I get paid every two weeks on Fridays, but usually I don't get the direct deposit notification and I have to go to my company's HR and talk to the guy who handles payment. He always has some long-winded excuse like he ran out of staples and he's waiting for more to come in the mail, and then I follow up every day until I eventually get paid 3 days later. Sometimes he'll just start to print a check in front of me but he'll get a phone call in the middle, take it, and talk for 30 minutes until I leave. Last week he said he needed a 3-hole-punch to finish payment, and I went and got one from my office and when I brought it back he was gone. Other times he'll start rambling about some personal issue, usually inappropriate for the workplace like speculating if someone at the office is gay.

This guy isn't my boss at all, and I know this is the kind of issue my boss would say is too petty and a waste of his time to deal with since I do always eventually get paid. A few other employees have this issue with the payroll guy too.

I'm not exactly sure if he's trying to be a gatekeeper or just incompetent. What can I do to expedite his payment?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 22:17
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    Clarification request: you state that you are on direct deposit, but then you get a paper check? Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 23:10
  • @GalacticCowboy He's on direct deposit, but sometimes (most of the time?) they don't pay him. So he complains. He doesn't want to have to wait until the next time the company does a run of direct deposits (probably two weeks or so) so he demands a paper check. Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 3:33
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    petty? Not being paid on time is a serious issue!
    – komodosp
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 8:15
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    To stop people having to speculate about where this is taking place: Could you, please, add a country tag?! Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 9:40

9 Answers 9


Talk to your boss. This isn't a 'petty' issue - not being paid on time is breach of contract.

I see two scenarios here; either the HR person isn't organized at all (and why is HR handling Payroll? That should be Accounts) - or, the company has cashflow issues and he's under orders to delay payments as long as possible. In either case, a chat with your boss is the first port of call.

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    It's a smaller company and maybe I misspoke on his department, I don't think it matters. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 20:11
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    It’s definitely a problem - each employee is wasting an hour a month (that’s over a full working day a year!) progressing their wages, this is a roadblock for your team and definitely something your boss should be resolving.
    – JackPGreen
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 20:22
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    Yeah, this is a serious issue. The excuses you get about the delayed check and the missing direct deposit notification make it sound like financial issues. Did you sign up for direct deposit, but it just doesn't usually work? Either way, I'd start actively looking for a new job.
    – midfield99
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 23:05
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    Late payments are absolutely not acceptable. Sounds like the business has money issues, which is the most common reason, companies are unable to pay their employees. Being unable to issue a check because of a staple is absolutely ridiculous
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 5:54
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    I'd probably start with his boss. Or the threat of it. "Listen, man - this is the third time in a row you are unable to perform a basic job requirement - if you can't handle it I'm going to start going to your boss to get this issue sorted out. It is your call"
    – Stian
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 9:07

I've been working for a small company (about 10 FTE, and a bunch of contractors). When I started about 7 years ago, our payroll was also a mess. It was being done by an accountant who had little understanding of payroll tax law. The company wasn't withholding state income taxes (the employees based in the US were on their own to pay quarterly estimated taxes), or paying unemployment tax, etc. I convinced my boss (also the company president) that this was probably all illegal.

When I brought this up, we outsourced our payroll processing to an automated system. There are a number of services targeted to small businesses. We use the Run service from ADP.

Since it seems like this HR person is not organized well enough (to put it kindly) to handle such an important role in the company (as others have mentioned, the company can run into legal problems if their payroll is routinely late), I suggest you talk to his boss or higher level management, and raise the idea of automating this role.

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    Not withholding your income tax and sending it to the inland revenue is most definitely illegal.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 1:08
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    I like this answer. In the unlikely event that this guy is simply so overstretched by his payroll role that it appears he is incompetent, automating this role will make both OP and him happier. This might be a polite stance to take to allow him to save face as well.
    – nostalgk
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 14:05
  • @gnasher729 there's nothing illegal about not withholding tax in the US if the "employee" is actually a contractor. But maybe you're talking about some other jurisdiction because there's nothing called "inland revenue" in the US.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 7:14
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    @phoog inland revenue was until 2005 (when it merged with HM customs and excise to become HM Revenue and customs [HMRC]) the UK government depart responsible for all taxation in the UK as well as the payment of tax credits and child benefit.
    – EdHunter
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 9:55
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    @EdHunter this answer discusses employees based in the US being treated as contractors. Inland revenue and HM anything are not relevant to that, nor is the UK government, nor is taxation in the UK, nor are UK tax credits and child benefit. In the US, paying contractors their gross earnings and leaving them to sort it out with the IRS and their state revenue authority is perfectly normal and perfectly legal as long as the worker is properly categorized as a contractor.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 17:49

I suggest you go to him on Friday morning, when your work starts, so the time you spend waiting comes out of your working time. And you wait until you have your check. Probably good to call your direct manager if it takes more than five minutes, so he is informed about what is going on.

