As Told by Melissa Monay

 

In July 2015, Melissa Monay and her husband, Ivan Robles, started a company called OAX Imports. Within a short timeframe, their small business flourished and grew into a successful joint venture between Melissa and Ivan. During this time, Melissa happily handled the finances and bookkeeping, while Ivan acted as the head of sales. He was also in charge of the hiring of personnel.

OAX Imports was doing as well as any other small business, streamlining their importing processes, growing their employees, and becoming better at what they do through marketing, quality, and customer service.OAX Imports is now a four year old importing business of dry foods from the Southern Region of Mexico. Some of the goods include beans, tortillas, chocolate, and spices. The business is very close to their hearts, as Ivan is from the particular region of Oaxaca, Mexico, and understands how important these goods are, that cater to a very specific Hispanic market.

 

Although the business was flourishing, admittedly some policies were not in place.

OAX Imports operated under ten employees as a tightly knit group – so, many of the processes were carried out in good faith. Additionally, as the business was small, Melissa and Ivan did not necessarily have the resources at first to put policies into place.

Last January, while the business was growing rapidly, Melissa used the QuickBooks Proadvisor website and was able to locate David at SoCo Tax & Cloud Accounting. David helped her to clean up both the books, and the taxes. He also quickly got them setup on Gusto Payroll, so there would be no more cash payroll, which was one of the more profound mistakes that would cost the company later.

 

 

What Happened? 

 

 

At OAX Imports, the majority of employees were family members and close friends, so as mentioned above, processes were carried out in good faith. Melissa’s brother Geovanni, who was also a close friend of Ivan’s, worked as a driver and warehouse worker at OAX Imports. Just like all the other employees, Geovanni was paid on a weekly basis, and in cash. The payroll was not hourly; there was simply an established workload and then the pay was determined.

About a month later in February, Melissa and Ivan ran payroll for the first time using TSheets time tracking software, where employees clocked in and out using the mobile application. Shortly after, the GPS tracking system was implemented.

 

TSheets became a life saver in terms of location verification, calculating routes, and minimizing wasted time.

 

It was during this time that Melissa’s brother Geovanni, and a coworker who was a close childhood friend of Ivan, got into an intense argument with each other. The argument became somewhat of a power struggle, as the childhood friend of Ivan’s was bossy with Geovanni. Geovanni was younger in age and felt challenged and angry. He got upset over the argument, and shocking Melissa and Ivan, immediately quit OAX Imports.

Geovanni then asked Melissa and Ivan for his last check. Melissa asked Geovanni to come visit her at the home office but he refused.

 

Within a week, Geovanni hired a workplace fairness lawyer and sued Melissa’s husband Ivan, demanding $65,000 in unpaid wages and emotional damage for stress.

 

The close childhood friend of Ivan’s, who started the argument with Geovanni, ended up leaving the company two weeks after the lawsuit was filed. This made the argument that started the lawsuit seem pointless. He did not even show up to testify and Melissa and Ivan were unable to locate him – it had appeared that he had caused this huge problem and then disappeared.

Melissa and Ivan were in dismay, as Geovanni had only been with the company for six months and the amount they were being sued for was substantial. It was the first time anything like this had ever happened, and because a family member was involved, the situation was rapidly intensified.


Melissa called David right away. TSheets had only been in place at OAX Imports for one week, so it was clear that any documentation regarding Geovanni’s work history (specifically, hours worked) would not be accessible; if it even existed at all. This was a perfect example of why TSheets would have been a lifesaver. Had the system been in place already during the hours in question, documentation would be apparent. With just a click Melissa and Ivan could have printed the timesheets and even used the GPS Tracker as a second set of evidence that Geovanni had been paid for the hours he worked for the company. Nevertheless, without TSheets, the lawsuit had to take its course.

As Melissa was the one to lead the investigation, she made the decision of hiring an employment attorney right away.

