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Searching For Remote Work? Look Out For These Red Flags

If you see any one of these 10 signs, just run.

Workin' Girl

Living through a pandemic has many of us wondering how to find remote jobs, and since everyone seems to be working from home (or are now privy to the wonderful world of flex hours), the allure of the seemingly countless remote work opportunities is definitely there. I mean, you can't go online without seeing some pop-up ad, YouTube video, or social media webinar touting the freedom, demand, success and "can't miss" dream of remote work.

Well, with anything that seems to be in-demand and full of fantasy, there are always red flags. The scamming is real, and even in the world of regular recruitment, you've got to be careful. Here are a few red flags to look out for so that your desire to pursue remote work doesn't lead you to new and avoidable problems:

1. The salary listed is too good to be true.

This one is a doozy because we could all use a few more coins. Here's the thing: The company could offer you that salary but never pay you for the work. Why? Because it was a farce in the first place. Or worse: The job never existed, the "recruiter" actually doesn't even work for the company, or the listing was fake. Scammers will use tactics like offering a high salary that is not even commiserate with the industry nor does it match with what you've researched online. According to reports, job scams have increased during the pandemic, and this is a major tell-tale sign that you're dealing with a counterfeit professional or fraudster.

Image via Giphy

2. They ask you for an upfront payment or "investment."

When you're unemployed (or even when you're not), you definitely don't have money to waste, and there are so many free resources out here for finding work. No reputable company will ask for an upfront payment to interview you or to give you access to more information about the job. Also, no company will need your debit or credit card information in order to vet you for a position. Sis, don't even question this. It's a scam. Period. Case closed. (If you need even more information about this or you want to find out if you've been a victim—and what you should do—check out the Federal Trade Commission's website or consult a local legal professional, several of which offer free consultations.

(Now, hiring a career coach, headhunter, recruitment consultant, or leadership coach is a different story. In this case, you're paying for actual services and time, but you still need to vet these professionals as well.)

3. The company's online presence is a tad sus, at best.

No matter the industry or type of work: If the company's website has not been updated and the information on their site is old or sparse, raise more than an eyebrow. (You can check these things by looking at the year listed at the bottom of the home page of most reputable businesses' Websites.)

Furthermore, if the company or brand doesn't have a presence on LinkedIn, writes you from an email address that includes misspellings or is mostly used for personal correspondences, or if you can't verify its financials, team members, or management via several online sources that you trust, sis, walk away.

Most companies have social media accounts and Websites that are actively updated, and company information is usually readily available on the Web, whether it's on their own site or via Forbes, Inc., the Better Business Bureau or local news outlets. Use sites like Yelp, Glassdoor, and Indeed to read reviews about the company or brand, check online for applicable licenses or certifications or visit the attorney general's site for where the company is based. It's also a good idea to Google the names of the people emailing you about the position and see if they have their own LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. If they don't, again, that's a red flag.

Image via Giphy

4. Their payment process is sketchy.

As a remote worker, you should have a clear understanding of how you'll be paid, via what platform or means, how often, and how your taxes will be handled. You should also be able to get this in information in writing, and feel comfortable offering information required for payroll or tax purposes (such as your address or social security number.) If you ask questions on this and feel like you're pulling teeth to get answers, chuck the dueces. Also, if you're given vague insights in reference to pay or you just don't feel comfortable with the payment method or process, you might want to just reconsider working for the company or brand altogether.

At reputable companies, many remote workers are paid through the same processes as regular, in-office workers, so keep that in mind. If they don't have an in-house HR and payroll team, they'll typically contract with companies like ADP or offer to pay via platforms like PayPal. Also, I love a company that is super-responsive, especially when it comes to payment issues or questions, so having a direct phone number for talking to a live human or at least a chat option where you can get real-time responses is a good look.

Might I add, as a freelancer, this doesn't just apply to major corporations or brands. It's also in reference to small business owners or solopreneurs who contract you for work. That still counts as remote work, and when you depend on this to pay your bills—and your taxes—you'll want to be sure you're not setting yourself up for nonsense and drama.

5. They are asking for personal information—like a social security number—up front.

Again, fraud, fraud, and more fraud. This information is typically not required until after a job offer is made, according to experts, and that makes perfect sense considering that the social is often needed solely for payroll purposes or background checks. Some companies ask for a social during the application process, but I'd side-eye considering the privacy and ethics issues. (Also, it's a practice that is highly discouraged.)

