There’s an old saying that desperate times call for desperate measures. I’m here to tell you that my attempt to work for Liberty Tax Service in Palm Bay FL was a desperate measure. I did just fine in the tax preparation course but red flags started popping up towards the end of the class. All students were given a schedule of upcoming events. They included dates and times when we could go to one of the offices and practice on actual Liberty Tax software. At no point during the class did we use the actual software even though the computers were sitting right in front of us. Any time spent practicing in the office was unpaid, although the owner and managers did tell us we had to be there in business attire, just in case it got busy and we wanted to do actual returns. There were also 2 mandatory meetings for new and returning employees, totaling 11 hours. These meetings were NOT part of the preparation course but covered office procedures and policies. One person did ask if those meetings would be paid and the franchise owner (Ben Teaford) immediately responded NO since they were only training. All the new employees signed employment contracts at the end of the second meeting. These contracts stated our pay rate and bonus conditions. Mine stated that I would get 1% of the gross of my returns if I completed at least 75 paid returns and lasted the entire tax season. Later I discussed this with a returning employee and found out that last year the magic number was 50 returns but a few people got close to that so it was raised. The hours I was given at the beginning of the tax season were minimal, less than 10 hours per week. Due to problems with the owner and my second manager (the first manager moved to a new office), I quit during my first month. To be perfectly honest, I shouldn’t even have started with the red flags I saw but I’d been out of work over a year at that point. Think about that word ‘desperate’ again. Most of the new employees I saw were in the same boat so they put up with the crap just to get some income.
After quitting, I sent a separate email to Liberty corporate detailing the conditions in this franchise. They acknowledged the emailed and thanked me but I never heard anything else from them or the franchise owner. I really thought getting paid for those training sessions would be a slam dunk after filing a complaint with the US Department of Labor. Boy was I mistaken! Since I’d filed a previous complaint with the DoL back in the 90s, I certainly didn’t expect to be so mistreated this time. The local worker assigned to my case seemed to attach a great deal of importance to the fact that I was the only one who complained. They finally sent me a letter stating that they were declining to prosecute the case but that I could pursue the matter in small claims court. Naturally I asked for a copy of my case file to take to court if I decided to go that route. Their response was that I would have to file a Freedom of Information Act Request to get a copy of my own case file!!!! So I did and got an emailed pdf file that included their documentation – a whopping 2 page form with acronyms and abbreviations that weren’t explained anywhere. So far, they’ve ignored 4 requests for a layman’s translation of their form. That’s our government in action folks. They should be very thankful that at least their jobs are secure, with our tax dollars.
Besides contacting Liberty Tax corporate and the DoL, I also contacted a local ambulance chaser (lawyer) and an investigative reporter. Both of them declined to take up the cause, without giving any reasons. I’m assuming that there wasn’t enough money in it for the lawyer and it wasn’t a big enough story for the reporter. I also contacted my US Senator, who sent a form letter to the DoL and has done nothing since. Apparently, the game is rigged so that if you only steal from the little guys, you can get away with it all day long.
For those of you who think I might be foolish in posting this rant and that I might be hurting future employment chances, I say ‘not a problem’. If a prospective employer is that worried about being held to his/her end of the bargain, that’s not someone I want to work for anyway. I stand ready to provide an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay but if you try to cheat me I’ll do everything I can to rectify the situation and expose you. In the end, you might get away with it, but not for lack of effort on my part.