 

Both Melissa and her attorney, and Geovanni and his lawyer, negotiated for two long months. Although Melissa and Ivan were absolutely certain he was not shorted any pay for his hours, Geovanni had claimed a multitude of time that he was not compensated for. Starting with Day 1 of Geovanni’s work history, and using a manual excel spreadsheet, Melissa and Ivan attempted to track the past six months of Geovanni’s work hours and locations. This method was highly unsuccessful. Excel is simply a manual spreadsheet, and since it was not used during the actual dates of employment, it could not be used as factual evidence in this case. It was just for Melissa and Ivan to observe, and know that they had paid out their employee accurately. Again, since TSheets was not in place, there was virtually no evidence during these negotiations – it was Geovanni’s word against Ivan’s word.

Furthermore, Melissa and Ivan discovered that California law is biased toward the employee. Owning a small business in this state is far from easy. Melissa and Ivan wanted to avoid the daunting task of heading to court. From research and common sense, Melissa knew that critics of the profession have long argued that lawyers have an incentive to try to collect fees contingent on winning in court, or simply bill for so many hours required to prepare and go to trial.

 

 

OAX Imports while successful, is a small business and they obviously could not afford to pay steep attorney fees.

 

There were many sleepless nights for Melissa and Ivan during the lawsuit. The couple was physically drained from continuing routine business operations, and dealing with the stresses of the lawsuit. In addition to those two factors, Melissa was in shock at the betrayal of her brother.

Hiring and working with a close family member or friend in itself can be a challenge – there are the obvious precautions to take, such as not showing favoritism while also not being unreasonably tough to show non-favoritism. Perhaps the most difficult challenge is not being overly sensitive or biased when issues arise. Arguments or conflicts can occur, and family members or friends expect certain outcomes based on their relationship status with the other individual involved which can lead to disappointment. In Melissa’s and Ivan’s scenario, there was a different mistake made.

By hiring and working with friends and family, the company had an unspoken and inherent trust. Hours were documented in good faith and conflict was never suspected simply because, well, he was family. With this unsuspecting and easy-going attitude, it was the perfect setup for the tense argument and legal disaster that ensued.

With the ordeal wrapping up, eventually a settlement was reached and Geovanni was paid out a lump sum. Although Melissa and Ivan knew that they didn’t owe Geovanni any more money than he had already been paid during his employment at the company, he was still paid out. Melissa and Ivan are now setup on a payment schedule for the settlement toward Geovanni.

 

This experience has taught Melissa that businesses should always be not only well-protected, but prepared as well. So many policies and procedures are in place for a reason – to ensure companies are not at risk for being sued by employees due to lack of organization.  Another realization for Melissa is that it’s better to hire people that you don’t know. As an employer, there is always an unbiased point of view when it’s a stranger that you’re dealing with.

At OAX Imports, there is only one employee that remains who was employed at the time of the incident. To this day, Melissa tries to keep his viewpoints a bit separate from the new group of employees, as they are familiar with OAX Imports only after TSheets was already in place, so they have a fresh outlook.

As Melissa handles the administrative side of the business, she operates cautiously and the company has instilled guidelines and rules for hiring. The former situation has made the business owners weary of employee loyalty, so as a result, whoever is hired starts off on a 3 month probation. Employees begin at minimum wage and then work their way up slowly. Ivan is a generous employer, and knows that monetary compensation is important for making a living. Regardless, Melissa and Ivan seek out employees that are specifically reliable and dependable. It’s not easy finding these types of workers, as graveyard and weekend shifts are challenging to fill in the first place.

This experience has severed the relationship between Melissa and Geovanni since he left the company. As soon as legal representation was implemented, there was no contact between Geovanni, and Melissa and Ivan.

It was unfortunate that Melissa lost communication with her brother over this experience.

 

Despite OAX Imports operating on a more formal basis, business policy has never been better. Procedures and policies are more straightforward, and the lawyer who assisted Melissa and Ivan with the case has stayed on with the company to perform internal audits, and ensure policies are adhered to. This ensures that the company will remain protected if a future incident arises similar to what happened with Geovanni.

