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I recently ended employment as a salaried worker with a large corporation. I have just received one more paycheck as if I was still an employee of that corporation, for the full amount that I would normally receive. While I think I may be owed some money for vacation days I didn't use, it's certainly nowhere near a full paycheck. I think the corporation has overpaid me, and possibly may have not taken me off the payroll.

I sent an email to my boss asking him about the paycheck. What kind of a result should I expect? Normally in this situation your overpaid wages would be taken from your future wages, but I'm not going to have any future wages. Will I be writing the company a check? I definitely don't want to get sued.

Update: Although it took them until April of next year, they finally got around to agreeing that I had been overpaid. They are requesting that I pay them back, which I can do in stages if it is not possible for me to pay it all at once. Situation resolved. Thank you for your assistance.

  • 13
    You already notified them - that's good. Now, just be patient and let them tell you what action you'll need to take. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 2 '14 at 18:36
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    Does your paystub show the pay period it's for? Perhaps your actual pay date is a bit behind your work period and your employer is actually paying you correctly? – enderland Dec 2 '14 at 19:03
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    are you paid in a month in arrears? it might be the final check less any allowance for leave – Pepone Dec 2 '14 at 20:56
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    Why would you email your old boss to ask and then ask us what he's going to reply before he does? – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Dec 3 '14 at 2:45
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    This happened to me, except in my case the employer was the US Army. It took several phone calls before I got the errant paychecks to stop. You can bet they wanted their money back. – James Adam Dec 4 '14 at 15:25
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Large corporation always create fairly detailed pay statements, although they may only be available online. These checks or statements clearly state the "pay period", i.e. the dates of work for which you are being compensated. Carefully check this date. If it reads later than your last day of work, then they did indeed overpay you. The statement should also indicate if you got compensated for vacation not taken.

In any case create a paper trail. Send a registered letter to the company that states that you believe you have been overpaid, what you think the right amount is and that you are happy to refund any overpay if they give you a corrected pay statement with a repay amount within 30 days of receipt of this letter. State also: "If you don't hear anything from you until such-and-such date I will assume that the payment is actually correct and will keep and spend the money".

If you are really paranoid, you can have this letter drafted by a lawyer, but that's probably overkill. The letter clearly shows that you have demonstrated reasonable effort to remedy the situation and if the company doesn't act or respond it's their fault and there is nothing more you can do.

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    Note that you might only be able to access online pay information from the company intranet, which you can't use any more because you left. Also, in the UK (I don't know about anywhere else), they can still ask for the money back up to six months after overpaying you, though they have to offer pretty generous repayment terms if they wait that long. – David Richerby Dec 2 '14 at 23:16
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    I think saying 30 days is "reasonable" comes perilously close to offering the dreaded legal advice :-) Even if that's a genuine magic number, it's probably specific to one or more jurisdictions. – Steve Jessop Dec 2 '14 at 23:20
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    @DavidRicherby however, in the UK, your employer has to give you a payslip at or before you are paid, by law. If you've left the company and no longer have access to pay information on the intranet then they have to send it to you on paper (or email you a PDF, etc.) so you should always be able to work out if you've been overpaid. – Rob Gilliam Dec 2 '14 at 23:34
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    Threatening to keep and spend money that isn't yours could get you into real trouble. You could say "please respond by such-and-such a date", but don't threaten to commit a crime. – Dawood says reinstate Monica Jun 21 '15 at 0:51
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    In my country, knowingly keeping money that's not yours, without authorisation, is a crime. @NicolasBarbulesco it may be different in your country. – Dawood says reinstate Monica Jun 24 '15 at 19:34
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You should consult the payroll department (possibly HR if they are the same for your organization) immediately. Make sure you don't spend the money until you can account for all of it as either payment for unused vacation, sick time, etc. Your former payroll department should be able either to identify the source of the payment and whether the payment was made in error. If the payment was made in error, they will likely want that money back, but they will also determine the amount of the overpayment.

