What to do about an accidental overpayment by your employer?

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What to do about an accidental overpayment by your employer?

My girlfriends employer overpaid her a month ago and now they are trying to take the money back. She was wondering if she had to pay the money back? He work has sent her threatening letters in the mail demanding that she pays the full amount back. she asked if she could pay $30 a week until the $300 is paid. She was informed that she could do a payment plan but it would have to be $50 a week. Her paychecks come to about $250 a week and so she cannot afford the $50 a week. We are not sure what to do.

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

An error does not entitle one to keep money: so, just as your girlfriend would be entitled to get her money back if she, for example, accidentally wrote a plumber two checks or too large a check for a plumbing job, so can her employer recover the money from her if they accidentally overpaid her. You girlfriend has no right to the money. They furthermore have the legal right to demand all the money back at once, or according to any payment schedule they want, and do not have to agree to a payment schedule that she can actually make. If she cannot pay the money, they would have the right to sue her. Given that it's $300 at stake, it would be foolish for them to go to the time, effort, and cost of a lawsuit over the difference between being repaid over 10 weeks vs. 6 weeks--but the law allows them to be foolish in this regard, if they like.

In the future, if you or your girlfriend receive what appears to be an overpayment, it's a good idea to not spend the money--put it into your bank account and leave it there, until you are sure whether or not anyone wants it back.

 


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