I have a friend, a really good friend whose father got remarried and they moved to the stepmother’s house. My friend, recently turned 18 or 19 at the time, was told to expect to pay room and board. A set price was never agreed on, or truly determined. They own a paper route, where they get up in the morning, drive to a predetermined place and pick up the stacks of papers which they deliver to businesses and other places. She was put on the payroll, and told she would be getting somewhere around 20-25 dollars out of the paycheck and that the rest would go to room and board. She agreed.

Recently she has gotten herself a part time job, but still does her Saturday on the route. Not only do they not pay her for that day, at all, they also make her do some of their days during the week, and refuse to give her any money then either. They then complain that she owes them money. Is any of this fair, or legal, and is there anything she can do about it? She would quit the job, seeing as she is on the actual payroll, just not receiving the check (they pick it up, she never even sees it) but they have threatened to kick her out before. The ones who handle the finances for the paper route are actually her new step-grandparents. Can they get in trouble for this as well?

She is trying to save up money to move out, but when they constantly say she owes money that isn’t going quite as planned.

This is more of a question for Dear Abby than it is for me, but because I’m always sure I could do a better job than Dear Abby, I thought I’d answer it.

Yes, her father and her step mother are being jerks. Yes, there are things she can do. Yes, she should move out. Is her mother in the picture? Perhaps she could help.

Let’s talk about money, first, though.

You say that they put her on “payroll” and that the father/step-mother pick up the pay checks. I highly doubt that she is on a payroll of any type. Most newspaper delivery jobs are done by independent contractors. (Or at least they are in my experience.) This means that the newspaper company essentially sells you the papers and you get to keep whatever money you collect on top of your costs. Things have become more centralized over the years, with the newspapers doing the billing rather than having the paper boy go door to door collecting.

My guess is that her step-grandparents are the ones with the contract with the newspaper and everything else is under the table. If she was an employee, she would have been provided with a W2 by January 31 so that she could file her taxes. If she was an independent contractor, she would have been provided with (most likely) a 1099 for the same purposes.

I doubt she received any such thing. Which means that no one, not even the US government, considers her an employee.

Now, could she call the Department of Labor? Yes. Could she file a complaint that her paycheck is being held from her? Yes. But, will this solve any of her real problems? No! It will make them worse. Because, she still won’t have anywhere to go and now her father and step-mother will be angry at her. Yeah! And then they’ll kick her out.

This is one of those situations where (assuming all facts in evidence are, in fact, facts) she needs to stop this silly part time job thing and get a full time job. I know, I know, easier said than done. Then get 2 part time jobs. Or 3. As long as these are legal jobs, it doesn’t matter what they are. Clean toilets. Work fast food. Clean toilets at fast food restaurants. And get out of the house.

Move in with friends. Have roommates. Live in someone else’s basement apartment. Rent a room in a house. Whatever it takes.

It stinks, but this isn’t a question about employment rules (although there are violations all over the place), but about becoming an adult. It’s not fair (although, I’ll totally agree that rent should be paid by the over 18 year old set that still lives at home, unless they are full time students, and even then I’m in favor of part time jobs).

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10 thoughts on “Moving Out

  1. Until she can get her finances figured out, she needs to ask, exactly what room and board are — and get it in writing. She also needs to know, as of that day — what she "owes" them. She probably shouldn't argue with any of that… Part of their written agreement should also include the provision that any extra "charges" need to be agreed to in writing…

    Once they tell her the figure, she should also formally resign from the "company", and pay every month's room and board by check — so she has a paper trail.

    These are the kinds of people who will bring her to People's Court…

  2. Great question Greggen. Also this seems like a hard situation to get out of. I think she should try to involve her mother, but it seems she would probably be with her mother if she presented a better situation.

  3. Great point Inside, I was thinking a major problem with the situation was that she didn't have anything in writing. It's hard to prove anything without documentation. I definitely agree seeking full-time employment and getting out of that environment is the best way to go. Sometimes stepping away from a job is the best policy, especially if your employer (relative or not) keeps changing the rules of the agreement.

  4. Determine the rent.
    Determine the pay per day for the papers.
    Then you can see how much (if anything) that is owed.
    But still probably needs to move out sooner rather than later because at 19 it is time to grow up and got a job or goto school.

  5. Quite the interesting post. You must determine the conditions of the rent. It sounds like a pretty sketchy situation.

  6. Maybe I missed it, but does she have anything in writing? There's a lot of issues to address and she can better represent herself if she had something in writing stating she was employed by her in-laws, etc. If she does, take them to court. If nothing else I'm sure she has a case #1 they cannot garnish her whole pay check.

  7. I will venture to guess this young woman is not experienced enough to negotiate with her family on what rent should be. The dynamics she is facing is wrought with emotion and history; my hunch is there is no desire to come up with or even agree on rent.

    My advice – do not upset the apple cart and plan the escape fast – there were a lot of good suggestions on how to do that above. Chalk it up to a great life lesson.

  8. Getting out and into a temporary place for 6 months would provide some breathing room. Staying is clearly impossible. If her mother is not capable, perhaps a trusted adult (teacher, counselor, friend's parent, aunt or uncle) can provide some help. Get out ASAP!

  9. So some of you want her to get agreements in writing and negotiate and formally resign and make a paper trail and determine actual rent and calculate pay…

    Golly gee, that sounds awfully responsible and adult and keen. (And swell, too.) But what would be the possible upside? I'm with EHRL and Lynn, this is all being done under the table by shady jerks, and the answer is to get outta Dodge. Fast.

    Is she going to file suit? Make a formal to complaint to Agency X or Y? Does she sound capable of sicking the IRS on them for spite? Would she likely recover any money at all from a family with a PAPER ROUTE? No on all counts.

    "Get it in writing." Uh huh. Sheesh.

    And EHRL, you're far more capable than Dear Abby (and LOTS less mawkish). Attagirl.

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