I am an IT Database person at our company. Our company does not have a financial transaction interactive program for business users, to log customer debt payments or debt increases. So they are requesting me to become a bookkeeper/and manually log transactions with SQL statements (SQL is a database programming language). I have to log transactions with funky code into a database,

(a) Is this even legal? I have to log 1000+ transactions in a month, and if I mess up, my boss gets angry, I am not a bookkeeper. I doubt this even abides my financial compliance/GAAP accounting laws, etc. (b)Just curious what my legal rights are if they ever try to fire people over this?

  • What does your company legal department say about this? Aug 2 '18 at 17:08
  • not willing to ask yet, manager, cfo could fire us, typical whistleblower threats I feel, so did not request, just inquiring what my legal rights are if they ever try to fire Aug 2 '18 at 17:10
  • So your question is more about being a whistleblower and legal rights as an employee rather than SQL and financial transactions? Your choices may be 1) you get fired now or 2) you get fired later and are also complicit in the accounting and banking violations. Aug 2 '18 at 17:13
  • just labeled questions above, am I really complicit now in accounting/banking violations? I thought there is a legal liability shield, or directive that it came from management cfo, makes me want to reconsider working here, thanks for all the information, I'm just a tech guy, but don't want to be complicit in this Aug 2 '18 at 17:18
  • Forget the company legal department, what does your own lawyer say you should do?
    – Nij
    Aug 3 '18 at 1:24

a) Is this even legal? I have to log 1000+ transactions in a month, and if I mess up, my boss gets angry, I am not a bookkeeper.

No occupational licenses are required to be a bookkeeper. Unless you have a contract with your employer or a collective bargain agreement negotiated with your union that limits your responsibilities, the employer can assign you whatever duties the employer wishes.

I doubt this even abides my financial compliance/GAAP accounting laws, etc.

If the company is not publicly held and is not under a contractual obligation to do so, GAAP accounting is not required. What you are doing isn't inherently inconsistent with either GAAP accounting or with HIPPA (for health care information) either. GAAP accounting (which is compelled by securities laws), HIPPA and similar laws governing record keeping and databases don't govern the mechanism by which data is put into or retrieved from databases or records (other than required security measures for the data in the case of HIPPA and some banking laws) or the precise format of databases/records.

The employer has made an implicit decision to do work in a stupid and inefficient way and to pay you to do it, rather than to do it in a cheaper and more conventional way, but that is the employer's prerogative. The employer would be perfectly within the law and its rights to have you use an abacus and cuneiform ledgers in mud with a stylus if it wished, so long as the ledgers were kept in a secure environment.

The tax laws merely require that a company keep records adequate to comply. It is poor business practice but probably not illegal. Workplace.SE would probably have suggestions about how to get an employer to be less stupid.

It may even put the company at risk of liability for negligent misrepresentation to a third party causing a customer harm occurs if an error is made and then reported to a collection agency and the error prone method is found to be negligent by a judge or jury. But, it would not be illegal and would not give rise to liability, unless an error that negligently causes harm to a customer actually happens.

Also, first party debt collections (as opposed to debt collections through a third party debt collector) are not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. So a mistake in a bill sent to its own client would not be actionable.

(b)Just curious what my legal rights are if they ever try to fire people over this?

If you are an employee at will (and in the U.S. you almost surely are), and you aren't in Montana (which has a requirement to fire only for good cause), the only right you have in connection with a firing for bad cause is that it entitles you to unemployment benefits which you are not entitled to receive if you quit or are laid off, and there are alternative severance pay arrangements when that is allowed by state law.

Also, inability to perform assigned job duties to the standard set by the employer is good cause. So, you could be fired without negative consequences for the employer if your boss gets angry. The fact that your aren't qualified for the kind of work and bad work processes your employer wants you to engage in doesn't really matter.

  • "abacus and cuneiform ledgers", your funny, thanks for the great input, answer is different from one above, will consider it. One another note, in noting, "data is retrieved from databases", I am actually Inserting data into a database, if I error, my company customers/vendors, will receive incorrect balance amount owed due, and it will hit their credit report, etc, Strange the laws do not constrain this activity, thank you however Aug 2 '18 at 19:35
  • one another note, our company is owned by a headquarters company which is public stock exchange, the public stock company owns us 100%, headquarters is a Bank, however we are not, I don't fully understand ownership structure, but a thought Aug 2 '18 at 19:37
  • @user3820224 This is absolutely relevant and means that GAAP accounting is required. But, neither GAAP accounting nor tax accounting require a particular method of record keeping or a particular means of data entry or retrieval. Sending an inaccurate bill to a client isn't actionable if done by the firm's billing department rather than a third party debt collector. There could be negligent misrepresentation liability for the firm (or maybe even you) if through negligence an actually inaccurate credit report is made, if specific economic harm is caused as a result, and this method is negligent.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 2 '18 at 19:58

The financial record keeping you are doing - under direction by management - may be illegal in different ways; that's hard to say without knowing more about the procedures, data storage, etc. You may be immune due to working under the direction of management; that's hard to say without more information on the work arrangement, your contract, your manager's instructions, etc.

But, the best thing to do is find free legal help and get an opinion as to if 1) the financial system is compliant with state and federal laws, and 2) how to protect yourself if you are fired as a result of questioning the work you have been instructed to do, or protecting yourself if you quit and/or blow the whistle on what has been found to be illegal activity.

Check out courts.ca.gov - Free and Low-Cost Legal Help. You can make it clear to the organization's staff and lawyers that you do not wish your company to know you are there, and they should protect you under attorney client privilege.

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