139

I work as a junior programmer in Slovakia.

This is my first job and I have been with the company for less than a year.

This month I was working on a feature that was estimated to take about 1 week to develop and I took around 2 weeks to finish it. We do not have deadlines for work, we only have estimates, which I don't see as legally binding in any way. My boss was approving all development, even the one that happened after the estimated time was exceeded, and he was kept in the loop on a daily basis about the progress.

My boss includes the refactoring time (of somewhere up to a week) that was done after the feature was fully finished and functional, into the total time it took to develop the feature, which I don't believe to be correct, as the initial version of the code was the best I was able to do within my skill-set and within what I was capable of delivering within the time I was given.

My employer now doesn't want to pay me for the work, he waited till I had finished it and then sent me an email that unless I can explain why it took so long I won't be getting paid.

Few points:

  • I am a full-time salaried employee.
  • My boss knew that I was going slow from the start and was asking for help with little response from my coworkers.

Additional elaboration of my side on why I took longer than expected to develop the feature:

  • It was estimated for a senior developer
  • Part of the work was expected to be shortened by the use of a library, but they proved unsuitable, so it was developed from scratch, taking a few wrong turns and needing to redo some things.
  • The refactoring took me a long time as I have done the work to the best of my abilities and I can't effectively make it better when I don't know any better way to do it.
  • The feature proved very difficult for me to implement, it was big and complicated and I haven't done a lot of the things before.
  • My coworkers were unwilling to lend me a hand and so I was stuck being unable to productively keep working on my own.
  • The way everyone was handling the situation forced me into a depression which further slowed down my progress.

Update:

I have read my contract and related laws in my country and nothing seems to be giving my employer the right to do this.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S May 23 '17 at 22:53
  • I'd avoid bringing less factual factors into it. Worthless library, the fact that you did the work,etc, all good. "My co-workers wouldn't help me do my work" and "all those people made me depressed and THAT's why I wasn't productive" both seem like they would undermine your case, even if you feel like it had an impact. – PoloHoleSet Apr 16 '18 at 17:56

13 Answers 13

26

I don't know why other answers do not stress it but get legal consultation ASAP. Seriously. You absolutely need to know what can you expect and how to react with respect to your localization.

The thing is that everyone says that law is on your side. Yes it is, but you cannot do anything unless you can prove that your employer does anything unlawful. The only thing that happened was expressing unprovable intent. The problem is you won't have a proof until your paycheck comes. This is plenty of time.

Your employer seems malicious. They probably are not so stupid to do something so plainly illegal, but I wouldn't be too surprised if they went onto setting you up to cover their imagined damages. They might for example get you into violating some internal rules that would result in a lawful deduction. This is really not as simple as "law is on your side". Law is not simple. Of course something blatant as refusing to pay is illegal, but there are plenty other ways to screw the employee.

Only a specialist knowing local law and practices will be able to prepare you against what might happen. E.g. how to document your management behaviour and your work, so that you are on the safe side.

There probably are some governmental institutions for this, or some friend would know some lawyer who could advise you for typical stuff, or provide a contact. You don't need full-blown court-case service, but some basic advice should be considered mandatory. They will tell you whether or not to tell anything to your boss. It's probably not a good idea to go and tell them "what you are trying to do is illegal", unless you want a practical life lesson.

I don't want to scare you, I want to warn you against complacency. It might be a case of a pissed of manager, who blurted something completely irrelevant in the moment, or they are a truly malicious employer. However in the worse case, you will not figure it out until it's too late to react. The actions of your management appear to be completely unreasonable, i.e. expecting a junior staff to do their work properly at full efficiency, and not monitoring nor reacting properly.

  • 5
    Maybe you should add that OP must document all further interaction with this manager and HR. If it's a bad employer, HR would be as unhelpful as possible. – user27051 May 23 '17 at 17:17
  • "They are probably not so stupid to do something plainly illegal" - I don't know about that. I've seen that happen, it really depends on how enforceable the laws the employer is breaking are, and what the consequences could be. In many cases, all you can do is force the employer to pay up. Which doesn't really hurt them, so some just try not paying correctly... – bytepusher Dec 23 '18 at 16:21
315

Slovakia is an EU member since 2004. What your boss wants to do is illegal anywhere in the EU. We can ignore all your arguments why it took longer, fact is you were employed for three weeks, therefore he must pay for three weeks. That's all that counts legally: you were employed, therefore he must pay.

So tell him this, don't enter any discussions, and if he doesn't pay, then most likely Slovakia has something like a small claims court.

I'd recommend looking for work elsewhere as well, but there is no way he can get out of paying you. And should he want to fire you, his attempted illegal actions could make this very expensive.