Vet companies and get to know who you're corresponding with before you give out your personal information, especially your social security number. In some states, asking for the social before an offer is made is a big no-no and could put a company in a position to face fines or legal action, so be sure you're aware of the the statutes and best practices.

Before offering this information—and only after you've gotten that congrats email—ask about the companies' cybersecurity policies as well as their privacy efforts in storing your information. Ask them how the information will be used, and get details of this in writing. And even if you get pretty comfortable with the interviewer or recruiter, verify if it's even necessary to give out that information. Some contract workers who are self-employed, for example, use EIN numbers.

Image via Giphy

6. You have no idea who handles HR or tech issues.

As a remote worker, you can sometimes feel super-displaced, almost like a distant cousin or step-child who is part of the family but not necessarily acknowledged and almost always forgotten when its time to send out those family reunion invites. Having an HR professional to address questions or troubleshoot any problems that might arise with management, work hours, pay, expectations, or grievances is always a good sign that the company values all its workers—not just those who come into an actual office every day.

Companies that don't have at least one neutral party you can talk to about the usual everyday work-related issues you're confronted with that actually affect your work can create cultures that facilitate toxic, unfulfilled experiences. When there is no unbiased, professional party to turn to for recourse in resolving challenges or addressing unprofessional behaviors, the situation can turn into the remote job from hell. It's good to take note of who handles these issues or ask questions related to human resources before moving forward.

And when it comes to tech, companies that actually have a dedicated team, hotline, or person to handle IT issues are great to work for, especially since many remote jobs require use of a laptop or computer and some sort of Internet connection. Who wants to have to worry about not being able to get their work done because they can't get in contact with an actual tech professional to find out why their email isn't working or why they're locked out of certain platforms? Again, it'll be the flex job from hell. Run.

7. You are required to use your own equipment or buy equipment to do your job.

Unless you're a freelancer or small business owner by trade and you're able to write off your equipment as a business or work expense, don't accommodate requests to go out spending your own money for a job. Once your home computer breaks down, gets a virus from something you were required to download, or is overwhelmed by constant file-sharing and video calls, you're left holding the bag while the company doesn't have to invest a penny in providing proper equipment or compensating you for your losses.

If there are special tech accessories, hardware, or software requirements, reputable companies will provide without question. I know plenty of people whose jobs suddenly went remote and their companies provided headsets, computers, keyboards, phones, and other items needed to make the transition seamless. I've also worked for companies that have provided a laptop, phone, and reimbursements or discounts for expenses related to remote work. It was part of the offer package and I would never ask for anything less.

8. The job duties are vague, even after you've asked specific questions about them.

To start, it's a good practice to ask about the everyday tasks, the success metrics, the communication requirements and the work hours. I mean, the title might sound good, but if you don't know what you'll actually be required to do and how, you can't really thrive. When employers want quality candidates, they'll be super-clear on the qualifications, the daily duties, and how a candidate's performance will be reviewed. If they're being mum or you're still confused after corresponding with a prospective employer, just say no. You want to avoid being catfished at all costs.

Image via Giphy

9. You can't pinpoint who your manager is or who will be evaluating your performance.

Again, this goes back to quality of experience and thriving in your career journey. You'd hate to be in a remote-job experience where you've got one too many bosses to answer to (with nonstop, conflicting emails or Slack messages from each), or you have no clue as to how good or awful you're doing at a job. In a remote situation, this can be both devastating and mentally draining. You should be able to inquire about who your direct manager will be, how they communicate, and what their specific expectations are for the position. This will also give you the information you need to research your potential manager by looking up their social profiles or reading reviews of their leadership on job search sites.

10. It's remote... until it's not.

Yep, some companies will pull the ol' bait-and-switch with you where they initially advertised the position as remote but during the interview slide in a mention of the possibility that "once everything gets back to normal" you will be "asked" to come into the office. There are also those recruiters and managers who will use very blurry language when asked whether the position you're interviewing for will remain remote. It's the "For now, we all work remote, but we have offices in..." for me.

If you enjoy working remote, still don't feel comfortable working in an office, have a health issue, or want to continue having the flexibility to home school your children or to travel, this is definitely a red flag to consider. In weeding out these sorts of fuzzy and potentially problematic employers, I just ask about the remote aspect of the job three times in at least three different ways, and I will even politely require the remote guarantee in writing before accepting an offer. When asked if you'd be OK with coming into an office, be honest and either go the direct route by simply saying, "No," or tell them why you prefer remote work.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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