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    Keep the money in the same account it was deposited into. If the deposit triggered any other transactions manually reverse them. Sometimes they can pull the payment back, and you don't want it to go negative. – mhoran_psprep Dec 2 '14 at 18:55
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If it's just one paycheck, you shouldn't worry. When you started, you probably didn't receive your first paycheck until having worked there for three or four weeks, so this is just balancing that out. Most of the time the way payroll works, you work two weeks, then it takes a week or two for your paycheck to process, then you receive a deposit. The money you just received was most likely for your last week or two of work.

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    This doesn't add up. If you're being paid a month in arrears (which would be normal in the UK; I don't know about anywhere else), you'd receive the pay for all the work you did in a particular month on, say, the last day of that month. But you'd only get paid a full month's pay at the end of the month if you'd worked that full month. If you, e.g., left on the 5th, you'd only get the pay for the 1st-5th at the end of the month; if you left on the 30th, you'd get the whole month's pay immediately. – David Richerby Dec 2 '14 at 23:14
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    @DavidRicherby That sounds like a different system from what I am used to in the US. Every company I have worked for pays you in two-week pay periods, a week or two after that work period is complete. It's true that you only get paid for the work you do, but it sounds like the delayed deposit was the source of the confusion for the OP. – David K Dec 3 '14 at 13:28
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    To clarify, I am relatively certain that it is not back pay. My back pay should have been taken care of in my last paycheck. The paycheck I am concerned about seems to be beyond the expected time frame. I cannot, however, make certain of this without checking my pay stub, which is coming (slowly) in the mail. #firstworldproblems – Jerenda Dec 3 '14 at 18:34
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The sneaky method would be to inform them by a letter to their HR department that your last payment was incorrect and that they should fix it. With just the right amount of indignation that they feel accused of underpaying you.

A good company will investigate and possibly find that you were overpaid and ask for the money back (which you then pay back). A bad company will not investigate but assume that you complain about an underpayment and send you a harshly worded letter that their payment was correct and if you don't agree, you can sue them.

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    Hehe. An amusing answer, but this is a good and reliable company. I would be interested in further employment from them, and I would not like to leave any hard feelings behind me. – Jerenda Dec 3 '14 at 18:35
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    Why so many downvotes? This is a beautifully cynical answer. Some companies are bad and sorting out their internal mess is not your responsibility. – ya23 Jul 12 '16 at 13:11
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First, never admit you are wrong. That is a very dangerous position to get into because they might in fact assume you are wrong just because you say you are wrong. You notified your boss that you believe you gotten an extra paycheck. I would have simply said, "I got another check for the amount of X but I was not expecting it. Do you mind explaining what this is?" Then let them figure it out.

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i'm not sure why this particular answer hasn't been said already (other than some would disagree), but i'll say it anyways because this is the real world. put it in the bank, it's probably for money owed; last paycheck, vacation pay, severence pay, who knows. if the previous employer asks for it/explains why give it back. if not, move on! it's not rocket science and this doesn't need to be such a big issue.

  • I feel like that might come across as dishonest, and I'd like to maintain good relations with this company. Also, some people might not have enough money in the bank to simply pay back a full paycheck (or two, or three if this continues) when the company finally gets around to fixing this problem, which could be many months from now. – Jerenda Dec 5 '14 at 20:52
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    @Jerenda - Not likely. This is a process issue. So long as you can repay the money if demanded quickly this will not be a problem. Though I think you selected the correct answer above. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 9 '14 at 20:03
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    @Jerenda - To make sure that you have enough money to pay back the full overpayment when time comes, you just have to... keep the money. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jun 24 '15 at 8:04
  • @NicolasBarbulesco Hehe. That would be the ideal solution! Unfortunately, that's not always possible, especially if the time between this job and my next one is rather long. – Jerenda Jul 14 '15 at 15:31
  • @Jerenda to spend the money knowing it was paid to you in error can be a crime in some jurisdictions. NEVER spend money that you are not entitled to have. It is not your money to spend. – HLGEM Jul 14 '15 at 19:06

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