I was working for a good company for over a year as an hourly intern. Recently, I was transferred to a full-time salary position after accepting an offer from the company. The pay raise is significant.

Here's the issue: I was supposed to start full time on a certain Monday, which I did, but Human Resources somewhere along the line screwed up the date and listed me to start the week after. I didn't find this out until after I had worked full-time for the week I was supposed to start. Now, my boss and his boss have contacted everyone in HR to see if there was anything that can be done and retroactively fix my time-sheet, because as of now they would be paying me on intern salary for the one week where I was full-time. They said no, there was nothing that could be done.

I find this hard to believe, but I was given two options by my boss:

  1. Possibly get a bonus mid-way through the year to make up for the money I lost. This would be preferred, except it's not guaranteed since the bonuses are decided by other higher-ups and not every employee gets them.

  2. My boss offered to give me some days off over the course of the next couple of weeks, but fill in my timesheet like I worked those days. This would make up the lost money as well. Basically some "free" days. This of course is against company policy, and my boss really does not want to do it since it risks both his and my job, but he offered it because he feels terrible about what happened.

So I'm curious as to what the best route would be to take? As I said, the amount of money I missed, while only a week's worth, was a significant amount, otherwise I wouldn't be worried about it. I really don't want to put my manager in the position of getting in trouble since it wasn't his fault, but the chances of anyone finding out are slim to none. I could possibly call HR myself and keep trying to speak to higher-ups until something is done.

Edit: Great answers and advice everyone. I appreciate it. I'm going to get the numbers and e-mails of some people higher up in HR tomorrow. I'll update this.

Update: Talked to HR, and they are escalating the ticket but "can't make any promises".

  • 6
    Did you receive written notice of the start date of the full time position? Jan 18, 2016 at 21:34
  • 150
    "nothing can be done" - I'm willing to be a fistful of cash that if they had accidentally started paying you a full-time salary a week before they were supposed to, they'd somehow magically find a way to fix it. The magic is called writing a check, it's really not that hard. Someone is playing dumb, and they need to own up and fix it. It would be very, very concerning if they just refused to do so.
    – BrianH
    Jan 18, 2016 at 22:24
  • 42
    I really don't want to put my manager in the position of getting in trouble since it wasn't his fault - It is absolutely your boss' place to go to bat for you on this.
    – Blrfl
    Jan 18, 2016 at 22:57
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    Possibly get a bonus mid-way through the year sounds fishy. why not next week?
    – njzk2
    Jan 18, 2016 at 23:00
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    As an IT guy, I have to say this: "new system the same week, which prevented them from making changes." is utterly false. Computer hard drives are like paper, nothing is impossible. They may lack a proper "eraser" for the "pencil" they got, all right. But changes are always possible, sometimes they are just expensive. But if you was told they will change it, and have witnesses? Not your problem. Someone wrote that system, someone can force it to accept changes.
    – Mołot
    Jan 19, 2016 at 0:12

7 Answers 7


Well, HR screwed up. Your manager shouldn't do anything that gets him into trouble, and nor should you.

If HR says nothing can be done, it means someone screwed up and nobody wants to admit they screwed up. You started a week earlier, you worked the week, and you are owed the money. You seem to have plenty of witnesses that you actually worked, and that you were told you were working in your new position. You don't say what country you are in; in most places what happened is that an implied contract was created, so you are owed the money.

I'd go to HR and explain to them that they screwed up, and their job is to pay salaries correctly, and just because it is mighty inconvenient for them doesn't mean you should lose out.

  • 41
    Suggest you check with your state Labor Department before talking to HR. Being familiar with the legal requirements will help your case.
    – HLGEM
    Jan 18, 2016 at 22:19
  • 51
    One thing to add: If you escalate with HR (by going to the head of HR, to your bosses boss, or to the CEO), mentioning the workarounds your boss suggested should get your boss in trouble, which could cost you an ally. So just stick to the relevant facts: you started at date X working for an agreed salary Y, HR refuses to pay correct amount and is breaking several laws in the process - they can either fix it or force you to contact outside help to clean up the mess..
    – Peter
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:31
  • 2
    The issue I have with this answer is it doesn't actually propose a solution. HR is being obstinate. Telling them they are wrong doesn't actually resolve the situation. Jan 19, 2016 at 15:30

I can't speak for other countries, but if you're American, you might want to have a look at how to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division if HR keeps trying to avoid going to the trouble of paying you.

