Help with a tough situation

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by JimLewis, Jan 24, 2002.

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  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    I am sorry in advance for the long post. I could use some advice. It's difficult to explain the entire situation without going into a lot of detail.

    I have a customer who pays us month to month (as opposed to the majority of my clients who chooose AutoPay). In the past, he's always paid cash to the person working at his house. I know it's stupid for him and for me. But in the past, my foreman had always been there to receive the cash and it always got back to me. So there was no problem.

    Well about 2 weeks ago my crew went by to mow and he went outside and gave one of my guys cash ($200 in fifties) with instructions to take it to me. I called a few days later about his payment being late and he said, "You didn't get the cash I gave your guy the other day? Dang it!!! I knew I shouldn't have done that. It wasn't the same guy I had seen before and I had some apprehensions about it but it had always worked out before so I just did it anyway."

    When I inquired with the employee the next morning, he just said, "huh? No. I don't know what he's talking about. He never gave me nuthin." Which isn't quite the answer I'd expect from an innocent person. If it were me I would have said, "HE SAID WHAT??? ME??? HE SAID HE GAVE IT TO ME??? HE'S LYING!!! JIM, LET'S GO OVER THEIR RIGHT NOW, I'LL PROVE IT TO YOU."

    But instead his response was rather nonchalant. Like it was no big deal. So at this point I was scratching my head trying to figure out who was telling me the truth.

    So I called the client back and said my employee denied the whole thing. He acted as if I would expect someone who was telling the truth to act. He said something like, "Hmm. I can't believe that. Well, would you please let me know when he'll be here next, I'd like to have a little discussion with him." I said, "Sure." He also was very irritated that he had lost $200. As I would be too if I had done that. All his actions and responses seemed appropriate.

    At this point everything was telling me that my client was telling me the truth and my employee was lying.

    Today is the day we were to service this lawn again. I called the client and told him my crew would be there, so that he could have the talk he wanted to have. My foreman also knew the whole story and knew the client well so he said he wanted to go over there with them and try to see how the conversation went to get some more insight.

    So they all went over there. From what I hear, the client came out, asked my foreman, "Is that the guy who was here last time?" And then their conversation started.

    The client confronted my worker with the accusation. My worker denied again ever having received anything. I asked my foreman, "If it were you. Wouldn't you and you were innocent be pissed off at a guy who's accusing you of something you didn't do?" He agreed, he'd be pissed. I said, "If it were me, I'd be saying, "Dude! Why are you lying like this? THIS IS MY JOB AT STAKE, MAN! YOU KNOW YOU NEVER GAVE ME ANY MONEY!!!!" My foreman agreed that's how he'd have reacted to.

    So I asked him, "Did he react like that?" My foreman said, "No. He just denied it. And was just responding to the accusations as they came. He was kinda tongue tied from time to time but that's it."

    But my foreman was a little skeptical. He thought the client should have been able to remember my employee without having to ask, "Is that the same guy who was here last time?" I disagreed. I don't necessarily remember faces all that well when a crew (e.g. carpet cleaners) come over to my house and I just see them for a few seconds. My foreman disagreed, saying, "I dunno. I would definitely remember someone I had given $200 to."

    To me, this just reiterates that my employee was likely lying. His actions were telling me so. To boot, I know his personal finances are not good. He's behind the eight ball so to speak. And I'm confident he has told smaller lies in the past (e.g. recently when we found out his driver's license was suspended for several things he hadn't taken care of he acted as if he had no clue. I am sorry, I think you'd know if your license is suspended.)

    Given the above situation, what should I do? My inclination is to tell him , "Your services are no longer required." and hand him a final paycheck without any further explanation. Not only can he not be a driver any longer (as we recently found out. Even if he got his license back his record's too bad.) but he's also suspected of stealing now.

    What do you all think? I don't really have any firm proof. But I am more inclined to believe my client (even though he hasn't been a client for long, I've met him and he seems respectable and honest) over my worker who is obviously desperate for money.

    Obviously it's a bad idea to have employees handle cash. That's a given. But what do I do about keeping or firing this guy?
     
