Q: I don’t know who to turn to, but maybe you can help. Over the summer, my girlfriend took a second job at a popular restaurant. She was having trouble making ends meet, so she decided to host a few nights a week at the restaurant to subsidize her income from her day job.

When her first payday came, imagine her excitement. She got her check and was ready to walk out the door to cash it when her coworker warned her that there probably was no money in the payroll account to cover the paycheck.

At first she thought it was a joke. So she walks down to the nearby currency exchange, and they declined to cash the check. They explained that checks from this establishment have been blacklisted since they always bounce. At this point, she figured she would go to the issuing bank and just cash it there. When she called, they told her that there were no funds in the account, so they wouldn’t be able to cash it.

She called her manager, who said that he usually puts money in the account on the Monday after payday. This made no sense to her. Why would he wait until after they pay their employees to put money into the payroll account? It took the manager two weeks to finally put money into the account so that she could cash the check.

It became a running joke at the bank. Every time she came in, they would wish her luck, check the account, and turn her away. When she asked her fellow coworkers, they said that this is the usual routine they go through. When the manager does put money into the account, he doesn’t even put enough to cover all the checks they’ve issued. Apparently, it’s on a first come first serve basis.

She continued to work there for a couple more months since she really needed the extra income, until she had accumulated three checks that she was not able to cash. By now, she had quit the job, and was only able to cash two checks, and is currently still trying to cash the last one. She calls the manager several times a week, who constantly tells her that he is putting money into the account, but never does.

I am restraining myself from paying the guy a visit myself to make sure this issue is settled, but she has asked me to let her fix this. The owner drives a new Jaguar and the place is almost always packed, so I can’t imagine they’re strapped for cash to pay their employees. I’m sure the manager puts enough money into the account so that he could cash his own check!

This is not the best way to run a business. Please help. She is at her ends with the guy, and he no longer returns her phone calls. At this point, she is owed slightly under $300, but it is not about the money, it’s about the principle. She did her job, and they owe her for it.

The day she left, she told him that if there is no money to cash her checks, don’t bother to put her in the schedule. She thinks that he took it as a joke, so he probably scheduled her anyway. When she didn’t show up, he probably was upset, so she thinks he’s getting back at her. She has considered a lawyer, but that would probably cost more than the money she is owed. She doesn’t know what to do.

A: How shocking: An employer who engages workers and then refuses to pay them. You’ve got to think that he isn’t making the right tax contributions either. How fortunate your friend doesn’t have a retirement account with this guy. She’d wind up in the poorhouse!

In general, it is illegal (read: fraud) to write checks on an account that you know does not have enough cash to make good on the checks.

Your friend can, and should, report the owner and manager of the restaurant to the Illinois department of professional regulation, as well as other state and local departments that regulate restaurants, alcohol licenses, etc. I’m sure the Attorney General’s office would be interested to know this is going on. And, it’s possible she may be able to file a police report.

All of this should help shake loose her money, and she should request it in cash this time. Shame on the bank for not reporting this guy and his bad business practices.

But I have a problem with your friend continuing to work for a company that plays payday games. There are other, more legitimate places to work, and while the owner owes owe her $300, if she never collects, it’s a cheap lesson that you just don’t work for crooks. It always comes back to haunt you.

I hope this helps. Good luck.