It is illegal not to pay you in time. So if he starts printing a cheque, then is on the phone for 30 minutes, you call your manager to give him an update. You have a right to get paid in time, not eventually.

I think the behaviour will change very quickly when you make clear that it isn't wasting your time, but the company's time. If they can't handle it otherwise, then the solution is very simple for the company: Pay everyone in the middle of a 14 day period instead of the end, and then if things are delayed, you are still being paid in time.

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    Excellent suggestion. And if all the other aggrieved workers start doing this too, the behaviour will soon change (or the company will have to admit they have a problem - either way, mystery solved and problem solved in some sense) Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 12:58
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    If you go this route, get the other affected employees to wait in his office at the same time. Payroll guy might think he can blow you off, but it's hard to ignore an angry mob. It's also makes the problem easily visible, and not just something between two people behind closed doors.
    – bta
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 23:41
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    "Its illegal not to pay you in time" true, but "in time" may not be when the OP expects. In the US, the laws vary widely by state, with some states only requiring payment every month, Montana saying 10 days after due, Iowa saying 12 days from end of period, and some not having laws at all. It might be a breach of contract issue, not a breach of labor laws.
    – user71659
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 2:59
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    I would not do this. He is supposed to be paid on "Friday" but any time on Friday is still Friday, so refusing to work is breach of contract. I would go on Monday morning, when you have clearly not been paid on "Friday". By then the company is clearly in breach of contract and you have every right to refuse to work until you are paid. Always keep the moral high ground. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 21:25
  • @user71659 Does it really say something on the line of "10 days after due"? Either I severely misunderstand what "due" means, or this seems highly unlikely... Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 9:37

Talk to your boss and give it a little time.

If necessary, talk to his boss and give it a little time.

If that doesn't work, update your resume.

If you're in the US, you can report it to your local Employment Security Association (or whatever it is called in your state/county) and they will do something about it.
In my state if you can prove that is happening they will shut a company down over it.

If you are paid by direct deposit, you can easily prove the late payments.
If they are cutting paper checks that is really weird because direct deposit is generally cheaper (the last few places I've worked require it).
I'm not in accounting so I could be wrong about direct deposit being cheaper.

Thanks to Steve Smith for his comment and to those who up-voted his comment!

My "give it a little time" comment is meant in days, not in pay periods. This is a breach of trust that everyone at that company should take seriously.
You should allow enough time for each person to do something that has an effect on the person making the payroll, before you notify the next person in management. How much time will depend on the company.

this is the kind of issue my boss would say is too petty... since I... eventually get paid

Since he hasn't addressed with his boss he should. If his boss does actually think this is a petty issue, there is no need to wait - go to that guy's manager. Also have your resume updated before tomorrow so you can start your job search.

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    Not sure about "give it a little time". This is a serious issue that should be resolved ASAP. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 10:10
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    Payroll is one of those things that take a little time to address for structural reasons. When you're behind, you use band-aid fixes that get you back on track, but suck up all the time that would go towards doing it better. If you invest that time in automation instead, you have angry employees.
    – Alex H.
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 19:24
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    I think he has already given up plenty of his time.
    – Mohair
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 0:25
  • @Mohair He has given it too much time... but he hasn't talked to his boss yet, I recommend he start there. Hopefully the boss will be outraged. Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 15:40
  • I'd suggest starting with updating your resume, or perhaps do so while "giving it time". Updating your resume is rarely wasted effort and it can be really good to have it ready by the time the need to find new employment gets bigger and there's time pressure.
    – Jasper
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 10:15

Well, what you describe is a very strong red flag.

An incompetent, unorganised person will have problems like you describe now and then, maybe 50% times or even more but not always. What you describe is a strong suggestion that the payment delay is deliberate.

