My large employer uses an automated payroll service that direct-deposits. I've had no problems for 11 years. This week, instead of getting my usual deposit of about $1500, I was paid only $800. Nobody - neither my supervisor, director, on-site HR rep, nor the payroll service, provided an explanation, and no system wide errors were reported. Can an error of this magnitude and singularity be attributable to a computer glitch? Or is it a sign of human intervention? I am concerned because I am recovering from a multiple sclerosis relapse. I filed for FMLA leave, am now back full time, and have been told by my direct supervisor that I have time to get my production back up. However, I suspect the on-site HR rep wants me out.

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    Did you ask about it? Don't expect them to report to you. – Oded Nov 23 '12 at 10:36
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    Is your question in regards to can HR systems/staff mess up payroll, or what should be done to get your correct pay? – SQLSavant Nov 23 '12 at 12:59
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    "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence" - Napolean Bonaparte (maybe). Perhaps the HR rep does want you out, but this is not a good way to go about it. – GreenMatt Nov 23 '12 at 20:02
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    Did you compare they pay stub to the previous stub? Some or all of the numbers must have changed. Were both for the same number of days? – mhoran_psprep Nov 25 '12 at 4:26
  • Did the period for the pay have some of the time period you were on FMLA? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 26 '12 at 17:47

A couple thoughts, on both sides of the equation:

  • If your pay check is screwed up, keep fighting for it and keep a history. Wrong or right, issues get muddy over time, so having a log of every action you took, who you took it with, how long it took to resolve it and what the promised outcomes are (and whether or not it worked) are all important details to record. Not even, necessary, in preparation for a legal cases - I've even found this useful when yelling my way up the chain of command - it's far more impressive to a manager or executive when you have a well put together history of events.

  • Computers are only as smart as the people writing the code. And when it comes to cases like FMLA and other more-complicated-than-everyday issues, every case is unique and computers can get pretty messed up. You'd think this stuff would be standard, but it's my impression that the laws, tax codes, and payment systems have been changing fast enough in recent years that a screwup is not only possible, but even likely. The real trick is how your infrastructure responds. If no one is willing to help you in the company, then you may need legal counsel. But give the company problem-solving mechanisms a shot.

  • Frequently HR-related paystub screwups are a horrible mix of user error and ill-defined computer programming. While the computer is doing exactly what it was programmed to do, there can be very tricky nuances to how to get it to do the right thing. If for 11 years you've had a relatively standard employment history, without need for legislation like FLMA, then I'd suggest you are in totally new territory, and you may need to plan time to help HR and accounting work through the correct use of the automated direct deposit system.

  • FMLA, in particular, is a seriously protected legal right. I'm not saying the people can't be jerks, and that your HR rep may not be one of them, but when it comes to a court case, your company will be on thin ice if they've allowed anyone to push you out based on taking legitimate, verified, medical leave. It's a good time to be very clear with your boss regarding his expectations on your work, because while medical leave is a protected aspect of corporate life in the US, failing to meet job performance expectations isn't.

If you have reason to believe that the HR rep is not acting in a way that complies with HR policy and the laws regarding medical leave, then you should seriously considering talking to a secondary channel - either another person in HR, the HR rep's boss, or an out of band complaint line, or even the company's legal department or your own lawyer (there are often state provided consulting attorneys for this... but it depends on where you live).

But you want more than just an issue with a paystub, you want a history of improper interactions - because computers really can make mistakes.

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If this is the first week you have returned to fulltime, the most likely scenario is that the return date was mistyped. Or it could be your error if you are paid biweekly and returned in the middle of a pay period. Sometimes people don't realize the exact pay period dates do not always track with the day you get paid but rather with a week or even two weeks earlier.

What you need to do is get the paystub for the incorrect pay and one for a pay period in which you got the correct pay and highlight the differences. Then take the highlighed pay stubs to HR and ask politely for an explanantion as to what happened. Specifically ask what date they had you returning on (correct it if it is wrong and get the proof of that either from timesheets or from a written confirmation from your boss of the date you returned to work) and what dates the pay check covered.

Treat the whole thing as a problem to be resolved, not a massive insulting screwup that you are furious about. You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you can approach it from the perspective of "I was expceting this and the pay check was this, did I do something wrong in getting my pay re-started?", you will likely have more cooperation than if you go in and accuse HR of trying to get rid of you. .

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