I was managing a store for a small business, and HR didn't pay one of my terminated employees everything she felt she was owed. A lady came in to the store, showed me a badge and demanded that we produce the last five years of our payroll records. I never found out what happened in the end, but I can guarantee you that your HR doesn't want that kind of attention. Wage and Hour's mission in life is making sure that Joe Sixpack gets his rightfully earned wages.

Of course if you do this, there will be all kinds of "why didn't you come to us first?" kinds of questions, so you'll want to exhaust your channels with HR first, and then answer those questions with documentation about your attempts to collect what you are owed. So, document everything. Keep your boss in the loop, and make sure that you do everything in writing (email is best). But don't threaten to file a complaint. Do it, after you try everything else you can.

Edit: typically, if the company is found in violation of Fair Labor laws, they will be liable for a substantial fine and will also have to pay you double what they owe you.

  • "your attempts to collect what you are owed" Which is where the OP should start and what you haven't included in your answer. That's fine because some people might eventually have to resort to this but I'd suggest putting that disclaimer at the top of your answer.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 19, 2016 at 12:07
  • ..."you'll want to exhaust your channels with HR first" appears to be the inclusion you say I haven't included. Did I miss something?
    – BobRodes
    Jan 20, 2016 at 4:36
  • I should have been clearer. I just meant that you're burying the lead. Since the OP is asking about next steps, your first paragraph should be "exhaust your channels with HR" followed by the rest of your advice, i.e. file a complaint.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 20, 2016 at 8:50

If the company has a legal department, speak to them as well as HR, get the two talking and chances are legal will go bat s**t crazy on HR for not just sorting it out!

Often HR just do not understand the full legal ramifications of their actions so legal will see the huge risk over something trivial and get wheels in motion.

A real life example, I was working as a contractor for one of the largest insurance companies on the planet (pre financial meltdown) and they issued a "survival pack" (water, foil blankets, glow sticks etc) to all employees, but not contractors... Legal saw this and obviously saw that you can't make a distinction like that, ultimately they should be for anyone working in the building! So, we all got our pointless survival pack, but a keen example of the different views between HR and Legal.

  • 3
    It's not just legal risk. Legal is expensive. The amount of money here is trivial compared to four hours work by legal, so they will tell HR "if you don't act, you might get a $1,000 bill from legal instead of $800 for a week of salary".
    – gnasher729
    Jan 19, 2016 at 10:29
  • The OP is in the US, not the UK. Please clarify whether your anecdote applies to the UK only because as far as I know it's certainly not a legal issue in the states.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 19, 2016 at 12:10
  • 1
    It'll be a European wide anecdote, simply due to human rights... But the point isn't the specifics, but that legal may have a very different view than HR especially with the knowledge of possible law suits and the associated costs!
    – RemarkLima
    Jan 19, 2016 at 12:20
  • 1
    The legal dept. is the ideal bypass for internal rules that are at odds with external rules (laws). There are a few reasons for this: they're not bound by most internal rules, nor do they report to the middle-management which came up with those rules, they have a better understanding of rules in general, and their opinion on rules is usually accepted. They often can bypass budgets, too (it's not like a company can skip a fine just because their legal dept ha already spent its budget!)
    – MSalters
    Jan 19, 2016 at 19:33

The person who screwed up probably hasn't ever done it before, and it's possible that neither has his/her boss. They may not know they have the tools, which is why you're getting the run-around. In any case, they can and should fix it ASAP.

Keep following up with them, but I agree with the previous answers that you should also speak to the legal department if you feel that HR needs some extra incentive.