For all developed countries I know this is a breach of labour laws that if exposed/discovered can lead to severe penalties. I'm not familiar with US specifics, apparently the details vary between states but here you have an example for California's Department of Industrial Relations (see the last Q&A):

11. If my employer does not pay me on my regularly scheduled payday, what can I do?

You should contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and explain that your employer is not paying you on the regularly scheduled paydays. DLSE will assist you by explaining the law to your employer. Failure to post the payday notice required by Labor Code Section 207, and failure to pay wages in good funds on the regular designated payday as prescribed in Labor Code Sections 204, 204b, 205, and 209, respectively, is a misdemeanor. Labor Code Section 215

Usually if a company decides to act this way this is due to financial problems (either temporary or permanent). If you really want to work there (and I would strongly advise against that) warn the HR guy that you will take the legal actions to grant receiving your wages on time (put details in accordance to your state). After such warning check if the situation gets back to normal. In my opinion if the situation seems to be permanent (and it seems so here) hitting the job market is the best option. Anyway you deserve honesty so request one and no stupid and evident excuses.

Another thing is that they may be missing some other obligations. Make sure for example that whatever should be covered by your employer (health insurance for example) is actually covered. You don't want to go to the hospital and find out you're not really insured, do you?

Even if it's just some way of getting extra money on your expense (interests maybe?) it tells a lot about company ethics. Not one that you would accept, would you?

So I would recommend you refresh your CV and look elsewhere.

Let me mention my personal experience here. I don't live in the USA (it's Poland in my case). I've worked for a company that delayed payments for few days every month (in Poland you get monthly salary) almost from the very start. There were also some other issues (my social insurance wasn't paid fully). I'd been turning a blind eye for some time since my payment had doubled compared to my previous employer. Yet after just few months the salaries suddenly stopped entirely. Over the period of next 3 months all I received was a single payment called an advance and consisting of 1/40 of my monthly salary. I would have been starving if I hadn't had quite some funds on a bank account. I waited for almost a month giving the clear statement that if I was not paid by specific date I would leave without a notice period (as granted by Polish labour law) and that's exactly what eventually happened. I received my payment only after I had filed a claim to proper authorities and my (already former) employer had received a severe penalty.

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    You were very lucky. Usually if a company doesn't pay salary for three months, it's because it doesn't have any money, and in that case you will never see it. (Unless your salary was paid by the State.) Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 15:03
  • -1 for "Warn the HR guy that you will take legal actions". Threatening someone to their face is not the best way to make that person do what you want. It's likely to just lead to a heated confrontation and possibly OP getting a reputation for insubordination. Don't warn the HR guy, just do it.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 16:50
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    Note that California's laws are tougher than most of the test of the US due to the plethora of tech startups. The laws are intended to prevent these startups from effectively getting free labor. A friend of mine sued under that law a year or two ago as well. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 18:42
  • @Ertai87, in various situation, actually all cases except the one described here, giving a clear information that I know my grounds and rejecting following the law will end up in additional costs related to e.g. court case was enough for me to get what I should. It's important to know exactly what you can legally do and point out what will be the negative additional outcome for the company (fines, jail for those guilty, company closure, extra costs etc). Always check what law applies to you and then you can try the soft solution. But be ready for atomic one as well if soft one fails.
    – Ister
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:45
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    @MartinBonner oh I knew very well what I was doing. In Poland you're granted your three months salary (to some limitation) by a special state-run fund to which every company has to contribute some percent of all paid remunerations. So I was risking less than it looks.
    – Ister
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 6:50

Step 1: Next time you go to visit the payroll guy, do it during work hours. Pick a time on Friday, and just sit in his office until you have the cheque in hand. If you work on a laptop, bring your laptop with you, and just camp out in his office, so your boss can't accuse you of shirking your duties.

Step 2: Record whatever he says. Your locale may vary, but some locales permit recording of conversations, and if you can legally record the conversation, you should do it, just to get proof of the excuse for not paying you on time. Otherwise, take notes (on the laptop you brought with you to do your work on!) of what he said after the fact. Once again, make sure not to leave the office without your cheque in hand!

Step 3: Do not engage him in conversation. If he starts trying to change the subject, just direct it back on course. Something like this:

You: "Hey, I'm just here to pick up my paycheque, is it ready?"
Payroll guy: "Not yet. Hey, how about Joe in sales? He seems pretty gay right? What do you think?"
You: "Yeah, I dunno about that. Anyway, back to my paycheque, when will it be ready?"
Payroll guy: "Yeah, did you see what Joe did the other day, hitting on Brad?"
You: "Hm, that's nice. Now can we talk about my paycheque?"

etc. If this sort of banter continues, then you can begin threatening:

Payroll guy (after a while of conversation): "I heard Joe has a new boyfriend."
You: "Look, man. I'm just here to pick up my paycheque. My pay day is today, and I need the money. I don't want to talk about if Joe is gay or not, that's not my business, nor is it yours. Now, I'm going to sit here do my work while I wait for you to hand me my cheque, but the first thing I'm going to do when I open my laptop is email your direct line manager, CC the company president, and tell them I'm in your office right now while you're shirking your legal responsibilities as the payroll department for the company, and ask them to come join us so we can all work this out together as a nice cohesive team. Now, are you going to process my paycheque or not?"

