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  • My wife lost her job but it still being paid; Alabama

    I apologize in advance if this post it too long. We've never been in a position like this and we want to insure we handle it properly.

    My wife was fired from her job of six years on March 9th. It was her first job in America and around 10 months earlier she moved to a salaried position (the first salaried position either of us have had). My wife made a mistake early in the previous week, she wasn't suspended or anything, did her full duties and (including hiring new employees), but at the end of her bosses workday on the 9th she was fired. My wife worked ten months towards a yearly bonus (due in mid-April) and has received 3 weeks vacation (in addition to the ten she had, but she believes she lost those when they were not granted when she applied for the days off) in February. It seemed convenient to fire someone due a bonus and three weeks vacation pay.

    My wife received her full wages in mid March, which didn't strike us as abnormal not being familiar with any lag in pay or if salaried workers are paid out for the full period. She then received her full paycheck at the end of the month as well. We took this as a pleasant surprise and believed they were paying out her vacation pay (not mandated by Alabama law, but can be voluntarily). Her pay is via direct deposit, so there really was no additional information given, it was the same before when she took vacation days. My wife found a new job at the end of March and her father died early in April. She left for Germany, and actually got stuck there because of the volcano. After she finally made it back we found out she's been paid a full paycheck again in mid April and got her bonus as well. Her bonus was not as much as it could have been so it struck us as being pro-rated or something. It also didn't seem like it was possibly a accident, everyone knew she was gone (she got two cards full of signatures from her former workplace after they found out her father had passed away), yet someone had to have signed off on a discretionary bonus... I did have her ask a former co-worker if they knew why she'd still be getting paid and they said they thought it was vacation days. Then, we find out this past Sunday night that she got paid again, in full.

    Now, I can't come up with a scenario in which she was due to be paid for that period. Pperhaps she was due to be paid the first two weeks, had a additional 3 weeks vacation which puts it into the first week of April and if she didn't lose the other ten days that would put it into the third week of April but it doesn't completely cover the month. So, it went from we think it's vacation pay to we think it's a mistake. We want to resolve it swiftly, but it's gone from a pleasant surprise to her job screwing her up more. If this is a mistake in the very least she's out a lunch break trying to get this sorted out, and it seems there are a number of negative things that can arise from this. Any advice as to how to definitively sort this out in a manner that protects my wife's interests is greatly appreciated.

    If you're up for reading more here are some of my specific concerns:
    In my opinion my wife was entitled to her vacation pay and a pro-rated portion of her bonus. Perhaps not legally, but she worked for those things while at her job. Vacation pay in the state is discretionary, but how does one discern between voluntary vacation pay and a mistake? If I give a big tip I'm not entitled to take it back later am I?

    From what I can tell technically my wife can be charged a outrageous interest rate (12%) on the money and even additional costs such as the health insurance they have continued to pay for. While they might not, they technically could and I'd like the best way to insure that doesn't occur.

    Since it is direct deposit I believe they can just give themselves the money back. How does one insure they don't make a clerical error with that and give themselves too much money?

    While we would want to keep a pro-rated portion of her bonus and her vacation pay our primarily concern would be that her former employer does not inconvenience her more than it already appears they have. She apparently has to take time out to sort this out, it has muddled our health care situation because we haven't been able to get COBRA yet (but are wary of using our existing care) and we have no confidence in their ability to sort this out properly without screwing something else up.

    Even if my wife pays back money what insures that's the end of is? We want to make sure the tax situation is cleared up as well (it's being reported as income now of course) and what is to prevent her former employer from demanding more later (like interest or health insurance costs)?

    For now, my advice would be to call them on her lunch break and talk to someone in HR and in as neutral manner as possible try to determine exactly what funds she was entitled to. If they want her to refund money, I would suggest she talk to someone in a higher position (perhaps the person in charge of the center) to make sure this is the actual position of the company. If she is going to pay money back I would suggest she go down there and get something in writing at the time that this matter is resolved.