Here's another option, expanding on Novelocrat's suggestion:
Cash out PTO time.

If you can get the pay as extra PTO hours, they're treated the same as hours you work for your salary for taxes, but do not contribute to overtime. It's a hack, but it'll get you your money, the IRS gets it's taxes, and as long as HR documents the reason for the extra "PTO", everyone should be happy. An auditor down the line might grumble, but it shouldn't cause any real problems.

If you can't cash out the hours, you may be able to take them concurrently with hours you work, so you'll end up with one fat paycheck. HR might have rules about whether or not you can do this, so you may need to have your boss talk to a manager there.

A bonus works differently for tax-withholding purposes, so they really shouldn't even offer that. -edit: thanks Novelocrat.

Beyond just the money, HR needs to amend your start date, especially if they use it to determine your probationary period, benefits, 401k match vested status, etc.

Source: I've had this come up when I was working in HR. It was a while ago, so please comment/edit if you see some glaring errors.

  • Bonuses work differently for tax withholding, but not for actual taxation. Either way, it's straight income. Regardless, this suggestions is a good one. Jan 19, 2016 at 22:10

You'd be an idiot to accept anything less than being paid the full salary you are owed. If you let it go, you'll be showing them you're a pushover and they can get away with whatever they want.

Write a letter to an appropriately placed executive (HR director, CEO, whatever) explaining that if you are not paid what you are owed within 1 week you will have no choice but to file a formal complaint with the state department of labor relations. I did this with an employer who was refusing to pony up what they owed. Magically, they resolved the issue on the day I told them I was going to contact the friendly State of California.

They screwed up the situation, they can most certainly fix it. Write the letter and they will pay you. I wouldn't worry too much about retaliation. Any adverse action they took against you would open them up to a nasty lawsuit and punishment from the state, they won't do anything.

Write the letter, get paid. It's that easy.

  • 4
    There are probably less confrontational options before falling to this. It's also important to consider in which country the OP resides. Not all countries have the same levels of protection for employees.
    – Jane S
    Jan 19, 2016 at 5:04
  • Amend my comments to include "Applies mostly to the US". He's already tried the less confrontational option, they're going to blow him off because they can. "A mid-year bonus"? Please. They can pay what they owed him now, today. A really confrontational option would be just going straight to the state without warning them. Jan 19, 2016 at 5:11
  • @JaneS This is not as much about protection of employees as it is about basic law. Spoken contracts are valid in every jurisdiction, and every economy requires that there's legal incentive for debts to be paid. The only difference is that in some countries you'd have to pay for a lawyer to send a letter, while in others a government agency does it for free.
    – Peter
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:24

Your boss may not be able to guarantee that a bonus gets paid out, but I bet he can get paid time off (PTO) or vacation days added to whatever accrued balance you may have. HR would probably be fairly happy with that solution too. It would be a ding on the balance sheet no worse than the amount you're owed, but would entail less immediately realized expense, since they wouldn't be paying it out in cash on the spot.

Your boss could then, of course, approve you to take that time off whenever you please and still get paid - e.g. next week.

  • 2
    The OP's comment that he budgeted the money to pay for his move suggests that this might not be a good alternative for him.
    – BobRodes
    Jan 19, 2016 at 4:20
  • PTO don't pay the bills... Jan 19, 2016 at 17:37
  • This is one time when a payday loan should be used Jan 19, 2016 at 18:36

Way too much of a paper trail with a bonus. If have to choose between the bonuses and free paid off, take the free hours off. The days off could be spread even longer. Take halves, come in late, leave early. Chance of getting caught pretty slim. Just keep on DL and don't tell anyone !! Anyone asks, just say its taken care of. Tell them they cut you a check if have to.

I'd say Avoid making too much noise. Since boss is getting to bat for you, at least you know HR is the 'bad guy" in this. No sense getting them on your bad side too.

If really wanted to get nasty, could go up the chain, to USA Department of Labor (or equivalent).

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