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Skip to comments.Advice on Contracting
Posted on 05/12/2005 9:28:04 PM PDT by Lexinom
I would like some advice on my rights as a contractor.
I have been doing contract work based on a verbal contract for the last year for a small company. At the present time, we are completing a project. They have paid me for overtime according to my rate, but have not provided any vacation time. The CEO says they have given me vacation on the basis that one week I was not able to work due to connectivity issues (everyone else was gone) - nonethess I was asked to work, ready to work each day either remotely or on site, and was not able to due to their own network issues. Given the work demanded of me over the last year, I am quite burned out and could really use a break. Instead, I get an earful.
Presently I am on the health plan with a child on the way in the next couple of weeks. This is the main reason for staying. I am not easily replacable - the company is small, and the type of work is not something anybody could jump in and do. Therefore I am not too worried about termination (they would in effect be terminating themselves as the work would not get done for many months it would take to train). Still, if the unprofessional conduct reaches the point where I must leave on my own, could I get Cobra or some other plan that would kick in right away? Baby is due early June.
I would appreciate if you have a similar story to share, and of course any advice...
The only right I am aware of that you have as a contractor is the right to fix anything in my home that you built for the next 30 years free of charge.
Stick it out my friend, you don't have a written contract, and that leaves you wide open. I've owned my own business for 17 years and I have taken three whole weeks of vacation since 1988. Hang in there my friend, your family comes first, and once you are in a less vulnerable position, negotiate a written contract during a period where they need you the most
LOL, You're brutal :-)
As Doug Sahm opined.. Whoa yeah what I say?? (She's About a Mover. You seem to have a lot of expectations for a contract worker with a spit and a handshake there sweet pea.
Thanks for your kind words.
Maybe so. In which case I should move on. I don't expect to have much difficulty finding a suitable position elsewhere, but felt pity for this small outfit.
All business owners buckle to highly valued employee's, mainly because they're few and far between
They have paid me for overtime according to my rate, but have not provided any vacation time. The CEO says they have given me vacation on the basis that one week I was not able to work due to connectivity issues (everyone else was gone) - nonetheless I was asked to work, ready to work each day either remotely or on site, and was not able to due to their own network issues. Given the work demanded of me over the last year, I am quite burned out and could really use a break. Instead, I get an earful. Presently I am on the health plan with a child on the way in the next couple of weeks. This is the main reason for staying. I am not easily replaceable
Okay irreplaceable, let me take a minute and dry my eyes and place a tissue to my nose. My recommendation is for you to tell this ungrateful bunch of bas**ds to go pound sand and put your irreplaceable skills out for bid with a more generous and truly appreciative company. Geez you have been more than generous with your superb(and dare I say not easily replaced)skills that clearly were a godsend to this bunch of ingrates. Hey it's a rough world out there sweet pea but hey if I were you I'd leave them in the dust of their incompetence and your glory.
I've been doing contracts and consulting for quite a while, so don't take this the wrong way.
You're not a contractor, you're an employee. Or at best, a consultant. You have no rights.
To be a "contractor" requires that you have a written contract, stating all terms that both parties will agree to. That's the first thing you did wrong. Verbal contracts are supposed to be binding; however, good luck getting one enforced.
The second thing you did wrong was not getting your supervisor or manager that you work under to state that the week of lost time (due to circumstances that were someone else's responsibility) were not your fault and that it should not be counted as vacation time because the entire department was sent home, etc., etc. Never, ever, ever, trust an employer to *not* screw you out of vacation or sick time, even if you aren't a contractor. If you're getting the impression that all important communication and documentation needs to be in some recorded format, you're getting the idea. Especially documentation of time spent - that's invaluable when dealing with contract disputes.
Unless you are carried on the books of the company as an employee (I bet you're not), you can't get COBRA. You should look into your own health insurance for now and for next time around - it's not as expensive as one would think. When you negotiate your next contract, make the client pay for your insurance as a separate rider or by settling for an amount adequate to pay for it in addition to what you see as your "normal" rate.
