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I work an hourly job. I got a letter today telling me that they overpaid me and I owe them money. My job pays minimum wage and I'm not sure how they "overpaid" me, their computers pay me per second that I work. I can view the hours I've worked in the past but they're on a website that my company owns so I'm not sure if they're 100% legitimate.

The company is large, there's a few thousand stores nationwide, so it's not a mom-and-pop shop.

I turned in my two weeks one week ago, so they most likely knew about this before but didn't tell me. They haven't taken any money out of my account yet and I put a block on direct withdraws. However, I'm worried they will just take it out of my last paycheck.

My question is, do I actually owe them money?

closed as off-topic by Ganesh Sittampalam May 26 '15 at 22:15

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    If you're looking for legal advice, you might want to consult a lawyer. – Nathan L May 19 '15 at 22:43
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    Why not just ask them what it's all about? – tomasz May 19 '15 at 22:49
  • @tomasz I did, my manager said he didn't know any more and upper management is pretty much impossible to contact unless something bad happens that negatively affects them. – Jon May 19 '15 at 22:51
  • I am pretty sure that your question should not be "do I owe them" (which nobody here could answer) but "how to handle the situation" (which brings us back to @NathanL's comment). – Ghanima May 20 '15 at 22:04
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Ask for documentation proving the amount they say you were overpaid, and ask for time to review their claim.

If it is a large amount that they can prove you owe, and if you were staying, then you could ask for the repayment to be spread over multiple pay checks. This would avoid the situation where you could get a very small check or even a check for zero. Because you are leaving, you could ask for time to reimburse them, but don't count on them agreeing to that deal.

The lesson is to save all time cards, especially ones in which your hours are not consistent. Also save all pay stubs for the year.

What you should do now is download all the time card and pay info on the website, before you lose access to it. These should be saved on your home machine, or printed and kept at home. Check to see if they made any time card adjustments. Many systems keep track of all changes made by the employee and by management; both before and after the employee signs the time card. If there are change you should be able to ask them to explain the changes.

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There is no way that someone on this site can tell if they overpaid you. So for the purposes of my answer I am going to assume that the company is correct that you got overpaid somehow. I think the answer is pretty clear if they DIDN'T overpay you.

If they overpaid you then Yes you owe the money. Why would you think otherwise. If they underpaid you, wouldn't you expect that they owed you money? Why should the opposite be any different?

Finder's Keepers isn't a legal defense in this situation.

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    Because it's their fault and I had assumed I would be quitting with X amount in my account. If I had made the mistake, I would understand, but it's their fault. And I talked to my manager, apparently the paycheck they overpaid me on was from 3 months ago and they're just telling me about it now as I quit. – Jon May 19 '15 at 23:13
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    That really doesn't matter. Again, if they underpaid you because you accidentally submitted a timesheet with 30 hours instead of 40, would you expect them to pay you for the extra 10 hours once you made them aware of your mistake? I agree that it is a bad situation they put you in, but it doesn't change the fact that you owe the money. – JohnFx May 19 '15 at 23:14
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    It's likely to depend very much on jurisdiction, but there's a concept of "change of position": if weren't aware of a debt and hence spent more money than you would have otherwise, you don't necessarily have to repay it all. – Ganesh Sittampalam May 19 '15 at 23:51
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    @Chipperyman - so if the bank makes an error and accidentally adds 3 zero's to your balance, you should be able to keep it because it's their mistake? I know this sucks to have money taken away from you, but it wasn't actually your money, it was a mistake. – EkoostikMartin May 20 '15 at 15:32
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    @Chipperyman - All of this is irrelevant. Again, turn this around. If they underpaid you would you expect them to still pay you the difference? What if you took a long time to notice. What if they claimed they already spent the money they would have paid you with? Why would that matter? – JohnFx May 21 '15 at 0:55
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We cannot know if you owe them anything. But at the least I would expect that they don't just say "you owe us" but "we found out that we were supposed to pay you $X, but we paid you $Y which is more", and then we can go from there.