Clocking in has become mandatory at OAX Imports, and the company has implemented a zero exceptions and zero tolerance policy in order to rely on traceability. If an employee’s phone battery dies, Melissa is able to clock in or out for the employee – in this sense the company can always rely on the traceability of clocking in and out for record keeping.

With TSheets, you pay per user – and to Melissa and Ivan, you can’t put a price on what it will save you in the long run.

 

The price surely justifies what you can prevent in a labor or unemployment lawsuit.

One of Melissa’s favorite features is the new TSheets Kiosk. The kiosk is located at the OAX Imports warehouse and takes a picture of the person clocking in and out of the system. This policy is appreciated by Melissa and Ivan, as they can see exactly who is clocking in and out. This is reassuring, as they now know there is absolute trust when employees clock in, and there are no loopholes.

With the photo kiosk, even if an employee doesn’t have his/her phone, the kiosk takes care of that. Both the tablet and the camera are set at a strategic level, so it doesn’t matter what your height is. These types of measures are taken because employees can be sneaky!

One of the OAX Imports drivers is frequently offsite and drives the company van; he has to clock in and out using his mobile device. He has provided routes throughout the greater Los Angeles area. For this reason, Melissa performs spot checks and as TSheets is constantly tracking his location, she can follow his route easily and track the timing of it as well. In one incident, the employee realized that Melissa was utilizing this feature and so he turned off his GPS. He was caught swiftly.

TSheets has changed the way Melissa and Ivan manage their employees and their business. When employees are clocked in, Melissa knows exactly how long they’ve been at work and can see everyone’s location pinned to a single map. Every TSheets account comes with this incredible workforce management tool. It’s a huge time and resource saver that gives OAX Imports an instant picture of who’s on the clock, where they are, and how long they’ve been at work. Melissa can also sort her view by hours worked, clock-in time, name, or location for an in-depth, real-time snapshot of the business at any point of the day.

There is also a camera system in place if a supervisor is absent. This verifies the validity of the person who clocks in or out of the system. Employees must sign a waiver agreeing that they acknowledge that there is a camera in place. Policies like this are so important for liability and transparency.

OAX Imports staff love using TSheets because they offer great customer support – chat is available so that you don’t even need to pick up the phone to speak with someone. The photo kiosk is incredibly useful.

 

With TSheets, you can run the payroll report so easily, as it tallies normal, overtime, and even double-time.

 

Small businesses can now say goodbye to dry erase boards and printed Excel spreadsheets with scribbled-in names. TSheets scheduling software has made it faster and easier than ever for business owners like Melissa to build and share schedules with employees, assign jobs and shifts, and keep her workforce in-the-know while running like a well-oiled machine. One of the best parts is that with TSheets, you get time tracking and scheduling together, as it should be.

As OAX Imports is located on a dock and there is a greater risk of liability, Melissa and Ivan decided it would be smart to get workers compensation as well. The company is now set up on TSheets, Gusto Payroll, and their attorney continues to perform internal audits. All of these corrective measures were triggered from the incident.

OAX Imports is far more organized now. As a small business owner, if you have employees, the measures are so important. To Melissa, one of the biggest lessons was that anyone will do what they must to benefit, and unfortunately even family members can be liable. At this point, had Geovanni stayed the straight track at work, he would be a lead by now and earning much more money.

While it’s a cautious outlook, Melissa and Ivan know now that employees can get angry and feel resentment, and if an opportunity arises, some will take what they can get from you. It’s very important to clock in and out to keep a valid record of hours worked. At the end of it all, Melissa and Ivan were left thinking that while Geovanni was angry, was it all really worth it in the end?

OAX Imports has since doubled in sales and is doing so well now. When your business is growing, never stop making adjustments. There is always room for learning opportunities.

In addition to getting the time tracking & payroll recording in place, important next steps that should not be missed on a small business’s journey to compliance, is getting the proper HR infrastructure in place. We recommend ADP’s HR package that includes custom employee handbooks, job descriptions, HR Toolkits, and HR Helpdesk (hiring, performance management, & termination). To learn more click here or contact our ADP representative directly at 714-228-4081.

 

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