Step 4: If you walk into the office and get any response other than "here's your cheque, thank you very much have a nice day", contact your local labour standards office ASAP. Don't threaten to do it, don't accuse anyone, don't start a confrontation. Just do it. The office will tell you what further documentation you need to file a case; maybe you need attestations from other employees, maybe you need to show a pattern of misbehaviour, etc. But they will tell you what you need and you should start collecting it.

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    Not sure if this example of homophobia does anything good to the answer.
    – eckes
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 10:37
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    I would think not, but understand it's there because the question mentions it as an example of what the payroll guy does, so it's not like it's out of nowhere
    – kettlecrab
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 0:09

In contrast to other answers suggesting how to solve the problem, I recommend getting out of there.

Others have noted that the delay seems to be deliberate, and I agree witht that. It has been my experience that failure to pay on time will lead to a failure to be able to pay at all. So while you still get paid eventually, you would do yourself a favor by landing a new job elsewhere, urgently, and avoid a gap in pay.



Before going to your boss, give it two or three more pay periods. Keep a log of exactly when (both date and time) you tried to talk to the guy and exactly what he did/said. Note that, if possible, your log should not paraphrase him, nor should it include editorial comments about how what he has said is ridiculous. As a very old, not-very-good crime show used to say, "Just the facts." If necessary, get him to repeat his current excuse so that you can remember it exactly.

Now, when you go to your boss, you will have exact records of what is going on. This will be of great help if/when he tries to weasel out of the situation by suggesting that you misunderstood or exaggerated.

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    The company has missed paying this employee multiple times. That is absolutely not acceptable, the author absolutely should take action, and take the necessary steps to be paid on time. Any company I work doesn’t get a single late pay day, the company absolutely sounds like it has money issues, the excuses this accountant has is absolutely ridiculous
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 5:58
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    @Ramhound - First, the individual is not an accountant (apparently). He's HR, not accounting. Second, you seem to think that "take(ing) action" without proper documentation will produce good results in the short run. This is appallingly naive. It's one person't word against another's as to exactly what happened, and please note my comment about "weasel out". Taking instant action because your cause is just and your heart is pure is a great way to end up a casualty. For all you know, the behavior of the HR type is tacitly condoned by his superiors. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 6:13
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    @WhatRoughBeast It's not one person's word - OP says multiple people have problems with payroll. This sounds systemic and could theoretically be fixed by everyone pulling their thumbs out, standing up and finally declaring that this is horrendously unacceptable (which it is). Any sensible company will immediately either fix the incompetence or cop to the money problems (whichever, or both, is in play here) - if they don't, it's not going to go away, and you quit. Waiting two or three more pay periods to get paid on time is absurd. And the OP has already notified their boss multiple times. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 11:20
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    – pipe
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 12:03
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    Waiting more pay periods is very bad advice. It's more stress on the OP and colleagues, and it allows the company to get weeks or months of work done that will probably never be paid. It's much better to act immediately. If the company is bleeding money, it might still have some for payroll that will go away if OP waits, and it will at least limit the potential loss. Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 16:56

As a person with experience in HR and Payroll, I am not really satisfied with any answer here.

If you are not receiving your salary on time, talk to his boss and to your boss and to the HR (if you have any), ideally both at once in a single email (as written evidence you can keep), highlighting every instance of this event happening (and if you are aware of other cases, I would suggest to discuss with them the possibility of raising this issue collectively). As indicated, there is absolutely nothing petty about this issue and I do not know about any country where this would not be illegal, as a breach of contract, if not a breach of employment law, in either case a Big Deal.

Typically, this may open the company to any sorts of nasty stuff like severing the contract from your side without notice, which, depending on jurisdiction, can entitle you to severance benefits as well as damages (when suing the company) because such a termination is typically not considered neither voluntary, nor fair. There can be also severe legal penalties defined in the employment law.

Unless it is the company's policy to screw you over, it is in their best interest to resolve this as much as it is yours.

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