otherwise it’s coercion. This may be an opportunity that will lead to something else or won’t come up again so he has to decide if if worth getting screwed this one time to have the experience. Is half pay still more than he usually makes. Is the place he works also benifiting from the show? He might consider going over his bosses head to report that kind of coercion if the others will stand with him.

Tell your friend to stall. “Sure, boss, as soon as I get the cheque from the production company.” “All the other mechanics got theirs weeks ago.” “I don’t know what happened, then. Can you call them for me?” Obviously this isn’t a boss he wants to stay with for years anyway, and since he won’t be paid until after the show is done taping, this should still buy him enough time to finish the apprenticeship and find a better job.

  1. starting place would be labour standards. they are a provincial agency designed to protect workers.

  2. it may also be worth talking to Canada Revenue Agency. if the production agency pays the full amount to your friend, then his T4 will be for the full amount. if h then pays half to the boss, he’s not only getting ripped off, he’s going to be paying the boss’ taxes on that amount next spring.

  3. try talking to the other mechanics. if they all file the same complaint with labour standards, there’s strength in numbers.

Not meant as legal advice, of course - simply pointing out government agencies which may be of assistance.

I would wait until taping has begun to do anything. The easiest answer for the producers at this point is just to cut him from the show. Wait until the second or third show is being taped and then address it with the producers. They have lawyers for this, and from the sound of it, your friend can’t really afford one.