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I am a foreigner who recently started a minimum wage job in Germany that I think I can't replace easily at all. My employer has been behaving strangely, for example by being very friendly and offering me more work hours on the grounds of liking how I work, then complaining the moment I asked to change my minijob contract to correspond to them.

I asked him how it is legal to work part-time with a minijob contract, to which he said that the Finanzamt won't know if I don't tell them. I have since then been trying to keep my job while making my contract legal, but he keeps complaining that I change my mind too much. The last thing I changed my mind about was getting an advance payment for January, which he insisted happen without any paperwork. I belatedly realised that's probably illegal.

Yesterday I received an email in which the boss accused me of falsely telling him that I have received my permanent contract, "hopefully not on purpose". It is true that I hadn't received my contract, I was completely mistaken. But he went on to say that in his opinion I keep messing up because my parents loved me too much and spoiled me, and men spoiled me too much as well, due to my looks.

Although my boss has at times been a very caring employer, his latest insult hurt me deeply because of trauma related to the people supposed to have been too nice to me. As well as hating these "innocent" insults, I worry that he writes me emails in which he makes it seem like I change my mind without reason so that he can point to them in the future and say that the lack of reply means there really was no reason, as opposed to the reason being his off-the-record attempts to pay me under the table.

But I don't want to have an enemy in his face on top of the other reasons it's hard to find employment. He told me that if employees cheat him when he gives them advance payments without paperwork, he can use his many business contacts in the city to prevent them from finding other work.

What could I do to best defend myself?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow 2 days ago
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Your boss is abusive. Don't fall for the "many business contacts" trick, that's just an abusive attempt at keeping you from leaving and/or keeping you afraid of reporting his sexual discrimination. No employer will listen to him, there is not even any good social circumstances where he could possibly bring up the subject. And he won't do it anyway since his business contacts (if they exist) might hire you anyway and then realize he was lying; he won't risk that happening.

I don't know the employment laws of Germany. Are you in a union? If so, ask them for help.

Is your boss the business owner or are there superiors above him? I know that German companies are often hierarchical in nature and skipping the chain of command might not always be a good idea. But since this is clearly an abusive situation there might be people who are interested in hearing your story.

In any case, start applying for other jobs.

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    In particular, The boss is emotionally abusive. Given that they've called out gender as a thing in their emotional abuse, there's a distinct chance that they're planning on becoming sexually abusive in the future. There are soem great bug "Get Out" flags here. – Ben Barden Feb 12 at 15:50
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    Minijobs are not typically covered by unions in Germany. This is the kind of work relationship that you'd have at a fastfood restaurant for part time, or as private household help, or as part-time help in a restaurant or any kind of service industry like hair dressers. – simbabque Feb 12 at 16:08
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    Yes, the "many business contacts" is totally laughable. The boss is just a fool. – Fattie Feb 12 at 18:12
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    @BenBarden While the asker should certainly be wary and protect herself (including getting out of there), be careful about throwing out unfounded accusations. Anything the OP can't document or otherwise prove is a liability for her. Stick to the facts. – jpmc26 Feb 12 at 22:19
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    +1 for calling the Union, they are helpful in Germany. Also, if you work in Bremen, you get free advice from the Arbeiterkammer. @simbabque minijobs may not be covered by collective agreement, but Unions do give (legal) counselling to "minijobbers" as well. See here: verdi.de/service/fragen-antworten/… – henning 2 days ago
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If you take a step back and read what you have written with objective mind.

  • There are issues with your contract
  • You are doing more hours/work than you are allowed to
  • You receive payments in cash

And when you bring up any of these topics your boss will divert the discussion and turn it to be about you.

This is pretty obvious strategy to obfuscate and confuse you. He is clearly working in a grey area. Bending the rules, maybe even breaking some laws. And he tries his best for you to not notice this clearly, or inform the authorities.

You might be breaking regulations/laws as well. So the best way to protect yourself is to stop this. Refuse to play his games. You are not doing anything bad on purpose, you have just been lead into the situation by your superior.

Contact your union, authorities or ask help from your parents or somebody else you trust. Refuse to be paid in cash or without paperwork. Start writing down all shady things you notice and actions you have taken. This protects you as it will show that you have actively been trying to fix the situation.

