Is the move my company pulled with my paycheck illegal?

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Is the move my company pulled with my paycheck illegal?

They overpaid us for three pay periods by small amounts and then took the overage
back in one chunk out of our three week check, the check before xmas. They took
too much and now have to give it back in the next check. They did not let us know
a mistake had been made or that it was being fixed. If I hadn’t realized that I
didn’t see the extra from that three week check, I would never have known and my
check would not have been compensated for the extra hours that they owed me. The
company was in bankruptcy and in the process of being bought out, so this
happened right before the buyout was finalized. Is this legal?

Asked on January 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First of all, your employer is entitled to reimbursement of the overpayment, otherwise you would be "unjustly enrtiched" which is something that the courts will not allow (and if you think about it, you would likewise be entitled to any underpayment). However, as for taking this deduction out of your paycheck (whether over several weeks in row or all at once), without your written consent that is illegal. The proper way to have gotten repaid was to either ask you to do it voluntarily, give your written permission for a paycheck deduction or, if it came to it, file suit against you in court. That having been said, at this point you may just want to let the incident go and get on with things. Absent an employment contract or union agreeement to the contrary, as an "at will" worker, you can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all. That being the case, there is no reason to antagonize your employer.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you were overpaid, even by mistake, the employer is entitled to the money back: the law is very clear that a mistake or error does *not* entitle you to the money.
However, they can't take the money out of your check without your consent or agreement; what they should have done is sue you for the money, if you did not voluntarily repay it.
However, since if you try to take legal action against them to get the money, they can put in a counterclaim for the overpayment and you'll net out to the same place, it's likely the best course, if they took the correct total amount out, to let it go--if you sue them for the money and they countersue for the overpayment, there will be no difference from the outcome if they did take the money from your paychecks.


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