Does an employer who paid you the wrong amount of money without you realizing, have to pay you back when you find out?

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Does an employer who paid you the wrong amount of money without you realizing, have to pay you back when you find out?

My husband is a veteran and now currently a police officer. He was supposed to be paid time and a half on veterans day and memorial day. He did not realize he was not receiving this pay for approximately 10 years. The mistake was found and his employers do not want to pay him the money he should have earned.

Asked on January 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, if an employee was underpaid--he was not paid for all the hours he worked, or was paid at the wrong rate--the employer needs to make good the shortfall.

If they won't voluntarily pay, though, you'll need to sue, which brings up two issues:

1) Proof--what evidence do you have of the underpayment and of what your husband should have been paid?

2) The statute of limitations--the statute of limitatations is a law which defines how long you have to sue. In a case where there was ongoing underpayment--e.g. for 10 years--you can only recover for underpayments within the statutory period; for example, if the statute of limitations in your state if 4 years, you could only recover the underpayment for the last 4 years.

Given the impact of the statute of limitations and the need to sue, it may not be worthwhile to take action--you might not be able to recover enough to justify the expense of a lawsuit. You could consult with an employment attorney--many provide a free initial consultation--though, to explore whether you do have a worthwhile case.


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