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(CINDERS McLEOD FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
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NINE TO FIVE

I paid $700 for sales training and didn’t get the job Add to ...

THE QUESTION

A group of us answered a Craigslist ad for new car dealers. It said we’d be guaranteed $2,000 base pay, with no experience necessary, and training would be provided.

Turns out it’s a third-party company that claims it’s been brought in by the dealers to “train us” – but we had to pay $700 for the training. It consisted of nothing useful, lots of foul language and female bashing. They told us we would be hired – and that we had to pay $100 for our own sales license.

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We were told to show up dressed for work, then were left sitting around for more than an hour, then told to go home, with no pay. When we asked for show-up pay, HR said no.

Some were allowed to work without a sales licence, while others weren’t. Some people began working without signing paperwork. Of those who signed contracts, some found out the pay was a lot less. I am the last person still not officially working but owed show-up pay.

Commission was supposed to be $300 on used cars, but it was only $100. New car commissions were supposed to be $1,200 and this was not the case, either. What can we do?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Sheila Copps

Former deputy prime minister

Sounds like you have fallen victim to the oldest scam in the book. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

It seems that you were only verbally contracted for your services, and therefore, the usual protections under provincial labour law may not apply. You may not be an employee in the legal sense of the word.

You will likely never be reimbursed for the money you spent in preparation for your job. In the absence of a written contract, you have few legal grounds to recoup your losses.

However, you have every right to seek government intervention to stop these alleged fraudsters. Begin by initiating an investigation under consumer protection laws in the province where you live. You can file a complaint relating to unfair business practices with the ministry responsible for consumer relations. In some provinces, a specific department investigates automobile sales fraud.

You should also consider initiating a file with the Better Business Bureau. It can warn consumers and potential employees of fraudulent operators.

I would also launch a case in small claims court. You can sue the company civilly for lost wages and payouts. Sometimes, companies will pay up simply to avoid having to defend themselves in court.

All in all, this is not a very satisfactory conclusion. But chalk it up to a good learning experience. Potential business arrangements and job offers should be clear, and in writing, so as not to waste time and money on fraudsters.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bill Howatt

Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.

Start with your local government’s employment and labour office. They can let you know if an investigation is warranted.

When a new job opportunity costs you money without assurance, hightail it out of there. Or at least make sure that you have a clear offer of employment or employment contract that spells out exactly what you will get in return before investing $700 in training.

Your situation raises two red flags, with respect to people and process.

People red flags refer to the treatment you experienced: harassment, ineffective managers and lack of proper on-boarding of employees. The fact that the HR person was part of the problem indicates this is a toxic workplace.

Process red flags are to do with matters regulated by policy and legislation. The labour office may have questions about the training requirement, the representations regarding commissions, and requiring people to show up for work while claiming that they were not hired.

Looking for employment can be stressful. The pressure of bills and the hope of finding employment can sometimes blind people to the true nature of their situation. An organization that conducts itself in this manner is unlikely to be a good employer.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns here.

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