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    I agree that this is the best way for her to protect herself legally, but the fact is that she's in a minimum wage job that she apparently can't afford to do without, with a boss who's abusive and domineering. He's not going to react well to pushback. It will increase the intensity of the emotional abuse in the short term, and it may well lead to her losing her job. It'd be much safer for her to find another position and then report him. – Ben Barden Feb 12 at 17:06
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    "He is clearly working in a grey area." "Gray" sounds too generous to me, but nice answer otherwise. @BenBarden Yes, finding another position is the safest thing to do, but in the mean time, the asker should not continue to knowingly participate in illegal (or probably illegal) activities. – jpmc26 Feb 12 at 22:18
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    @jpmc26 This guy is breaking the law in numerous places. It's pretty clear. He's specifically chosen her because she's vulnerable, and he's abusing her in order to convince her that she's more vulnerable. It doesn't sound like he needs her enough that she has any real leverage. If she's going to push back on the legality thing, she pretty much needs to walk away from the job first - otherwise, she'll just get a mass of emotional abuse that she won't be able to get away from, and probably then fired. – Ben Barden Feb 12 at 22:29
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    Approaching from a position of weakness and asking to do things legally will not end well. – Ben Barden Feb 12 at 22:30
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I am a foreigner

Illegal activities, when found out most likely will end your visa and you'll be deported (assuming you need a visa) or fined the very least.

Finanzamt won't know if I don't tell them

This is the illegal activity I'm talking about.

You're guilty of tax evasion if you don't declare all your income.

As others said it also falls under "Schwarzarbeit".

You were correct in wanting to change your minijob into a part or full time contract

Obviously your boss wants to avoid the much higher social and insurance expenses on top of the higher salary as well as the paper work.

I suggest to pressure back.

If you need a visa tell your boss you don't want to or can't risk losing it if getting caught.

In fact even if you don't need a visa you can say similarly you don't want to get into trouble.

Keep asking for an appropriate contract reflecting your actual work.

Don't give in and don't let him distract or throw you off your mission with personal attacks.

There are lots of raids against Schwarzarbeit and if you work in a low paying industry with lots of foreigners employed, chances are higher that your company might be in the spotlight as well.

If he keeps on with the minijob you could as a last resort threaten to whistleblow on him (what he does is illegal as well) but either way he reacts (give in or fire you) you'll probably lose the job eventually, which is your only way anyways if you don't want to risk getting in trouble with the authorities...

one other, lets call it the passive aggressive way could be to greatfully deny the offer for additional work.

... While you're employed as minijobber...

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    It’s the employer’s job to pay income tax for employees in Germany. You won’t believe how deep in shit he is if the Finanzamt finds out. – gnasher729 2 days ago
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    @gnasher729 yes he is indeed ! Employees still have to declare all their income on their tax returns though and will be taxed if applicable l.In OPs case it is probably too low to even scratch the allowance but still illegal to withold that information. – DigitalBlade969 2 days ago
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    This is very dangerous with a possibly abusive boss - if you tell him "I can't risk loosing my visa" he can blackmail you by threatening your visa-status. This could lead to a worse situation. - Pressuring back can only happen with solid ground to stand on and nothing in his hands to control you. – Falco 2 days ago
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    @Falco I agree but he already knows that. The boss should see it in OP's paperwork or deduct from the citizenship the very least.It depends on OP's circumstances but most of the times the employer is involved in or knows about the visa application, potentially the visa is even tied to that company exclusively. – DigitalBlade969 2 days ago
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In addition to some other excellent answers, I think it is worth pointing out that

  1. the job market in Germany is actually quite employee-friendly at the moment. So unless you are living in a very small town without car or are doing a job that really requires no specific skills at all (e.g. dishwasher), it should be possible to find something else.

  2. Your boss says he can harm you, but actually it sounds as if he has more to lose than you from an open conflict. E.g. if you contact your Finanzamt or your Krankenkasse.

  3. As far as I know, social insurance and tax payments are the responsibility of the employer. I would guess that on your end, it is only tax evasion if you do not report it in your Steuererklärung.

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I'm not exactly sure what the main problem is here. Here's what I'm reading, tell me if I've missed anything:

1) They like your work, so they give you more hours. Presumably they pay you for those hours (you haven't said otherwise). This seems like a plus (unless you are saying you don't want those hours, in which case this seems like an HR matter; you should ask them to give you fewer hours, I'm sure your coworkers wouldn't mind the extra cash that you're leaving on the table). In the case you don't want to work those hours, you don't have to be aggressive about it. Just go to the person responsible for scheduling and say something like:

Hey, Bob. I saw I've been scheduled to work a lot of hours this week. This doesn't leave me enough time to do other things in my personal life. Can I ask to be assigned fewer hours?

See what they say. As long as you're not asking to do less work than your coworkers, but simply being asked to be treated equally, that seems like a reasonable request to me.