  2. LAWNS AND MOWER

    LAWNS AND MOWER LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,129

    Tough call Jim. I'm just glad it's you and not me making this decision. When I had employees my motto was you mess up once it's my fault. Mess up second time it's your fault. Mess up third time you're fired. Is this worker worth it to you to keep him? Is he dependable, hard working? Training a new employee will cost you more than $200. If you do can him there could be some legal issues involved. I would suggest that you insist that all clients give payment to your foreman and only him. This will avoid any confusion in the future. This is a hard call since there's no concrete evidence. Good Luck

    LAWNS AND MOWER
     
  3. ladibugg

    ladibugg LawnSite Member
    Posts: 79

    I have had customers not pay me, but never one claim to have paid me when they had not. On the other hand, I have met a lot of theives posing to be employees. Get rid of anything that causes you concern, period. If it bothers you to see this employee everyday make him go away. No question. If you have doubt, but are just not comfortable with the employee, make them go away. It's your company, run it your way.
     
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    Not really. He was hired as a crew leader and part of a crew leader's job is to be the driver. He can't drive now. Furthermore, he's the least dependable of my current employees, calling in sick more often, etc.

    Right, which is why I would let him go with the "Your services are no longer necessary" line. It is my understanding that in Oregon we are a state in which you can hire or fire someone at will for any reason (or no reason). I am confirming this with my attorney now. But from what I've been told I can let him go this way and as long as I don't tell him I'm firing him for stealing, he can't sue me for firing him for stealing. And to be extra safe, I'll be deleting this thread, if possible, within a few days.

    That may be true. I don't know. Regardless, I'd still rather do the right thing than save money. Furthermore, it's easy to train during the winter when we are pretty slow. I'd rather train now than in the spring.
     
  5. WatkinsLawn

    WatkinsLawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 40

    I don't know how it is there, but here in Ohio an employer doesn't have to have a reason to fire an employee unless the employee has a contract.
    With that said ...If it were me (and it has been in the past) I would get rid of him. If this guy is willing to steal $200.00 with a witness (the customer) who knows what he might take if there is no or little chance of being seen. This guy already seems to think he can get away with it.
    I know that its a pain to turn over employees but thats the nature of this business. I would have no problem getting rid of a guy that I can't trust. What if this guy steals from your customers properties or your tools or equipment? This guy is a liability and could potentially cost you a lot more than $200.00.
    If your not sure of whether or not he did it. I would say that if the chance that he DID do it is greater than 25%. That would be enough for me. He can go mow somewhere else.
    Sorry if I sound cold. I have just been burned so many times. Most recently was my own step brother. I think he may be responsible for some of my tools missing as well as gas money that was supposively "taken from the truck". He is no longer working for me. I have no proof he did it but, this is my business not a court room.
     
  6. slplow

    slplow LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 354

    Let the worker go... Tell your cliant to give your workers checks or pick up the cash your self.
     
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,842

    Watkins, I agree with you 100%. I only posted this to see if I was being too harsh in firing him when I wasn't for sure about his guilt or innocence. I am glad to see others with similar feelings.
     
  8. KirbysLawn

    KirbysLawn Millenium Member
    Posts: 3,486

    Write off the $200 and start a policy that requires employees to give written receipts from a book upon receipt of cash. Send a letter to all cash paying customers stating the above and that they not pay cash unless a receipt be given. Watch the employee closelyyyyyy.....sounds like he is guilty...
     
  9. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,915

    That's my first thought, taking cash without giving a customer a receipt is not too smart. Even you as an owner Jim, should give receipts on the spot so there is a paper trail for everyone to follow. Maybe you do, I don't know. Then there is no question.
    This is a tough one though, until there is good proof, they are both innocent to be honest. You gave enough facts and it's really hard to figure this out. On the same token, you say the employee isn't getting too excited over it, that could make me think he is lying if he did fly off the handle though. It could be taken either way with ones reaction. So that's not a real tell tale sign to me. I guess the employee has more against him and may seem to be the one not telling the truth. He is the only part that changed in this equation and now there is a problem. Tough call buddy, sorry but it's in your court. Hope it works out for you.
     
  10. jrblawncare

    jrblawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 445

    Its your call Jim,check the legalities as an employer.......From what I have read He needs to go.Good Luck
     
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