What to do if my employer claims an overpay for travel expenses 3 months after the event and over 2 months after issuing the check?

My husband was asked to spend 35 days working in Asia. He submitted documents for reimbursement a few days after his return and he received the reimbursing check (without documentation how the check was calculated). We spent this money plus our saving last week buying the car. Yesterday, his secretary told him there was a mistake and he has to return over 30% of the amount received. We don’t have this money and the savings anymore because of the car. Isn’t there any law protecting him?How much time the company has to correct its own mistakes?

Asked on October 29, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the employer is correct, then you and your husband have to return the money: a mistake that someone makes does not entitle you to keep extra money paid. (Consider: if the employer had accidentally underpaid your husband, their mistake would not absolve them of the responsibility to correct the error and give him the rest of the money.) So there is no protection in that nothing in the law entitles you keep the results of an accidental overpayment.

While there is a time limit on how long the employer has to correct its mistake, its much longer than two or three months. They have until the expiration of the statute of limitations. While you don't indicate which state your in, the statute of limitations for most civil causes of action is between 2 and 6 years, so clearly they are still within time.

You best bet is to work out a payment schedule with the employer: since your husband did nothing wrong from what you write, they should be amendable to being repaid over time, possibly by paycheck deductions. You should also have your husband, his secretary, and anyone else involved (e.g. HR, accounting) review the check and the reimbursement request he'd submitted, to verify that a mistake was in fact made.

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