  • 61
    This is a good answer, and probably the right one. Can you add a citation or link to the relevant EU law? – David K May 22 '17 at 13:46
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    I agree this is the correct answer - I would only add that you should find a legal representative ASAP, as nvoigt suggests in the comments above. Don't communicate with your employer on this subject until you've spoken to a lawyer and know your rights. If you DO communicate with your employer, do it via email or some other WRITTEN medium, and keep careful notes about everything that's said, and the dates and times it was said. – Steve-O May 22 '17 at 14:20
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    @user1717828, absolutely, imo. It's not obvious to people who are new to the site, and it's important enough that it should appear in every answer. – striking May 22 '17 at 19:10
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    @DavidFoerster Actually what you describe sounds like EU directives. EU regulations (German: Verordnung) do not bind national law “to some extent”, they are fully binding and immediately applicable, and can be invoked in front of national jurisdictions without the need for any transposition or implementation in national law. Also, the whole body of rules stemming from the EU treaties is in fact called “EU law” (in English “law” means “Recht” and not only “Gesetz” as in statutes). – Relaxed May 23 '17 at 4:53
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    Maybe the boss is just making an idle threat to take advantage of the OP's lack of experience, e.g. "unless you get this done fast, I don't know if you can get paid". If it is only an insinuation (i.e. they will still end up paying you in any case) there might be no need for a lawyer. Look for a new job anyway; you don't need such an atmosphere. – Brandin May 23 '17 at 6:00
24

I am not a lawyer, but I hope the following will help you understand your own position better.

Your employer is treating you like a contractor, not as an employee. As mentioned before, as long as you're an employee, you're paid for the time you worked as part of your employment. Whether that's based on the hours you work or on a flat monthly amount, you're still entitled to compensation. The fact your coworkers did not help out may indicate your employer treats them the same way and plays you out against each other.

If an employer is not happy with your work, they have two options:

  1. Continue employing you.
  2. Fire you under the conditions of your contract and the laws of your locality (country, province, state, county). This usually includes a notice period (meaning you cannot leave or be fired on the spot, unless you willfully caused harm).

Option 1 is what happened here. While you are employed, your employer is responsible for making sure you get your job done. They hired you for your skills. Their expectations are not your problems. If they do not wish to continue working with you, they should fire you, not make your life miserable. You were hired and are paid as a junior developer. Your employer should not make you take the responsibilities of a senior developer and hold a negative outcome against you, just like they should not make you take on the responsibilities of a sales representative, accountant, designer, or race car driver. If they want any of those, they should hire them as well.

Maybe this is all an elaborate scheme to make you leave the company on your own accord, because firing you would cost them too much time, money, or paperwork.

Whatever the reason, your unhappiness with your job is a valid reason to leave your employer. However, it may be wise to start looking for another job quietly, and not resign from your current job before signing a contract (no promises, a contract!) with your next employer. Remember, an employer has no right to make your life miserable. You are in a business arrangement with them and have no obligations other than what the law and your contract tell you to do.

Good luck!

  • 2
    This is a decent answer, but I feel like it's missing its other half. It says "treating you like a contractor, not an employee", but doesn't explain the contractor side to contrast with the employee side that's described. – Bobson May 24 '17 at 0:49
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    @Bobson, as a contractor, I agree with your comment 100%. Even a contractor gets paid according to the contract. – Wildcard May 24 '17 at 2:30
11

I have 3 points

  1. your boss has said 'unless I can explain why it took so long I won't be getting paid'. You have clearly explained here why it took longer, explain in the same way to him.

  2. They cannot reasonably ask you to refactor something without giving you feedback as to why it needs to be refactored, i.e. what it is you did wrong the first time. From this you can then extrapolate how to make it better. If they just asked you to refactor it without giving you feedback then you need to raise this as a problem.

  3. It would be highly unusual and nearly always illegal for a salaried employee with an employment contract to have his pay docked for not delivering software on time. At worst you could get a written warning.

You should speak to HR or a lawyer.

