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final pacheck payroll mistake...

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I quit a job about 4 months ago and although had been getting all my paychecks deposited directly into my account they chose to cut actual checks for my last 2 pay periods. This was fine but when they did it they accidentally deposited directly both of the paychecks into my checking account in addition to giving me actual checks (They paid me twice). They have now found their error (about 4 months after it happened) and now want me to pay them. I could pay them and understand it would be ethically wrong to not give them the money back but is there some kind of statute of limitations regarding this? It took them 4 months to catch the mistake. I normally would just pay it back even if there was some kind of legal loophole but in this situation I really wouldn't mind sticking it to my ex-employer. Any responses to my question are appreciated.



Have you recieved any repies? Had a similar situation and wondering my rights.



Your right, the ethical thing to do is pay back the money. More than likely if you don't they will take you to court and you will lose more money than they overpaid you.


I talked to the Labor Dept. in my state and they did tell me that the company would have to take me to court to get it back. Wouldn't this cost them money and also if I was served with court papers couldn't I just pay them before we even go to court? If they tell me they will take me to court I will try to call their bluff and wait until I receive official notification....then I could still just pay them off. Do you think this is a good plan or is there anything that could backfire on me? My main concern is that I don't want to get a judgement filed against me. If I understand how the system works correctly that wouldn't happen if I paid them off after they take the first step towards legal action. Thanx for your replies.


I have a similar situation in Illinois. After just over a year of leaving my company, they've asked me to return a commission that I got for selling a project that was cancelled after I left the company. Any thoughts on the legality here, including statute of limitations? What about the ethics?

Ca Counsel

In California, it is considered theft ("conversion") to wrongfully retain overpayments made by a bank or employer. The statute of limitations is usually not less than one year, and is generally three years, from the "discovery" of the overpayment. There are exceptions, of course, but if your employer takes you to court, you will very likely lose and may have to pay an additional penalty, cost and fees, and perhaps punitive damages, for willful conduct. Many employers will not spend the money to pursue a small overpayment in court, so you have to decide whether it's worth the risk. And, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every morning.


I am also a licensed CA attorney. What the other attorney was referring to is a civil action that the former employer could bring against you. However, of a more immediate concern to me is that the former employer may well report your actions to the police as a theft. Do take this matter seriously and repay the former employer right away. Additionally, if you keep this money and do not report it to the franchise tax board and the IRS as earned income, then you are in greater trouble.

Mark B. Replogle

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