A relative of mine is a small business owner. For the last 10+ years, she has run a board and care facility for the mentally ill. Her business is licensed and inspected frequently.
One of our employees, our administrator, has recently decided to retire. Another employee has had his eye on his job for years now, but my relative (her direct employer) does not feel he is responsible enough for the position. She also recently had to reduce his salary due to losing a client. Although this employee makes just above min. wage, he also lives at the facility for free and is there full time on call.
Because of this, this employee has begun directly threatening my relative. He has threatened to sue since not getting promoted and even threatened to attempt to have the business "shut down" for not having his way. Many of these threats seem intentionally vague, but others are clearly a form of extortion or blackmail. This employee has sent several text messages demanding money he feels he is owed in return for not suing my relative. Even though we recently passed inspection, he threatened to call licensing and tell them we were in violation of something.
Many of these text are directly demanding money he felt he was owed after his pay was cut. He has threatened legal action unless he is paid, and has several times said he would "even settle for less" to keep quiet. It seems my relative must have evidence from texts of these conversations, but what steps should my relative take? She wants to get rid of this guy, but is intimidated by retaliation.
This employee has a serious gambling problem, and for years my relative has been worried about him being a "toxic asset" to her business. He consistently asks for pay advances, and I fear he has already gotten a lot of undocumented money from my relative. Can my relative go to the police? Would a text-message subpoena be possible and useable in court? If not, is there a safe way to get rid of this man or at least reduce the damage he wants to do?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Your relative needs to meet with an employer-side labor lawyer for a consultation and advice.
A public forum is not an appropriate place to provide specific advice as to what someone should do in a particular situation. We cannot ask questions of you, and there is accordingly a risk of not having all the important facts. In addition, advice here is public -- and subject to discovery if you end up in litigation.
I strongly agree. Your relative must engage a labor law attorney to get advice and plot a reasonable course of action to protect the business.
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