  • Sorry messed up the first comment. 1. My boss said he wouldn't accept inaccurate estimates or the fact that I am less skilled as an excuse. But those are ofc the reasons behind the delays. He doesn't have a software background and is generally a very unprofessional manager. 2. Sorry that it wasn't stated more clearly in my question. I have been told what to refactor but was not getting help when I was stuck and since most of what I was doing was new to me I couldn't reasonably progress on my own. 3. I haven't fully studied whether this is in any way covered in my contract yet, but probably not – Benjiko99 May 22 '17 at 17:39
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    OP should not attempt to appease the boss's claim that he needs to explain before he gets paid. He doesn't, and shouldn't. There is plenty of room in a healthy manager-employee relationship for retrospectives, but this is neither a healthy relationship nor an legitimate attempt at assessing whatever planning issues there might have been. – Matthew Read May 22 '17 at 20:52
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    In salaried work, employee is not being paid for the job done, he's being paid for his effort to do the job. OP could have failed to finish the task altogether, and the salary is still due. If there is any dispute, it's the employer who has to prove employee's gross misconduct, not the other way around. – Agent_L May 23 '17 at 10:20
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    @Agent_L ... and even in the face of such misconduct, the consequences would likely be a loss of job (with or without a termination period), not a loss of pay. With a salaried employee, the employer takes on almost all of the risk - the contract doesn't say "you'll get paid as long as the work you turn out gets no complaints from me". I've seen some ridiculous cases where an employer had to pay a guy for the whole termination period, despite the guy literally coming to work for eight hours and reading newspaper (which is technically legal terms for immediate termination, but...). – Luaan May 23 '17 at 12:36
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    @Wayne Werner Yes, to protect the company, not individual managers acting illegally. Their role here would to be protect the company from the behaviour of the manager that is exposing them to the risk of a lawsuit – user1450877 May 23 '17 at 14:13
5

There are already some good answers, but I want to share my opinion on your case:

  1. I have never met any boss/leader like yours before. I have my tasks overdue many many times, but no one was yelling me about that. Wrong estimation is completely normal for a junior developer.
  2. I have some knowledge on project management myself. First, a good boss/PM/leader will have to estimate the resource to get things done. Second, they're not only planing, they are monitoring and constantly adjusting that plan to fit the situation. He was seeing you fail to accomplish your task, yet he did not give you any reinforcement. It's not OK at all. The power is in their hands, and responsibility comes along with that. I believe he has no right cut off your salary.
  3. Regardless of whether you get the money or not, you should abandon this boss. What a terrible manager he is.
  • 2
    I would like to add "Find another job as soon as possible before you abandon this boss.". – scaaahu May 23 '17 at 8:23
  • I once got hired for a development job, and one day I found a rather large source file doing lots of things in interesting and weird ways (and interesting doesn't mean in a good way), and then found that this source file wasn't actually used (which made me feel a lot better, I was worried just looking at it), and then was told that they hired someone, and this source file was what the person produced in eight months, and since it was completely unusable, the guy was fired. He did get paid, there is no way round that in the UK. – gnasher729 May 28 '17 at 15:11
3

Wage reductions are within the EU regulated by law. You will have some of these reductions no matter if your contract stipulates this or not (they are quite substantial by the way).

Then the contract can have all kind of wording but if it is in contradiction with the law, then these elements are void. Specifically, it could claim that 10% of your salary will go to a charity and even if you signed that, nobody would be allowed to take these 10% off.

Do not worry. Either it is a small company which does not understand labour law and believe that they can reinvent it, or this is a larger company and it is just the manager who went south. You will get your money at the end of the month, or you can go to court.

3

No. If you are working as employee, he absolutely can't do this.

He can fire you, in this case he must pay your wage until the end of the notice period - even if you had to leave your workplace on the spot.

He can do this if you are working as a freelancer (note: freelancers are paid normally for hours / days and they serve at least the double of the same employee wage). But probably you are an employee, freelancing is rare in Slovakia.

Other things:

  • If your wage doesn't arrive to your bank account in time (said in your work contract, or by the law if it isn't there), you are allowed to terminate your employment without a notice.
  • If you don't get your money, you can initiate an order of payment for him. If he rejects, you can sue him before a labour court. If he doesn't react, you can initiate a liquidation against the company. In the case of a company liquidation process, the behindhand wages of the employees are one of the first priorities to fulfill.

If you worked in black (without a contract, without paying taxes), then that's all. You can't do anything to get your money, but you can threat him report him to the authorities. In this case, the law protects you. You surely won't punished by the black work, but he will. To be sure, say that "He promised every week, that finally we will make our employment contract, but nothing happened and finally he didn't even paid". It closes out that you wanted to work for him in black.

Normally, the tax authorities are allowed to retroactively re-grade any relation to an employment relationship. It would mean that he will have to pay retroactively all of the taxes after your wage (+ punishment, etc).

You can profit from that if you actually don't report him to the authorities, but you can effectively threat him that you do. Of course in this case you can safely forget any cooperation with him in the future, but you have a good chance to finally get your money.

You can use a lawyer to mediate this thing, if it worths its price. He can probably much more effectively handle this threat then negotiate line. Nobody wants to sue anybody, nobody wants to report anybody, you want your money, and - after your lawyer contacted him - he only wants to be finally free from you forever. He will surely pay.

2

My employer now doesn't want to pay me for the work, he waited till I had finished it and then sent me an email that unless I can explain why it took so long I won't be getting paid.

