Must one pay back overpay to their employer?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Must one pay back overpay to their employer?

My daughter was working for a company as a store manager and was managing 2 stores. Her boss told her that she could claim her mileage. She had to fill out a slip and email it to him and take money out of the register to pay her mileage. After several months, the corporate office ask why her mileage was so high. She was claiming her mileage to and from her home and back-and-forth between the 2 stores. The corporate office said she could only claim mileage between the stores and demanded that she had to pay them back $2800 mileage claims. A week later they fired her for not following company policy. Her managers approved her mileage claims. Is she required to pay them back and, if not, can they file charges against her?

Asked on September 6, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

While one does have to repay overpayments, any claims or reimbursements which were approved by her manager were NOT overpayments: it was a properly approved, and so valid and correct, payment. The employer is free to change its rules and not reimburse her for this mileage in the future, but any reimbursements they already approved and paid are hers; its similar to how if an employer gives someone a raise or bonus, then decides the raise or bonus was too much, they can lower that person's compensation for the future, but cannot take already-paid money. 
They could try to sue her for the money, but would likely lose based on what you write.
So long as she did not lie about the miles in some way (so as to get paid for miles she knew where not part of the reimbursement), they could not press charges, since there would be no criminal intent.
Of course, they could fire her if they deem that she was taking advantage of the company and is not the kind of employee they want: that's because unless and only to the extent she is protected by a written employment contract, she is an "employee at will" and has no protection for her job.
HOWEVER, the above assumes that she did not mislead the manager as to the source of the miles (e.g. told him it was all between stores, when it was not) and did not exceed what was approved (e.g. if he told her that she could only get between-store mileage, but despite knowing that, she put in mileage to/from home). If she did anything wrong or misleading, then she'd have to repay--and possibly committed a crime.

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