2) You don't mention your employer not paying you; in fact, you even mention them giving you an advance on your paycheque! This seems like a plus; even though they are paying you under the table, they are paying you minimum wage, and that (seems to be) what you signed up for. So no problem with payment.

Those are the 2 most important things: You are getting an amount of hours you want to work, and you are getting paid for the hours you are working. Now, onto the rest:

3) Your company is doing things which are (probably) illegal. This is not your problem unless you make it your problem. If they are paying you, you shouldn't care if it's above the table or under the table, by cash or by cheque or by direct deposit. You are working, and you are being paid for your work. Your concern stops there. If your company is paying you under the table to evade taxes or something, that's their problem not yours. You can whistleblow on them if you want to, but as long as their (potentially) illegal tactics aren't negatively affecting your employment, imo it's not your business or your concern.

4) This particular passage is troubling to me:

Yesterday I received an email in which the boss accused me of falsely telling him that I have received my permanent contract, "hopefully not on purpose". It is true that I hadn't received my contract, I was completely mistaken.

So you said something to your boss, he raised it as a concern, turns out you were mistaken and he was right. This doesn't seem like his problem, it seems like yours. You falsely told him something that wasn't true, and he called you out on it. Your job is to be honest with your boss. You lied to him (intentionally or unintentionally, doesn't really matter). He got upset with you for lying to him. Seems reasonable to me. Not sure what the problem is here.

5) Your boss made a comment about you being a spoiled brat. Without knowing you, it's hard to make a determination. I'm not going to sit here on the internet without knowing you or your boss and categorically say that you or he is 100% in the wrong on this one. Without him reading this it's hard to give him feedback directly, but since you are reading this and you are here I will give you feedback: have you considered the things you are asking of your employer, how much you are asking, and when you are asking them? As an example, most employers, when asked for an advance on a paycheque, would simply give a hard "no". Yours allowed it. That's already a big plus for your employer, that they went out of the way to help you out. Are you sure you're not asking too much of them?

6) In the specific example you gave where he said if an employee asks for an advance payment and then cheats him, he will ruin their career, he may have said it in a bad way, but the essence of what he said seems reasonable. If you ask for an advance on your paycheque, and then you do not work the hours required to make up that advance, you have essentially stolen money from the company. If you go to another company later and they background check you, and as part of that background check they contact this previous employer, that employer can say whatever they want about you (modulo libel, i.e. straight lying). As part of this, they may say that this employee (i.e. you) stole from the company by way of taking a cash advance and then quitting shortly after. This seems not unreasonable to me. If you take a cash advance on your paycheque, you better be prepared to work it off. He could have said it better, and he didn't need to threaten you, but the essence of what he said is completely reasonable to me.

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    I don't want to do illegal work and was assured from the beginning that nothing illegal is tolerated in this company. I asked for an advance payment after being repeatedly offered one, and after overhearing that others may have had problems with getting paid. I wanted to be sure that I can pay my rent. – Guest Feb 12 at 17:53
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    You are clearly not from Germany and don't know what's common and legal in Germany. You cannot be paid cash in Germany as an employee. That's not how it works. There is also no paycheck. There is only a bank transfer, at a specific point in time. You get the necessary paperwork that comes with your salary payment in the mail, printed on paper, or digitally to your DATEV account. The kind of job OP has is limited to 450 Euro a month. They cannot make more money. Therefore they must not work more hours then 450 EUR divided by the legal minimum pay per hour. If they are being paid cash ... 1/2 – simbabque Feb 12 at 18:00
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    ... they employer is breaking work laws, and by extension they are breaking the law for being part of that. If they've already worked more hours then they are supposed to, they can't be paid for them, unless those hours are shifted over to be paid in the next month, and then not worked in the next month (that's the equivalent of flexible time in this case). The salary needs to go through Finanzamt because the employer pays tax (but OP does not, for a minijob), and also social security such as pension and health insurance. If they work too much and there is an accident, they are not insured. – simbabque Feb 12 at 18:03
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    You can be paid cash in Germany, why couldn't you ? You also could be paid by check. (before you comment, no, I haven't seen a check in Germany in 2 decades either, that doesn't mean they don't exist and it doesn't mean the laws have changed) – xyious Feb 12 at 19:31
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    This is really bad and dangerous advice!! Don't listen to anything in this answer; it is advising you to do things that are illegal, dangerous, and may lead to you getting abused further, in serious legal trouble, and possibly having your Visa status threatened. Knowingly violating the law with an employer because you want to pretend it's 'not your problem' is a BAD IDEA. – the dark wanderer Feb 12 at 20:51

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