This is a very cynical type of behavior and I'd advise you to check if there is something like an employment tribunal in Solvakia which may be able to assist you in addressing this.

I would, however, suggest you consider if you want to continue working for someone who is clearly at best an arrogant bully, and at worse a fraud. Personally I'd simply immediately start looking for another job.

There is also a legal issue about employers taking actions which effectively force employees to leave - constructive dismal is the term, if I recall. This may become relevant, although I can't speak to Slovak law on this point. Refusing to pay employees, and even the threat not to, could well be considered an attempt to force people out.

Regarding the issue of his waiting until after it was late to complain, should this matter become a formal legal case (and I'd encourage you to avoid that - it's typically costly and stressful), there is a legal principle called condonation which can be useful to know of (although it may not be directly relevant here). It's worth learning some of these basic legal principles.

I'd suggest you take the "opportunity" this represents to learn the basics of employment law in Slovakia (just an overview, not detail). It will be useful in the future.

Once you have a rough idea of where you stand legally you can consider how to address this. I'm not in your country, but for what it's worth I'd simply start looking for a job immediately and when I have one, give notice. If my salary has not been paid in relation to this kind of matter at that time I would write formally seeking the money (registered mail, email and keep a copy) stating my position and roughly what I considered the employer's obligations under contract and employment law were.

It's typically not worth employing a lawyer for these issues as costs quickly escalate and we're probably not talking about enough money to make it practical. My limited personal experience with court cases is that people will go to the wire, get to court and be asked to find a settlement by the judge and it's at that point they settle. Usually by that point only the lawyers make any money from it and everyone else has lost.

This is another reason why I'd suggest taking the opportunity to learn the basics of how courts and contracts work in your country - it's a good investment and, in my experience, good employers (and you'll get one) will respond well at interviews to people from technical disciplines who can discuss these matters at a basic level.

2

Legality aside, It is much more common in the programming world than one might think to do: 1. Count estimates as a hard deadline Yet you should have been warned about that. 2. Set up a junior programmer for failure. Well back in the day I could do it in a day - so give him a week. If you didn't get a warning, do or don't get paid, perhaps they want you gone. Perhaps you didn't pick up on the culture. 3. Work people off the clock for an hourly employee.
And although illegal in most places, you will have choose what you want. All three are toxic. Good luck.

2

You are officially employed in a EU country. Ofc, it will differ from country to country, but in general, there should be some protection against this cases, starting from employee representatives or HR departments up to trade unions.

1) If you are working in a medium/big company, then there should be an employee representative in the company that is there to help other employees in case of problems with the employer. At least in Finland its required by law to have one.

2) If there are none, then there are Trade Unions. In many countries, even if you are not a member, they may help you with the consultation, or even give a call to your employer. In such clear cut case this could be enough. So it is worth checking if trade unions do this in your country.

Bottom line: don't fight it yourself. Industry should have a well-established mechanisms to resolve such cases. What is more important, Trade Unions have way more experience in dealing with such cases then general law practitioner.

2

As an employee, your boss cannot do this.

First thing to do is consult a lawyer for advice under Slovak law. I live in the UK, but my sister-in-law is a lawyer in Slovakia and I know that the laws can be different there. Depending on the wording of your contract, your boss might not be able to use your code, because you will own the copyright unless he follows the terms of your employment contract.

Secondly, look for a new job. You do not want to work for a boss like this.

1

Your defense of the time it took you to complete the tasks implies some bit of uncertainty about whether your bosses threat was just or reasonable as opposed to legal.

Legal will vary by jurisdiction, but it was unjust. Employees, whether full or part time, hourly or salary are paid for their effort, not their success. Suppliers, piece workers and some kinds of contractors are paid for success (if an employer pays by the bushel, then someone that doesn't hand one in doesn't get paid).

Success is naturally a part of continued employment, but the past is the past. The employer agrees to pay for the employees time and effort, while the employee agrees to provide time and effort in exchange for pay. It is unjust to attempt to change the agreement after the employee has provided the time and effort. You could have been working elsewhere during that time.

Your employer may be justified in terminating your employment, but not in refusing to pay you.

0

Generally speaking, no full-time employment will commence without a work contract in place. In most cases what your employer expects from you will be made plain. So except maybe if it is expressly mentioned that wages will be reduced for slow work what he is doing is most probably a breach of contract.

Even if tardiness is mentioned in the contract, contract law does provide the remedy that if a contract is deemed to be grossly unfair to one party then a petition can be made to make it invalid. I think you would have a decent case for that. Remember that a work contract is like any other, both parties have the right to have it enforced.

You may want to employ the council of a labor attorney or at the very least a union rep, this seems to be exactly the type of exploitive behavior they fight against.

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