Change Happens at the Source

Ivelices Linares Thomas transitioned from litigation to corporate HR so she could solve workplace issues before they start

Ivelices Linares Thomas, VP and Head of HR & Compliance, GardaWorld Cash Services

Many enter the practice of law to help people. While Ivelices Linares Thomas felt she was having an impact as an attorney for Legal Aid and later as assistant general counsel in the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations in New York City, she felt she could have a larger impact if she targeted the problems at their source. That meant entering the corporate world to help organizations avoid workplace litigation altogether.

In her first corporate position, with the largest food-service contractor in the world, Thomas successfully negotiated collective-bargaining agreements, resolved grievances, and advised and trained managers, eventually leading her to a human resources position. “Employees often seek unions because there’s something lacking at the local management level that HR needs to support,” Thomas says.

She set herself further down an HR path, obtaining her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification, and that led to her current position as vice president and head of human resources and compliance for GardaWorld Cash Services. In this role, Thomas oversees the human resources, labor relations, and regulatory compliance functions servicing more than eight thousand dedicated employees throughout 250 locations across the United States. She has also led several HR initiatives focused on process improvement and efficiencies, including implementing a new human capital management (HCM) system, leading a company reorganization, and establishing a company culture.

GardaWorld chose Ceridian’s HCM solution to streamline underlying HR and payroll business processes. While it is still a work in progress, Thomas anticipates it will take just a few more months to complete full implementation.

“Managers often have competing priorities, so the better your system can simplify daily administrative responsibilities, the better a manager can manage their employees,” Thomas says.

Thomas also sought to improve upon what was historically a manual and template-driven process related to protecting GardaWorld’s goodwill through enforceable restrictive covenants. With ComplianceHR’s AI-based compliance suite, she was able to automate state-specific document generation administration and eliminate the uncertainty of manual template management. These process improvements involved introducing new systems, eliminating old ones, and removing redundancies from the many companies GardaWorld had acquired over the years.

Mentoring The Next Generation

Almost as soon as she started practicing law, Ivelices Linares Thomas started giving a hand up to kids like herself. When she was working as an attorney in New York, she worked with a nonprofit called Legal Outreach, which helped high school students in inner-city schools with aspirations of becoming attorneys. The organization tried to match each student with a mentor based on ethnicity and background, and the students had that mentor all through high school.

“I am the first generation of my family in the United States,” Thomas says. “While it’s great that your parents tell you that you have to be successful, you have to go to school, they don’t necessarily know how to tell you to get there, so you kind of fall upon it or try to figure it out yourself. If you’re lucky, you connect with someone along the way that can help you. That was my story, so I wanted to be able to provide that connection and that guidance to people from backgrounds that are similar to my own.”

“New to the HR field, Ivelices rapidly got up to speed to identify the employees’ needs and materially impacted the program in a short time,” says Nelson Perez, first vice president at HUB International. “By implementing plan design changes and developing an incentive-based wellness program, Ivelices was instrumental in keeping medical and prescription costs flat over the last two years—no small feat for a distributed workforce of this size.”

About two years ago, Stéphane Gonthier joined the company as CEO, and he saw the value in focusing on HR initiatives. So, he and Thomas set about establishing the culture, making sure the right people were  in the right roles and centralizing all core support functions to the Boca Raton headquarters.

Thomas and her team took the time to evaluate existing employees to determine whether there would be a need to bring in new talent. 

“In the past two years, I’ve probably interviewed more people than I had in my entire career because we were moving so fast and furious,” Thomas says. “We wanted to make sure we were putting the right people in these roles because we understood it’s only through the people that we would be successful and be able to carry out the goals of the organization.”

To fill new vacancies, Thomas worked with a few different recruiting agencies, including Randstad, which made an effort to get to know Thomas and the culture at GardaWorld. “They took the time to meet with me, get an understanding of where the organization had been, where we were going, and the right candidate profile based on our culture.”

GardaWorld has a very fast-paced culture with an entrepreneurial spirit, and, while Thomas has thrived in this environment, the company needed to ensure new candidates would be a fit, too. “One of the approaches we used in our interview process was we made sure candidates at all levels met with multiple cross-functional leaders, all the way up to our CEO,” Thomas says.

To ensure candidates met the needs of the company culture, the company culture actually needed to be set. Because of GardaWorld’s speedy growth and decentralized footprint, various cultures existed in pockets throughout the company. To implement a single, unified culture, the message started at the top and was communicated to all employees. That involved Thomas holding town hall meetings communicating who GardaWorld is as a company, sharing company successes, letting employees know how the business was doing, and how each employee’s contribution would lead to company’s continued success.

“There are quotes all around our building describing the entrepreneurial nature of the organization, and we talk about that from the interview process all the way to when you’re working here,” Thomas says. “It’s the expectation that you own what you do, because when you own it, you are thinking about what you can do to make your contribution better.”

While the daily blocking and tackling of HR and compliance remains a necessary focus, Thomas continues to leverage opportunities to contribute to strategic priorities by creating workflow and process efficiency through innovation and providing managers with the tools they need to be successful, creating true opportunities for the organization.

Congratulations to Ivelices Linares Thomas for this well-deserved honor. Fisher Phillips values our relationship with Ivelices and GardaWorld. Our attorneys and staff strive to provide stellar client service to meet their needs and help them achieve their business goals. To learn more about the firm, visit

Littler congratulates Ivelices Linares on the well-deserved recognition of her success as an innovative, compassionate human resources executive.  Littler’s mission is to provide high-quality, cost-effective legal services to its clients and is proud of its strong partnership with Ivelices and GardaWorld.