Last summer, the summer after his freshman year of college, Clark Kent took a job lifeguarding. They told him that as soon as he turned in his new hire paperwork, they would put him on the schedule. In the meantime, they learned he was an experienced guard. They asked if he’d teach swimming lessons to the wee ones instead. When he said yes, they put him on the schedule for the next day.
He didn’t turn in his new hire paperwork.
About halfway through the summer, his boss reminded him to turn it in.
When the summer ended and he went back to school at the University of Houston, he mentioned that he needed the checks that he’d had sent to us for his work that summer. As in ALL OF THEM.
What?? What 19-year old works all summer and doesn’t spend one cent of it? Don’t 19-year olds run to cash their checks the second they get them and hang by their fingernails until next pay day after blowing it all the week before????
Yes, most 19-year olds, but not Clark Kent. He doesn’t spend money like a normal 19-year old, and his ADHD keeps him in the present moment where checks never cross his mind. Life is good in the present moment, most of the time.
So, now Clark Kent wanted his money. Only we never received any checks. As in, Clark Kent never got paid, not the whole summer.
We sent Clark Kent to his employer, who informed him that they didn’t issue checks to employees who didn’t turn in their new hire paperwork. Clark Kent—despite being a college CX debater—hates conflict when it is personal. So he tucked tail and came home.
All that fall, winter and spring, we stayed on Clark Kent to find a way to get paid. I was an employment attorney before I was a writer, and, while I felt empathy for his employer about the new hire paperwork, they should have never put him on the schedule. Once they did and let him work, they owed him for that work. All of it. Period.
“Um, they said I became a volunteer when I didn’t turn it in,” Clark Kent told me in the spring when I made him call them during tax preparation.
I shook my head vehemently. “N-O. No such thing. That’s unconscionable. They should have just fired you, but they didn’t. They have to pay you.”
The school year came to an end. I informed Clark Kent that the statute of limitations had run on my patience with him handling the paycheck situation. He frothed at the mouth and begged me not to, but I wrote to his employer, relating the story, and asking them to fix it. Clark squirmed and wriggled and wrung his hands in dread, all 6 foot 3 of him.
Well, not only did they send us a check for the whole summer, but they apologized, and they did employee training to be sure nothing like that would ever happen again. Volunteer my left foot! Pretty cool, huh?
“I’m keeping 1/3 as my attorneys fees,” I told Clark Kent.
He grinned ear to ear, all his fear of conflict apparently forgotten when facing $700 he thought he’d never see. “That’s fine.”
“I’m not really keeping it,” I said, “if you can tell me what we’ve learned here.”
“To turn in my new hire paperwork?”
“Um, that my mom is the greatest?”
“Ye-es . . . ” I waved my hand for him to continue but he looked blank. “Don’t ever, ever, ever give up when people make it difficult to collect what they owe you.”
“Yeah, that, too.”
I hugged him, and handed him the one-year overdue check.
That’s all I’ve got,