If I mistakenly received a check from my employer, must I pay it back?

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If I mistakenly received a check from my employer, must I pay it back?

I recently was sent a payment for a Paid Time Off Payout, or basically back pay for some PTO. I was not expecting the check so I called Human Resources and asked if the check was correct. Human Resources verified the paycheck was correct, so I spent it. A month later I received a letter saying there was an error and that I have to pay back the amount. Do I have any legal stand point to not have to pay back the money since I called and verified the paycheck?

Asked on December 17, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately you still have to repay the check. A mistake does not entitle you to keep someone else's money, and this is someone else's money--your employer's--since you were not entitled to under the terms of your employment. Consider: if you accidentally wrote you landlord two checks for the same month's rent, then even if you told them to cash the second check (having forgotten about the first check), once the error was discovered, they would have to return the extra money to you; your landlord could not keep your money simpy because you made a mistake. The same legal principal applies here.


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