What Do You Mean ‘Not Authorized?’

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Feb 2, 2015

Editor’s note: Jeff Allen has heard every employer excuse you can imagine for not paying up — and dozens more that defy imagination. A few years ago he began documenting them in a weekly collections column. Because of the importance of collections, Fordyce will periodically reprise the most common situations he addressed. The complete collection is here.

What Client Says:

You dealt with an “unauthorized hiring authority.”

How Client Pays:

They don’t call him an “unauthorized hiring authority.” But I do because the phrase says it all. They say things like, “The president wasn’t authorized to approve your fee.”

We truly believe everyone – from the janitor to the president – is authorized. The law does too. Actual authority from the client is something you can’t be expected to know. Apparent authority is all you need. You can be as gullible as you like, because the client should be controlling the mouths, pens and keystrokes of its employees.

If it lets them talk, write, type, listen and read – believe! Then place away. Let the client argue the lack of authority. You were misled. It is estopped (stopped or prevented) from asserting the lack of authority.

It’s frightening that any employee can bind an employer. But it’s based on the right of control and the public policy to protect people who deal with a business.

So don’t give someone the third degree if they utter something that sounds like a job order. If you do, you’ll be showing that you doubt him. Instead, just be able to prove you cleared the fee. Your JO should always show the date of fee confirmation, a copy of the personalized fee schedule sent to him, and anything you can get signed.

Then centuries of law will work — for you!.

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