I started working at a small CPA firm in Las Vegas. Previously, I had worked at medium to large firms ranging from 25 – 150 people. By small I mean five people or less. What I noticed about small CPA firms in Las Vegas is that they have much in common:
- The owner is never in the office
- They will find an excuse not to pay you, not just you contractors, vendors
- They will say “we are family” definite red flag to mistreatment
- Most of the employees including the receptionist/admin are part-time
- They expect the employees to perform more than one job, same pay
- They have a high turnover rate
The owner of this firm had a full-time job as the CFO of Dollar Loan Center. He was seldom in the office. Another commonality among Las Vegas CPA firms is there is no training for new hires. Managers and owners will ask the person sitting near you to “show you the ropes”. Each firm uses different software, hardware, processes, workpapers.
If you notice the desks in the third picture are quite close together. My desk was the one in the corner with the black water container and box of tissue. I was one of two full-time employees. I would arrive at 8:30 and begin my day in a peaceful environment until the other full-time employee came to my desk. He always wanted to discuss YouTube videos and conspiracy theories about Mars or space or whatever. He was the only employee with an office besides the owner. I would get about 30 minutes of work completed. Then the other two employees would arrive around 10 am or so. They would yell loudly at one another. One would constantly hit the other, sometimes instigated by the third employee. She would say “we should film this, it’s like The Office!” It was not.
The employee who was hit and slapped would say “hey this isn’t right; I can’t hit you two because I’m a man and you’re women” and then they would all laugh. At one point I told all three of them “I am uncomfortable with you hitting him. I am not going to be a witness when he turns on you and files charges” and the women would say “well he deserves it.”
To give you a clearer picture of the environment, at one of the first CPA firms I worked, the department I worked had nonstop turnover. The job was super stressful and people would break. We all cried but more about that in When the Feds Raided.
The clients were from all 50 states. These clients or “investors” attended a seminar held by another company to learn how to flip houses. The cost of the seminars ranged from $35,000 to $50,000. My department would prepare the taxes. We had around 2,000 clients. At one point, there were only two of us left to prepare taxes. I prepared 469 tax returns, the other employee prepared 551 in less than a year.
I was hired at this firm on March 3, the deadline for most business tax returns is March 15th. The company had a total of 450 clients about 100 were business clients. The owner had a meeting March 13th stating he was worried because only 20 tax returns were completed. I had completed about five business returns. By the time I was dismissed, I had completed 75% of all the tax returns as pointed out by the newly hired admin who processed the completed returns.
The employee who was subject to the physical abuse asked the other employee who abused him to order the Death Nut Challenge package so he could complete the Death Nut Challenge that he had seen on some tv show or the internet. This employee always had stomach issues, why he was keen on completing this challenge is beyond me.
Anyway, so the day started out as usual. The newly hired receptionist not the same one mentioned before was having an issue with the printer as usual. She did not know how to use Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, nothing). She always had an issue scanning documents. She was always freaking out and self-deprecating as if that were helpful. ” I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong” was her mantra.
I did not know about the Death Nut Challenge until the day of. I tried so hard to ignore them but finally gave up since they were all screaming laughing at the top of their lungs. (Seriously, I am not exaggerating.) The challenge consisted of five peanuts coated with varying levels of hot pepper powders infused on the peanuts. There were instructions. Eat a peanut, wait a certain amount of time, eat another peanut, wait a longer amount of time until the last peanut was consumed. Only after consuming the last peanut could the challenger drink a liquid.
I believe this happened on a Thursday. Unbeknownst to me, the employee taking part of the challenge had an appointment with a client that day. Immediately after the challenge, he went to the bathroom for about an hour. When his client showed up, one of the other employees texted him several times to no avail. We made up an excuse and the client rescheduled. Did I mention there was only one bathroom?
How did it end? I had taken over for an employee that was fired. I kept asking the owner why he fired her since I could see she completed most of the tax returns. He told me she and the other male employee got into an argument and he had to choose one or the other.
When the September and October deadlines rolled around the male employee came up with some excuse as to why he could not come to work for those weeks. I found out later this was something he did every year. I ended up completing his work. I had learned previously not to wait until September 15th or October 15th to complete extended returns. I worked on all extended returns in the summer. I had completed all my returns by August. I thought I would be able to go home on time on September 15th but the owner and the other CPA, the “bookkeeper” or abuser, had taken on a new client two weeks before and could not figure out the financial statements provided by the client from the previous year.
