In April, I signed a contract-to-hire agreement with a company I’ll call LF - my first real contracting gig, since most of what I'd done since graduation was smaller projects (i.e., setting up websites for local businesses, family members, friends, etc). There was no contract length specified - I received verbal reassuring that I'd be brought on full-time 'soon'.
After two weeks or so, the company LF verbally changed the contracting rate for certain projects. I was to be paid $A/hr for external client work. I was to be paid $B/hr (half of $A) for 'learning/training' hours - tutorials and development on proprietary software/projects. The company framed this as an ‘investment’ in my education and helping me become more valuable. At the time, I was unsure if it was all right for them to do either of these things – change my contracting rate, and cherrypick which rate they would pay for certain projects.
After three months they started running out of work for me. I had a vague internal project to work on, with no guidelines or specs. Every meeting I asked to have in order to formulate scope and specs turned into arguing between the CEO & CTO (both senior devs as well – small company) about how they bill clients and not getting paid for work (overcharging clients and delivering poor quality product contributes to that). This was another clue of a dysfunctional workplace for me.
After six months, they ran out of work for me, and that internal project was the only thing I had on my plate. I was trying to build a webapp for internal time tracking (in intial meetings, they literally brought up Harvest on their computers and pretty much said ‘build this’) using 1 programming language I know well, to connect to a database system I know nothing about (FileMaker – apparently it’s still a thing).
In late October, they told me to stop working on projects and look for other sources of income. Yet again, the ‘investment’ in me was brought up as I was told consolingly that they ‘had every intention of bringing [me] on full time’ at the company, they just had to get more business coming in first. They have used this ‘investment’ as a club with which to beat me into submission when I submitted my second-to-last invoice and went through the details about work performed and deemed random hours as outside of what was in my contract, and wouldn’t be paid.
I submitted my final invoice and accepted a full-time job elsewhere (at a company that actually invests in my career with great mentors, projects, challenges, and – yes – reliable paychecks). I ended my contract with LF. I was told they would prepare my final paycheck based on the invoice I sent (I have that in writing).
Fast forward to January, when I’m wondering if they missed my initial followup a week after the email sending the last invoice. I sent another reminder with the invoice, marked ‘past due’. Finally, two more emails, one physical letter, and three ignored phone calls later, I got a reply from the CEO saying they had no intention of paying me, that I hadn’t adhered to my contract, and had performed unapproved work. They capped it off by saying that they ‘missed working together and hope there will be opportunity in the future for more collaboration’.
So my question is this: what would you do in my shoes? This was my first real ‘job’, and I didn’t know that being a contractor meant I shouldn’t have been held to all of these standards that FT employees were. I didn’t know what a functional workplace was like until starting my new job. I’m inclined to flame them online – the tech community is small in my city and reputation goes a long way. They already have disgruntled clients, former and current, so it wouldn’t be the only negative review. I’m burned from this experience – it hurt to intially be so excited about the job and have it turn to a pile of bs before my eyes was disappointing. To have them be sanctimonious, uncommunicative, and unprofessional in the end is the rotten cherry on top of a pile of garbage that this whole ordeal has been.
Other tales from this place:
- I didn’t get a 1099 or any other paperwork for contracting to do my taxes. I received no onboarding or training, was just booted into a project on my first day. No overview of company standard practices, tools, or technology.
- All communication was via Slack – even when they told me to stop billing them, and to find other work, and that they weren’t going to pay me.
- Even as a contractor, I had to go to daily standup in the office, which was a 45mn drive from my home.
- They brought me to a FileMaker conference across the country and refused to pay me for any of my time there since, once again, the conference was an ‘investment’ in my education. I didn’t get the option not to go. I missed out on a week of income and work.