Seeking opinions. Employee failed to report truck damage.

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by DVS Hardscaper, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,623

    The other day I started the topic on here called 'Out to Pasture'. I had mentioned that I have an older employee that's been damaging stuff lately.

    The other week he ripped a brand new light off of the trailer with the bucket on the skid steer. He didn't report it to me. I discovered it when I unhitched the trailer, and I walked around to check all the lights were fastened tightly. Grab ahold of it and it came off in my hand! It had about 2' of electrical tape inside, holding it together! So that made me
    Angry that he didn't tell me about it.

    The next day I confronted him and told him I'm ok with things getting damaged, BUT I'm NOT ok with it going unreported. And I told him if anything ever happens again and it's not reported - the cost if the damages were coming out of his pay. It's at the point where I have let many recent damages be swept under the rug, and I can't let any more go undealt with.

    So we have the back gates on the dump truck where 2 months ago we just had new beefier pillars fabricated and installed. Sunday afternoon I loaded the truck for Monday, and I opened the gates (3) separate times (I kept remembering we needed more tools), and they opened and closed with one hand and no effort.

    Monday we had gravel in the truck and were using the skid steer to scoop it out. Lunch time comes and I go to close one gate and it resisted. I study it and find the cast iron hinge had a clean break. So I call this guy over and show it to him. He denied hitting the hinge with the skid steer.

    Ok, so I didn't know what happened.

    This am I'm at the Paver plant picking up material. I had a long wait to get loaded and I inspect the gates. This time in the open position. I find fresh, deep scratches in the iron that coincide with a skid steer not backing straight out from behind the truck. With a rub in the iron so deep and wide that it looked like someone took a grinder to it. What happened is the edge of the cutting bar on the bucket had alotta pressure against it.

    Ok, so remember on Monday I asked him of he knew anything about the damages. He said he did not know anything. But the scrape is so large, there is NO WAY he didn't know.

    This is going to involve 2 new hinges (this time steel, not cast iron) About 3 hrs of labor, 5 hrs if the hinges are fabricted from scratch, which my guy charges $40 / hr, plus he is 40 miles away. Since I warned
    my worker that I will back charge him for unreported damages, I'm thinking of charging $200.00 and taking it out of his pay.

    What are your thoughts, how would you handle it?
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    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011
  2. tadpole

    tadpole LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,221

    Difficult situation. In the absence of a confession or eye witnesses, it will be hard to prove that this employee is responsible, although he probably is. I don't believe that you can legally levy an employee's wages without proper documentation of their culpability. In addition, this type of action on your part needs to be spelled out in writing as part of the company's employee policies.
  3. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Messages: 1,209

    Company handbook? Or posted signs saying "you will pay to replace or repair"?

    We had a problem of guys losing tools off the truck, dumped at the landfill etc. I posted a sign a year ago Saying that a crew that goes out with a tool and does not return it at the end of the day will. Split the replacement costs. Since then I haven't lost one tool.

    If he was warned then charge him. It may seem like your being an ass but it sounds like he is getting reckless with your money and it's time for Him to share the load
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,665

    I know how you feel Andrew and its not fun to have to confront and get the answers that you know already what you're going to hear. "Not me, I didn't do that". 200 dollars is peanuts compared to having lose an employee who probably works his butt off for you. Sounds like he just doesn't want to admit doing something wrong especially with a boss like you! I've had guys flip excavators right in front of me and still blurt out "damn excavator" like its the one that caused it.
    I'm sure any of the guys who've been in business for 2 or 3 decades could write a book on this subject.
    Good luck
  5. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    By law. No way, no how, no contracts, no waivers, no signs, no written agreements, can you take the money out of his pay.

    He can reimburse you if you guys work it out. But do not take it out of his pay.

    I repeat. He can reimburse you, if you work it out. But DO NOT TAKE IT OUT OF HIS PAY.

    Learned the hard way a few years ago, and that was WITH an employee handbook, with a signed agreement, with a sign in the shop, and with a sticker in the trucks.

    An employee cannot sign his rights away even if he agrees to.
  6. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,623

    There has to be accountability. Either that or they get fired.

    I have a buddy that is management at a huge national trucking company. If the driver breaks a pallet of eggs - it comes out of his pay. Damages a truckk up to a certain dollar amount - comes out of his pay. Damages a truck over a certain dollar amount - terminated.

    Damaging things is one thing.

    Damaging and NOT reporting is another.

    LOL - the other week when be broke that $5 light - I found out today he made another employee tape up the light. The other employee told him he had to tell me. And the one that broke the light said he would, which he never did. So why did he quickly have it taped up if he was planning to tell me?!

    I'm think I'm answering my own concern, he's becomming a liability. Back in 2005 I had a guy that in 6 months did $2,000 damage to various things (client's houses, my personal work truck, etc). I'm not the type to get upset, but I need to remind myself I'm a businessman, not their cousin.


  7. tadpole

    tadpole LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,221

    You definitely answered your own question. When an employee becomes a non-salvageable liability, termination is really the only option.
  8. OutdoorCreations

    OutdoorCreations LawnSite Member
    Messages: 66

    I always threaten guys with "guess who is working for free tomorrow" when something is gets broken or lost because of their stupidity.
  9. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,623

    That's funny! I use the same line - "working for free"!
    Posted via Mobile Device
  10. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,156

    Start a paper trail right now. You need to write the guy up with a formal written warning that states what happened, what the plan is to prevent it from happening again and the consequences if the same thing happens again. Both you and the employee needs to sign the warning and he gets a copy and you put a copy in his employee file. I know in CA by law we are not able to deduct any type of thing like this from an employees wages. A paper trail will be your best resource when you end up having to fire the guy. It's indisputable (especially with his signature on the warnings) and it will keep you out of trouble if he comes after you for something once you terminate him.

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