If I work for a small business as an HR Coordinator, what is my personal liability since some of my company’s policies may violate labor laws?

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If I work for a small business as an HR Coordinator, what is my personal liability since some of my company’s policies may violate labor laws?

I am concerned that some of my company’s policies may violate labor laws in relation to overtime and breaks for piece rate employees (I am not affected personally). Starting next month my boss has asked me to process payroll. My boss will review the timesheets that employees submit, then I will calculate tax, medical, etc. deductions and direct deposit the money into the employee bank accounts based on my boss’s instructions. I have brought up the issues to the Executive Director and General Counsel but they see no problems. If someone were to sue or file a complaint, could I be personally liable (even though I am simply following instructions) because I am the one running payroll?

Asked on February 14, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You are not liable simply for being an employee: that is, if the company does someting wrong, you are not liable for it simply because you work there, even if you took part in that activity or action. But if you *knowingly* do something wrong, you can be liable for your own knowing wrongful act. You could also be liable if you were personally unreasonably careless--not merely that you made a mistake, but that you were sloppy or reckless in who you did things and so caused someone economic injury. So, for example: despite your best efforts and taking all reasonable care, there is a mistake in payroll; you are not personally liable for that. You however follow a boss's instruction to not pay someone overtime even though you know that they earned it--you could be liable, since you know that what you did was wrong, and so personally and knowingly engaged in a wrongful act.


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