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As my role ended with my company, I had unused sick hours (earned sick time). During my last days, I asked for payment of my unused sick hours, which my company provided me with.

Recently they emailed me saying that they actually do not provide payment for unused sick hours, and claim that they did not know my role was coming to an end. Now they are asking me to call them within a week to "discuss the method or repayment."

There was no indication of what would happen if I didn't call them. Given that these were for sick hours that I earned, do I have to pay them back? Unfortunately I couldn't find anything on MA state laws discussing both of these happening. They all talk about unused sick hours, or repayment of overpayment after a role ends. Any help would be very much appreciated!

closed as off-topic by HorusKol, jcmack, gnat, Mister Positive, mcknz Aug 6 '18 at 17:10

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking advice on company-specific regulations, agreements, or policies should be directed to your manager or HR department. Questions that address only a specific company or position are of limited use to future visitors. Questions seeking legal advice should be directed to legal professionals. For more information, click here." – HorusKol, jcmack, gnat, Mister Positive, mcknz
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  • 3
    If you want legal advice, you should probably talk with a lawyer. At the very least, you'd need to tell us your location, but probably this is way too specific for anyone to answer over the internet. – Erik Aug 3 '18 at 22:14
  • This used to be a loop hole at my old company. You could get borrow against your vacation hours (i.e. have negative vacation hours), but the company doesn't request repayment after you leave. Your mileage may vary. – jcmack Aug 3 '18 at 22:59
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Policy varies by company, but "sick time" is generally a "contingency" time off. Your vacation time would be something normally paid out.

Again, this is company policy, and of course, laws vary by location.

You could always stand your ground and make them come after you in court, but you'll be burning that reference.

  • Yeah, I thought as much. Unfortunately I couldn't find anything on MA state laws discussing both of these happening. They all talk about unused sick hours, or repayment of overpayment after a role ends. Thanks for the help! – BenMarsh Aug 3 '18 at 22:57
  • However, BenMarsh asked for a benefit that violated company policy, and they gave it to him. How binding is company policy? – David Thornley Aug 6 '18 at 17:42
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There was no indication of what would happen if I didn't call them. Given that these were for sick hours that I earned, do I have to pay them back? Unfortunately I couldn't find anything on MA state laws discussing both of these happening. They all talk about unused sick hours, or repayment of overpayment after a role ends. Any help would be very much appreciated!

In general, you are required to return all overpayments.

Based on what you have written, you will be asked to pay this money back. If you don't you could be sued. It seems as if whoever you asked for the unused sick pay got confused and made a mistake.

You should call them and find out what they are proposing. Then if you still decide that you should be allowed to keep the overpayment, you should contact the local Department of Labor and/or the state Attorney General's office.

You may need to engage an attorney. Decide if the amount of money involved is worth that.

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Generally, if you were paid money in error, then you need to pay it back. You don't need to pay it back just because they say so, you can request that they explain very carefully what they paid you and why that would be the wrong amount.

There is an exception if having to pay back would be unfair to you. For example, if you got £5,000 salary for the last two years and they claim the salary should have been just £4,000. It is quite likely that relied on the salary and assumed it was correct, if you had known about the lower salary you would have found employment elsewhere where someone offers £5,000, and you wouldn't have spent as much money as you did.

So in your case, I'd say they need to tell you exactly what was wrong with the payment (not just "you have to pay it back"), and it may depend on how much later they told you of that mistake. If it was a few days later, or if it was two years later, that will make a difference. And whether you could reasonably have believed the money was correct, that makes a difference.

Depending on how you left, you may have received a compensation package, with the sick days paid out being part of the compensation package. In that case, it would be very hard for the company to get the money back.

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Is this PTO or sick time?

If PTO:

Then this is treated the same as vacation time. Ignoring the fact that you called it sick time. Company would be wrong to request you pay it back as MA is one state out of 24 that require employers to pay out unused vacation or PTO time.

If not PTO:

Unless you can point to a document that states that all unused sick time is paid out upon leaving the company, then you don’t really have a case. Speaking from experience, every company I have worked at will deliver unused vacation time as a payout and sick time is not paid out upon leaving.

The ethical thing to do is to return the money in good faith and not setup a repayment plan at all. The only repayment plan is to deliver it in whole.

The only legal recourse the Company has at this point is to sue you in small claims court which they most likely would win.

You should contact them immediately and coordinate a time/place to return the funds in the form of a money order and then get a receipt for payment so that there is traceability that the matter is resolved.

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