What are the legal means that an employer can use to recover wages when they accidentally overpay an employee?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What are the legal means that an employer can use to recover wages when they accidentally overpay an employee?

An employee was making 1$10/hour in one department and was moved to another, where their wage was cut to $8.50/hour but nobody told them. Now in the payroll system, management forgot to change their pay from the $10 to the $8.50. Upon noticing it 5 months later, they realized they overpaid the employee $1.50/hour for the last 5 months or roughly 310 hours, as that employee is technically part-time. This employer then decided to pay

that employee $6/hour in order to make up the difference.

Asked on September 22, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If there is no written employment contract guarantying a certain wage, the employer may change it at will. If the employer feels it paid the employee too much before, it can pay him at a lower rate now, to "make up" for the prior overpayment--BUT no matter what, the employer must pay at least minimum wage; it is illegal to pay less than minimum, and of the employer does, the employee may contact the department of labor to file a complaint. (And the employee is, of course, free to look for a different job which pays more.)

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