… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

Did it never occur to you to say something??

I am looking for advice from my readers here about a tricky situation. I’m hoping you can help me out with any suggestions, ideas, or advice.

We have an associate who used to work an evening shift in which she received a base salary plus a shift differential. A while back she switched to an earlier shift and thus no longer qualified for the shift differential. For about 3 months she received the new, correct pay, but due to an error, her pay reverted back to her old wage of base plus shift differential. She noticed the change and said nothing. She has admitted to knowing that her pay went back up but she never mentioned it to anyone until we discussed it with her.

Now, the error is our fault. It shouldn’t have happened and/or it should have been caught sooner. We would never ask for the money back. But she never said anything? She never asked what was going on? How is coming forward not the responsible and moral thing to do? This just doesn’t sit right with me.

So readers, what, if anything, should I do?

Update: So here’s the update on the situation and what was decided.

We will be asking her to pay the money back (corporate payroll decision, which actually suprised me) but due to that we will not be putting her on any warning.

Thanks so much for everyone’s advice!!! I really appreciate it!

14 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 Laurie :

    I hate to be "trusty" on this one, but I was paid by direct deposit and never looked at my check statement. The pay advice statement was online, and I didn't need to review it. The money went into my checking account and I didn't really look at my account to verify that the $$ was deposited. I just assumed that a) I was paid & b) whatever I was paid was the right amount (minus taxes & stuff).

    So maybe this employee just thought, hey, whatever, why would my awesome employer screw up? Don't they pay people in HR to get these things right?

    In fact, I had this problem with people who were entering into a bonus program mid-year. We overpaid them, but how would they know? They never received a bonus before. So I worked with payroll and fixed the problem once it was discovered. It was so frequent that we had a template written and would send out a letter saying HEY WE OVERPAID YOU. OUR BAD. WE WON'T ADJUST YOUR PAYCHECK BUT THIS LETTER CONFIRMS THAT YOUR BI-WEEKLY SALARY IS $X.

  • 2 Rachel - Employment File :

    This gets asked monthly on the SHRM message board and EVERY TIME people freak out and talk about how the employee has stolen money from the company and should be fired.

    Admitting that she knew only makes it worse. I would discipline her but let it go for now.

  • 3 HR Minion :

    Laurie – I would rather be a little “trusty” too. It just makes me a little grumpy because it went on so long.

    Rachel – Monthly? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it happens so often.

    Thanks for the advice both of you!

  • 4 MsPinkSlip :

    She admitted she knew. Does the company have an ethics policy? HR Rules? She should be disciplined and have to pay the money back. Since it was also a company mistake, the company should work out a repayment plan versus taking it in large increments to minimize the impact on the employee.

    I’m a tough one, huh?

  • 5 The Happy Employee :

    I agree with Mspinkslip. The employee knowingly getting too much money is a case for your ethics, code of behavior or whatever blah blah policy you have for these kind of things.

    I deduct overpaid amounts from the next salary payment (after informing the employee, of course). Honest employees will always agree to pay the money back.

    But most importantly, I would (did) set up a system that allows to identify the differences to the previous salary payment (e.g. last month Billy got 200 less: why?).

    Not adjust the paycheck? Really? Guess we have a different approach to money here in Switzerland 😉

    You’re not tough, just an HR pro doing his/her job.

  • 6 HR Minion :

    Mspinkslip & Happy Employee – I'm hesitent to take the money back since it was our error. However, I think we should discipline her. We do have associates sign ethic statements and this certainly falls into that category. I don't know. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt but man, every time I think about it I get annoyed. Gah! I'm not usually this indecisive.

    Thanks for your advice as well!

  • 7 HR Maven :

    It’s surprising to me that very few employees actually know what they are to be paid.

    Part of it is our environment – academia – where faculty (and some staff) routinely make extra money (stipends) by writing, presenting, grant work, etc.

    When we have overpaid employees, we require them to pay it back. We will work out a payment plan to allow an employee to pay it back over time.

    Only a few times has the happened.

  • 8 HR Minion :

    HR Maven – You would think employees would monitor their pay closer.

    I do feel better knowing this is as common as it is. Thanks for your advice too!

    People are so nice to me. 🙂

  • 9 Michael VanDervort :

    I’m kind of in the same school as Laurie. I rarely looked at my paychecks, but then that is because I am exempt and get pretty much the same amount everytime.

    I rarely have taken money back or disciplined someone for this type of situation, but I do know this: If her pay had gone DOWN, she would have been in your office right away!

    I believe a warning telling her if this ever happens again, she will be held accoutable would be appropriate, but nothing much further, since it was the company’s error originally. You also need to consider precedent, although it doesn’t mandate the same bad decision over and over again.

    Here is a link to a story about a beautiful group solution worked about the Lakeland Forida school system and the teachers union. Half paid $ back, half didn’t.

    Hey, maybe you could make her pay half back, and give her half a warning letter!

    Good luck

    — Michael

  • 10 Michael VanDervort :


    said link…i got carried away with my sarcastic….ermm..bright idea!

  • 11 HR Minion :

    Michael – paying back half sounds like a nice compromise, though I’m not sure about the half warning. Would I just stop mid sentence? 🙂 Thanks!

    I’ll let you guys know what we decide to do.

  • 12 HR Wench :

    I’m surprised she admitted she knew about it. That is just weird.

    I am with Michael as far as what to do with/to her part. Don’t take it back but tell her you’re concerned she knew about it and didn’t bring it up.

    Be careful of state laws when it comes to deductions. In some states, such as California, deducting anything outside of voluntary and involuntary benefits (like Soc Sec.) can get you into hot water.

  • 13 Just another HR lady... :

    This happened to us in the past, we simply advised the employee of the “overpayment” and laid out the schedule of reimbursement in small bi-weekly increments. As it was our error, we did not discipline the employee for not advising us…we put them into that situation with our error and when it comes to pay people are often clueless unfortunately…they can be willing to accept deductions/ additions to their pay almost without question.

    Requiring a re-payment made it clear that it’s not free money if there is an error in your pay. People started looking a little closer at their paycheques after that, which was a positive outcome in my mind…although payroll might not have thought so since their number of questions went up! 🙂

  • 14 HR Minion :

    Another HR Lady – Thanks for your input! I would like people to pay moe attention to their paychecks.