There are things like "we should have paid you $12.20 per hour for the last year, but we paid you $12.50 per hour", where you can tell them that by paying you that rate, you assumed it was correct one, you wouldn't have worked for less, so they effectively gave you a raise. On the other hand, if they say "you worked here for 38 hours a week, but we paid you for 40 hours a week", and you did indeed work only 38 hours, then most likely they are correct.

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In the U.S., there are laws that protect both employees and employers. Ask for proof of overpayment, and time to respond. If you feel you have a case, consult a lawyer that specializes in wage disputes. Otherwise, let them have their money, out of your last check if necessary. You don't want to have to go to court if you really do owe them.

If you tell them a lawyer has accepted your case based on evidence, they may choose to settle out of court to avoid public embarrassment and legal fees, since, if you win, they also have to pay your court fees and legal fees, plus possible punitive damages.

Conversely, if you go to court, but you owe them, you'll be subject to pay back what you owe plus their legal fees, which will be far more than you intend to pay them, or even what you'd get if you won. Losing would cost you dearly.

Nobody can tell you what the outcome of your specific case will be, but unless the sum is significant, I would recommend that you accept the losses and walk away.

While I know this can be hard, as someone who also lives the middle class paycheck-to-paycheck life, you probably can't afford to lose, and your company has expensive lawyers.

Losing a few thousand dollars is easier than losing tens of thousands (or more) in a court battle. You can always seek assistance, such as unemployment, welfare, utility assistance, and other government programs to get back on your feet.

If you owe them more than you can actually repay, try to negotiate. You want to stay out of court if at all practical. Their lawyers run hundreds of dollars per hour, so if they choose to, they can bury you financially if they have a case.

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I'd think the first question here is: Did they overpay you? And if so, what were the circumstances?

At one extreme: If you lied on your timesheet and said you worked 50 hours when really you only worked 40, and they paid you for 50 hours, and now they've figured out that you didn't really work those overtime hours, then yes, they overpaid you and you owe them the money.

Or if you reported your time accurately but they made an honest mistake, like you worked 30 hours but for whatever reason they paid you for 40, then they really did overpay you and you owe them the money.

Or if a check was just mis-printed because their computer system screwed up or something, sorry, you don't get to keep the money. Yes, we all have fantasies about the bank accidentally adding a million dollars to our balance and somehow we get to keep the money, but sorry, it doesn't work that way in real life. If there's been a mistake, once they figure out the mistake, you have to give the money back.

If it's something more complicated, it might be debatable.

If you're not sure what the details are, find out the details and investigate. Do you have any evidence that what they are saying is not true?

How much money is involved? If we're talking $20, it's not worth going to court over. You'd have to pay a lawyer way more than the $20. A court MIGHT order the company to pay your court costs if you won, but they might not. And if you lost, you could have to pay their court costs, which could be way more than any possible gain. There are times when it's better to just eat the loss and get on with your life. Of course, the same could be said from the other side: If the amount of money is small and the case is debatable and you refuse to hand over the cash, they may just give up figuring it's not worth the trouble. I don't know that I'd want to gamble on that, though.

If there is serious money involved, at least several thousand dollars, then it could make sense to talk to a lawyer if you think you have a case.

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It might be reasonable, or it might be their error. Right now you have their assertion that they overpaid. So the range of outcomes runs from them collecting $0 to the full amount they assert. You are in a negotiation now, get your mind in this game.

If they demonstrate to your satisfaction that they overpaid, you should pay. If the reason is not convincing, well, can they collect it? If there is a final pay then thats their last shot to do it internally. Is the amount in question more than the pay?

When you were hired you may have authorized them to make correction withdrawls from direct deposit. I don't know if your new orders to your bank override this. If this is a risk ask the bank for a new account and close this one.

Did you already sign exit interview paperwork that may ask you to do certain things like not work for a direct competitor, release and hold them harmless, or not discuss the company publicly? If not then there are two negotiations in play and it is fair to ask, in condideration for your signature, to settle any potential overpayment claims for $0 or as the money now stands.

Do they do this to other people who leave?

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