I am working on a temporary job that was suppose to be a stipend of X amount. I am now being paid Y which is 10% less than X as well as a retirement plan being taken out of my pay that I did not agree to. I have the amount I should be paid in writing in an email.

What steps should I take to make sure I am not being short changed or paying for unwanted retirement plans?

UPDATE: The retirement plan OPERS is required. I was not aware of this when I accepted the position but when researching my school's policy it is mandatory.

UPDATE2: I was reassured in writing from my adviser that I will receive the money within a few weeks.

  • 1
    what does your contract say? Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 12:40
  • is the retirement plan one in which when the contract ends you can get the money back or roll it over into another account you control? Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 12:40
  • I have been told that the retirement plan money will be returned to us at the end of the job. I will update the question.
    – LampPost
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 12:47
  • 3
    what kind of retirement account is this? i've never heard of a retirement account that will be returned to you before retirement... Your location and retirement account type might be helpful as there may be regulations requiring the company to opt you in, and give you the option to opt out and take the cash now.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 15:23
  • 2
    @LampPost why would you ever want to opt out of a DB pension it almost never makes sense Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 13:01

5 Answers 5


Initially, assume it's an honest mistake.

Talk to HR (phone or in person, not by email). Tell them there's a mistake with your pay and ask them to fix it.

If they say it's not a mistake, produce the email and re-iterate your position.

If they don't fix it after that, quit*.

This entire process should happen over at most 2 days. Do not let them delay any part of it.

Separately, about the retirement plan, if you don't want it then just ask HR how you opt out of it. And then do so.

*Or, if your circumstances don't allow you to just walk out, start looking for a new job immediately, and get out as soon as you can.

  • 6
    If you get to three (quit), I would suggest take all pay stubs or other evidence of actual payments (wait for the last one), and file in small claims court for the difference.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 20, 2017 at 13:51
  • 5
    The sentence "this is not the arrangement you agreed to in our contract" is helpful in these situations, too.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 11:36
  • 2
    @Kaz opting out of a pension is in 99.9% is very bad advice Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 14:49
  • @Neuromancer That as may be, the OP wanted to know how to do so.
    – Kaz
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 15:47

What steps should I take to make sure I am not being short changed or paying for unwanted retirement plans?

Almost certainly, this was simply a case of confusion.

Talk to HR, explain what you wanted to do, and learn what you can do now.

In many of the public employee retirement systems these days, there is a default selection. In your case, enrollment at the standard 10% level was likely the default. If you wanted a different action, there would be forms to fill out indicating your selection. It sounds like this wasn't clear during the onboarding process.

Most systems have a certain period of time to complete this enrollment, such as 120 days from the start of employment. You may still have time to change your selection.

As far as "getting your money back" that may also be a misunderstanding. Once money is put into a retirement system there are ways to get that money out, but most involve a penalty and perhaps a tax hit. Perhaps what they were saying is that when you separate from this company, you can roll over the money in your retirement account to something like an IRA if you don't want to leave it in place. Again, check with HR.

If you are in a public employee's union, your union can also help.

(As an aside, public employee retirement systems are often very generous in their matching amounts - more so than private employers. You might wish to talk with a financial planner to consider if saving for retirement this way is in your best interest.)

Being promised $X virtually always means a gross amount, not a net amount. Out of $X must come taxes, the employee's cost of benefits, etc. In this case, it doesn't sound like the employer was trying to be intentionally misleading, but perhaps didn't convey enough details for you to understand.

If after discussion the entire package is less than you were hoping, you can always find a new job then quit this one.


The normal answer to

If they don't pay me, what do I do?

is "talk to an employment lawyer".

However, since this is an internship that ends this week, don't sweat the small stuff.

Make sure you get the college credit and don't worry too much about the pay. It may be a lot to you now, but it's not going to matter 2 years from now.

Don't accept an offer of full time employment from this company unless they explain the situation to your satisfaction.


Document everything now, get any evidence you can of the original agreement you made with the company. Look or ask around for obvious resources for resolving payroll issues. HR, office manager, business owner, whoever. Don't be afraid to ask higher up the food chain; if this issue is below someone's pay grade then said person should absolutely know who you need to talk to for a resolution.

If no one is helping you, and there's no HR department or office manager who could be assumed to be in charge of payroll discrepancies, then wait until your school credits are confirmed with your university and then file a complaint with the Ohio Board of Labor or equivalent institution.

The most important part of this is your school credit, so don't give them an opportunity to take a cheap shot at you by alerting them to the fact that you intend to go to the Board of Labor in order to collect your wages.

  • I'd also add making a complaint to the department head at the college (or whomever the appropriate person would be). The school should not be sending students there for internships if the business is going to cheat them out of their pay.
    – BSMP
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 15:35

Get the details on the retirement plan. Is it a 401k or an IRA that is managed by someone? Does it seem legitimate? Will they indeed give it back to you? HR should be able to provide this information to you in short order. Any investment accounts should come with materials/paperwork describing the fund or financial product.

If you cannot get this information, I would perceive it as a major red flag.

  • 2
    chernobylorbust reed the ops q its a DB pension backed by government its the gold standard of pensions ! Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 14:52

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