conflict between and a friend and employer

Hi All,

I think I could do with some advice. :confused:

At the company where I currently work, we needed some product videos made. I proposed a friend of mine, a freelancer who had done such videos before. We went ahead with him, he was asked to come up with a script, find a location for the shoot and some possible options for the talent in the video.

Now my friend was a bit slow with his paperwork. He did not have us sign any contract with him, and he did not send us any official quotes. Fees were discussed, his rates were high but known, nothing was explicitly signed. My employer on the other hand, tends to be very careful where and how he spends his money. I know this, so I had urged my friend from the beginning to take care of his paperwork.

After about two weeks, several meeting and about 16 hours work for my friend, he finally sends us his first invoice. At that point my employer decided he was not happy with the delivered work so far, and decided not to pay. My friend was not happy, understandably. I proposed he take it to small claims court, but he tried getting my company to pay by himself for a while, unsuccessfully.

We are now a couple of months further and my friend finally has taken his case to small claims court. And asked for me to be his witness. On the one hand, I feel he has been treated unfairly and I did promise I would be there for him if he did take it to small claims. On the other hand, my employer is not happy if I were to be a witness against the company I work at.

What would you say is my best course of action? Has anyone experienced this and come out with both relationships intact? Thanks for any input guys and girls!

I’d stay out.

You can tell your friend and boss the same thing, “I have a conflict of interest.”

It is absolutely truthful and if either of them don’t understand that fact, I’d drop them too.

Either of them can make their case without you. As far as I see it, you lose either way.

I agree with Iab. You need to stay clear of this. Treat it as though you made an introduction and that is it. But if you get further involved you risk loosing your friend or your job or worst case both.

Without a contract in place or even any formal quote or proposal I think your friend will have a hard time winning and it will be a substantial hassle for your boss even if he wins so expect some grumpy people at the conclusion.

Good advice, guys. It’s really the only logical course of action.

Thanks guys! That is the advice I’ve been getting left, right and center. Feels like a cop-out towards my friend but that’s just the way it is sometimes. Though I knew from the start that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure.

I think the hard thing is separating the business relationship from the personal relationship. I’ve had other friends handle situations even more awkward and still to my amazement keep the friendship because they were super clear about the boundaries. It is hard for me personally to do that, but I’m learning. sometimes the situation is reversed as well, someone might not be a friend but you have and maintain a good working relationship.

While the saying is “It’s just business.”, that is bullshit. Business is built on relationships, and that is personal. The two cannot be separated.

That said, in hindsight, a written agreement should have been drawn, clearly established roles/responsibilities/deliverables/cost/timing. Period. While you “should” have recommended that step to your friend and your boss, ultimately, it was their responsibility, not yours.

And again, if they are jackasses and see it as your responsibility, I’d get out of that relationship.

Edit: Unless you were assigned to manage the project, then it was your responsibility. If that is the case and I was your boss, we’d have a very serious discussion.

That should be a lesson to your friend.
If he’s your friend he shouldn’t put you in that position…couple thousand dollars vs your career/job relationship.
You also shouldn’t have offered to be there for him if he took it to court.
Explain it to your friend an hopefully he understands.

This forum is so damn awesome! Many thanks, all of you. I spoke with my friend and employer about this and they both responded by showing their true colors, which was quite informative as well. Lesson learned, moving on!

You’re getting great advice here, but I’d add one more thing you could do to help your friend without putting your job in jeopardy: Tell him he should look into a legal term called Quantum Meruit and bring it up in Small Claims Court. It’s a concept that says he should get fair value for his work, even if there’s not a formal contract. Of course, he still has to show that your boss asked him to do the work, and a Small Claims judge might decide he’s not entitled to such a high hourly rate, but I bet that gets him something.

Disclosure: I’m the CEO of Freelance Collection. We help freelancers and small businesses get paid when clients try to skip out on the bill. Also, I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take this as legal advice.