“I want my money,” Employees fight for final paychecks after boutique shutters shop

In Your Corner

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Up in a northwest Oklahoma City business complex, a shuttered workshop packed wall to wall with product is all that’s left of a once successful boutique, Oliver and Olivia.

“It actually was a fantastic company, great brands, great products,” said Shawna Jones, who worked in screen printing.

Shawna, along with coworkers Cheyenne Davis, Crystal Haney, Emily Hoebing and many more were hired just last year.

Amidst a worldwide economic shutdown, shoppers looked online, and employees say COVID caused a business boom. Just one problem.

“I never had the inventory I needed,” said Crystal. “But it was advertised that we did.”

“They would just sell and sell and sell,” said Emily. “Regardless of whether we had it.”

Issues persisted, online reviews turned negative.

Then, last month, the team received a crushing blow.

“We woke up with a text message saying effective immediately we are closing our doors,” said Shawna.

Owner Jill Ford told her team final checks would be mailed.

But the employees we spoke with both on, and off camera, say the checks never came.

“None of us have seen the money,” said Shawna.

What’s more, at least two of the employees we spoke with received medical benefits from the company.

They tell our team they have learned their insurance was cancelled two months before the business closed, but insurance payments continued to be deducted from their paychecks.

“I want my money,” said Shawna. “I want the insurance money back.”

A couple months before closing her business’s door, Jill and husband Trent closed on a $800-thousand-plus NW OKC home.

Now, the couple and their business have filed for bankruptcy. In Your Corner stopped by to ask Jill what happened.

We were turned down at her door, but as we tried to leave she flagged down our car.

Jill claimed she had no knowledge of what was causing the insurance issues.

She tells us employees waiting for money, need to wait for the bankruptcy.

“All of our assets are going to be sold and going into the trustees hands,” Jill explained. “Then they will be paid.”

But there’s more. The business “Oliver and Olivia,” had been granted two PPP loans.

The most recent, was approved around a month before closing their doors, for more than $174-thousand.

“I can’t tell you what happened to that loan,” said Shawna. “I just know none of us got paid from it.”

Jill tells our team those Paycheck Protection Program loans can be used for items other than paychecks.

This is true, but the loans are only forgiven if at least 60% is used toward payroll. Otherwise the business must repay the loan in full.

Now her ex-employees must wait, to learn what the courts deem “Oliver and Olivia” is worth. But good news, employees seeking pay are typically toward the front of the line.

“If a business has assets, the trustee that’s assigned to the case, it’s the trustee’s job to administer those assets,” said Oklahoma City Bankruptcy Attorney, Marty Martin. “In the case of unpaid payroll, those who are owed the payroll would become priority creditor.”

Meanwhile, Jill and husband Trent have registered a new apparel business with the state called “Printed Tees Shirt Company,” which we were told was none of our business.

“Does it really matter what I’m doing,” said Jill. “Cause here in the United States of America, you can stop one business and open another.”

When last we checked, this new business had a listing on the online marketplace Jane, but was selling no product.

“We live in a world where anyone can start and run a business,” said Emily, Jill’s former employee. “But I think this kind of goes to show that not everybody should.”

In Your Corner advice, for anyone else going through a similar situation with an ex-employer, make sure to check the bankruptcy filing to confirm you’re listed as a creditor.

Attorneys tell us it’s rare that businesses will have enough assets to make all their creditors whole, but if there is money to be shared, it could be a long while before you see a dime.

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