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Q: My supervisor asked me to do her son’s homework for him, and I said no. Was it wrong for me to turn her down?
I’m a receptionist, and although I have a cordial relationship with my supervisor, it’s pretty strictly professional. The other day, she came to me at reception during working hours and basically asked if I would do part of her son’s homework assignment for him. I think it’s because she knows I have a design background and the part of his project she was asking me to do was to create a logo. While she was technically asking me, her approach was the same as when she asks if I have enough downtime to take on admin tasks for the office, and although it was not explicit, I felt pressure to accept it like a work assignment.
I declined as politely as I could (mostly because I don’t think it’s right to do a child’s homework for them), using an admin task as a cover excuse. She did let it drop, but am I wrong to feel it was inappropriate of her to ask, homework ethics aside?
A: What! No, you are not wrong — that’s entirely inappropriate on multiple levels. She was asking you to do something that wasn’t work-related when there’s a power dynamic that she should have known would make you feel awkward about saying no if you didn’t want to do it, and the particular thing she was asking you to do was in itself inappropriate (her kid’s homework! WTF!). I am not a big believer in shame, but really, how does someone ask that with no shame?
You handled it really well — you came up with a way of declining that minimized awkwardness for both of you but allowed you to say no, and in a way that reinforced that you have actual work to do. Some people might advocate for addressing it more directly, but unless it’s part of a pattern of inappropriate requests from her, I don’t think you need to do that. If it happens again, then yes — but for now, I’d consider it handled.
Q: My employer wants to change me from contractor to employee and lower my pay.
I’ve been working as a contractor for a company for three years. I am paid at the rate of about $50/hour. The owner of the company wants to make me an employee to keep his head above water with IRS (the agency is auditing his company, which has four other contractors like me).
He also wants to reduce my hourly rate because he says he can’t afford to pay his share of my Social Security and unemployment taxes. He will pay his share of the taxes but cover it by reducing my hourly rate. Is this fair and/or legal?
A: It’s definitely legal. It’s hard to say whether or not it’s fair without knowing more (like how much he’s reducing your hourly rate by), but it’s pretty common for contractors to get paid more than employees, since contractors are responsible for their own payroll taxes and don’t receive benefits.
I’d do the math to figure out the amount this will reduce your tax burden by, so that you know if you’ll be coming out head, behind, or relatively even. If it looks like you’ll come out behind, you should point that out and try to negotiate the rate. Also, find out if you’ll be receiving benefits; if you are, you’ll want to factor in the money you’ll (hopefully) save on health insurance, paid vacation, etc.