If I was accidentally overpaid, can my employer withhold the amount of the overpayment from my next paycheck without my consent?

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If I was accidentally overpaid, can my employer withhold the amount of the overpayment from my next paycheck without my consent?

I was given a check for my 2 weeks pay about 2 months ago. My employers accountant was told to stop the direct deposit for that check. However the direct deposit still went threw. Fast forward to today. I had asked my employer to check my hours and pay since each check I had received since I started had been at least 2 hours short. In doing so, he came across the over payment from the month before last. Now he’s trying to keep my entire check I’m supposed to receive tomorrow. I have 3 kids and just moved into my own place and am counting on that check. Not to mention they just hired 2 new people behind my back and cut my hours in a third without any notice. What can I do? Is that legal?

Asked on July 31, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Unless this deduction has been authorized by you and in writing, in PA, an employer cannot make such a deduction from a worker's paycheck. However, while it cannot simply reduce your wages as repayment, you still owe the money. The fact is that this overpayment was mistakenly made. So for you to keep it would constitute "unjust enrichment", something that the law disfavors. Accordingly, you can either voluntarily repay  the amount in question or your employer can sue you in small claims court. Further, unless you have protection under a union agreement or employment contract, you are an "at will" worker, which means that you can (or your hours cut) be dismissed for any reason or reason at all, with or without notice. Therefore, it would be advisable to try and work out a repayment plan with your employer.


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