So, the owner called me at 8 am that morning, of course he was not in the office, to figure it out. Upon first observation, I noticed we did not have all the prior year’s information. We were also missing financial statements from one of the other businesses since it was a consolidated return. The owner told me to persevere. The other CPA hired as the “bookkeeper” told me to use algebra like x +1 =3 to fill in the missing numbers. This was futile and a waste of time. I spent 13 hours working on the return and end up getting a speeding ticket on my way home (yeah!).
They thought the client would be upset but the client said, “Oh I didn’t think you would finish it because I never gave you all the information”. Did I mention I had a tooth pain so bad I kept having to take Tylenol every two hours and I never take medicine, ever.
The company moved to a new location (pictured above) in late April. I had been there about a month at that time. As we were moving, I was amazed that the owner did not notify any of the clients about the move, no emails, no notice on the front door, nothing. So, I made a sign and put a note of the office door saying the office is moving to a new location. Well that was not that helpful since the phones did not work at the new location for the first two weeks.
I took this picture Labor Day. Since working in the accounting field, I always worked on Labor Day. As you can see, I am the only employee arriving to work.
By early October, one of the employees realized there was no work to be completed. She only prepared individual returns and wondered where they all were. One, the company had lost many customers because they were not notified about the move and the phones did not work for two weeks after the move. Two, the old location still had the company’s sign, so it appeared as if the company went out of business. This employee who deemed herself as the manager since the owner was never in the office called a meeting with the owner on a Sunday. That same week on Friday I was fired. My offense? I stupidly volunteered to drop off a client’s tax return at the IRS office since its location is a little tricky to find.
The client, a woman who the males in the office lusted after and the two other women were jealous of, was upset when she learned her tax return had not been filed in April. I did not prepare her return but many clients’ tax returns were not filed in April because of the previous admin/receptionist oversight. This client was a realtor trying to apply for a loan.
The owner and two other employees had a meeting with the client. I was not involved. I overheard them talking. I volunteered to drop off the tax return. I was given an envelope. I asked, ” You just want me to drop this off?” I was told yes by the owner. I never looked in the envelope since I felt this was not my client so let me respect their privacy. I dropped of the envelope before I went to work. The owner asked if I had gotten a receipt. I told him the person at the IRS office stated she could stamp a copy, but I had to make a copy which I did not. He was not happy, so I made a copy at work and then returned to the IRS office to have the copy stamped. I was fired later that day.
I knew it was coming, once again the male employee was the only one besides the owner to get an office at the new location even though this employee ducked out of deadlines two years in a row. The owner was upset by this behavior and the employee was on the verge of getting fired but he used a trick that certain employees use to save their job. He cried.
I’ll share a few other crazy situations at this job. The owner hired the teenage children of the female employee he fired as his cleaning crew. He spoke terrible about her behind her back wth? I doubt he paid them much because when we moved offices and they no longer wanted to work for him, he was reluctant to hire a professional cleaner. I became the cleaner. There was only one bathroom we all shared with the employee with stomach issues. I would arrive first everyday, I would open the office, check messages, vacuum, clean the bathroom. I bought plants for the new office.
When we moved, the new office was still under construction. There was dust, paint fumes. In August of that year is when I began to cough for what lasted a year.
Someone would call every month demanding the owner send payment since it was late. The owner explained ” Oh I know who that is, he wants his money. I do not owe him but we went to arbitration and the judgement was for $20,000″. The contractor of the new office spoke highly of the owner, stated he had known him for years. The contractor stopped speaking to the owner and did not come back to clean up after construction because as he stated the owner owed him money.
As I have stated before, in my experience small companies in Las Vegas will find an excuse not to pay you. My paycheck was always three or four days late. The owner would prepare payroll on payday minutes before the deadline usually on a Friday at 3 pm.
After the third late paycheck, I asked the other employees if their checks were late too since no one complained. The abuser showed me her bank account, “look the payment is pending”. The other employees had excuses as well for the owner. The week before I was fired the male employee said, “we are going to prepare payroll for the owner so Mesheba can get paid on time.” I knew then that it was over.
I am a glass full type of person so what positive thing did I learn from this job? I learned how to use CCH Engagement (a software that allows the user to import a trial balance). It was the first time I actually used the accounting principles I learned in school. And my work hours are identical.