After the child comes and you've taken care of immediate expeditures through their insurance, (assuming you're still there and you've lined up your own insurance), it will have been at least a year, from what you are telling us. I'd say that it's time to renegotiate your contract, this time with one in writing. It is the industry standard for contracts to run 3, 6, or 12 months (at least around here), so it is not unusual to renegotiate when the contract period is up. If they don't want to play, walk. If you are as indispensable as you say, they'll be calling you back and offering to pay you *anything* if you'll come back and fix whatever. That's when you trot out a written contract and nail them for an obscene rate for a six month term (that starts with a vacation in the first month). Don't count on them renewing you after that six months, but you'll make enough money that it'll be worth it.
I've been there, I've done that (except for the child part) and I've got the scars AND the stupid T-shirt.
Having said all that, my only real problem is with the CEO (whom no one else likes either and who has little clue what the company actually does, and how customers use the product and why). I have good relationships and a genuine concern for the welfare of the others there. I've made a conscious effort to steer clear of the CEO at all times. This person does not have a high-school diploma and has serious insecurity issues.
That's great advice. This post goes into my permanent bookmarks. Thank you, it is appreciated.
A couple things I should add here before you go to renegotiate your "contract".
First; look around on the internet or consult a contract lawyer to get a good solid contract drawn up; I recommend the latter. A standard contract is easily modified and even if you have to get a lawyer to write up a generic contract for you it's worth the expenditure. Once you do that, have three made up; the first with your adjusted rate (for the insurance plus cost of living adjustment) plus a stipulation of your vacation, etc. The second should be at four or five times your normal rate, perhaps more - this is for use if they don't sign the first one, because if you need this one you'll need it in a hurry. This is the "screw 'em" contract - put in whatever you think you can get away with in terms of vacation, work week length, whatever. Don't make it *too* outrageous; demanding the CEO's desk for your own might be a sticking point, for example. You will also want another fill-in-the-blank-type one (this would be an extra copy of your "standard generic" contract you created or had a lawyer create) if they don't agree to your first contract but are willing to negotiate. It is exceedingly unlikely that you will have to use this; see the next item.
Second; the CEO is not likely to want to sign the contract when you present it. In fact, he's liable to order you removed from the building by security in a fit of pique. You will then be barred from the building and your possessions "will be shipped to you". Plan ahead; two or three weeks before you plan to present the CEO with your new contract, start clearing out your office and taking everything home. Don't be too obvious about it, take a little at a time (but only those things that are yours or that you could legally possess at home for remote work). Have all the important papers and personal objects out of your office before the day you set for the confrontation. Do not leave anything behind that you care about or that could be used to reverse engineer your position; your office *will* be searched. If not by the CEO, then by someone at his behest, and they *will* trash the place. Been there, done that, been the guy searching the office, too. Most people don't realize what will happen when they confront a CEO, so they leave all their documentation behind and make it easy for someone else to come in and pick up all the pieces.
Third, while waiting for the company to call you back in a panic, look for other work. Actually, look for other work now. However, always be close to your attache case, your cell phone, and a change of clothes (business attire). When they call you, they're going to be desperate, and they will usually sign just about anything you put in front of them if you can get there fast enough and don't give them time to think about it. If you receive an offer in the meantime and they get out of their panic long enough to balk at your new terms, just say that you've had another offer and that this new contract is the minimum necessary compensation for you to turn the other party down. They will have no choice but to sign, essentially.
Fourth, don't *ever* feel sorry for a client to the point where it interferes with your professional and business judgement. That is the *fastest* way to lose money in this business. Empathize with the client, but don't get too attached to them, and always (politely) demand that the client live up to their end of the contract. Likewise, live up to your end of the bargain and don't expect any client to feel sorry for you. They won't anyway, and many clients will use emotional manipulation to try to make you do things you wouldn't otherwise do. If you can't do that, get out of the contracting business because you'll burn out fast and be of no use to anyone, least of all your family or yourself.
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