Question: I have been working as a permanent part time hourly employee for approximately 1 and 1/2 years with a very small firm. I have repeatedly asked to work from home due to a very non-productive and unusually noisy office environment. There is great tension in the office, a lack of communication exists, teamwork is non existent and regardless of what I say to the boss, nothing is wrong, other than my dissatisfaction. I had stated recently that I would prefer to work independently as opposed to being in the office. With that, my boss looked into that option and prepared a contract that he offered for me to review. I have decided that being an independent contractor for him won’t make anything improve, and in fact could worsen the communication gap. He has now told me (in writing) that I will be off of payroll as of March 30th or thereabouts and I told him that I am not prepared to be on my own. He also has presented me with a list of what he wants me to agree to in order to fulfill the contract. At this point, he has forced me to resign or he will terminate me. What is my next step? Both he and I are already contracted under a statewide contract and I told the contractor that I am no longer going to be working for the guy. I asked to get on with moving forward and was told that he needed to review my tasks and could not provide me with anymore work until he had a discussion with the statewide contractor. So, I am stuck where?

Mary, New York

Answer: From all you have described, it seems that the office environment is highly dysfunctional, and your employer is no better. I agree with you: whether or not you are an employee or an independent contractor, it’s not at all likely that you’ll soon see communication, teamwork and a productive environment at that company.

I would NOT suggest you resign, because that waives all of your rights, including the right to get unemployment benefits. I’d suggest you (a) look for a new job, (b) apply for unemployment benefits (which you should get), and (c) consider speaking with the statewide contractor about working directly for him, in light of your familiarity with the statewide contract. Hope that helps.

Best, Al Sklover

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