    Sorry for the long post, but this involved a amount of about $5,000 and there is a lot in play here as she could hypothetically go from having $5,000 to owing more than that and/or face future headaches because her former employer can't sort out their paperwork. The greatest annoyance seems to be that there is virtually no protection for someone in her position, they make the mistake and she has to fix it.

    Thanks in advance for any advice, information and taking the time to read this!
    Last edited by Chaos313; 05-04-2010, 05:20 AM.

  • #2
    You will find many of the same posters here as on the other forum where you posted this, and the answers are not going to change.

    I will say this once.

    1.) Vacation pay is not due at termination in your state. Period.

    2.) Interest can be charged ONLY if she forces them to take her to court.

    3.) Your belief is incorrect. Direct deposit does not allow them to simply reach into your account and help themselves. Banking law limits when and under what circumstances they can reverse a direct deposit, and by your account the time when they could have done so has passed. This is a non-issue.

    Under the law, she is not due ONE PENNY beyond wages for the last day she actually worked.

    This is not going to be resolved until she MAKES THE FREAKIN' PHONE CALL and talks to someone about it.

    I can promise you that whatever the person in HR tells you, IS the position of the company. Going higher up the ladder is not going to give her a means to keep the money, if she's told to return it.

    FYI, the world of employment law message boards is a very small one. It is unlikely that you will be able to find a board where at least one of the people who saw your first thread are not also a participant.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by cbg View Post
      FYI, the world of employment law message boards is a very small one. It is unlikely that you will be able to find a board where at least one of the people who saw your first thread are not also a participant.
      That's fine. I just had some unanswered questions, some of which you actually clarified this time (2 and 3). I want as much information as possible. I've explained my wife has to call on her lunch break, she's not going to lose her current job trying to resolve something with her previous one.

      The other topic just went in a direction I never intended it to go and I wanted a cleaner slate and to be a bit more informative because some concerns hadn't been clarified. Some of them you addressed now and I appreciate that. I have continued concerns and the fact is I have time available that my wife does not have and I'd want as much information to provide to her as possible. Hence, if anyone wants to specifically address anything I said, I would greatly appreciate. To reiterate though, the goal is not to keep unearned money but rather to completely resolve this matter in a manner that insures it can't remain a problem in the future.

      I'm here to get as much information to handle this and any potential issues as possible. If everything had worked out perfectly I'd never be here posting in the first place. Thank you for your response, I do appreciate the help and information and I have attempted to combine the information I have found via one form or another into this topic. Hopefully, this matter will be resolved fully to the point that I never need to frequent a board like this again as I am obviously not knowledgeable enough to provide advice myself.
      Last edited by Chaos313; 05-04-2010, 06:15 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        The ONLY way this is going to cause her problems in the future, is if she takes no steps to resolve it. She CANNOT create problems for herself by bringing the error to her employer's attention. She CAN create problems for herself by doing nothing.

        She needs to resolve this NOW because the longer she waits, the less likely it will be that she can claim she didn't notice or that she thought it was vacation etc. In fact, under the circumstances you have described, I'm not sure I'd believe her if she called today. So stop diddling around trying to create problems that don't exist and DEAL WITH IT.
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

        Comment


        • #5
          I would just add that you seem overly concerned - almost obsessed - with the idea that resolving this is going to take too much of your wife's time. I recommend you just get that idea out of your head - it isn't helping you think this through. You surely have not gotten this far in life without having others make errors on retail accounts, credit cards, bank accounts, etc., that took you time to resolve. It's just part of living.

          Have her make that call. It's real simply. All she has to do is say, "I'm still getting paid by direct deposit although I was terminated a couple of months ago. Could you please look into it and resolve it?"
          Please post questions on the forum rather than sending me a private message or email. That way others who have similar issues have access to the discussion.

          Comment


          • #6
            Or if it's too much of a burden on her lunch break to make such a phone call, there is still such a thing as mail. Send them a letter.
            I'm not seeing the "mountain" the OP is seeing; just seeing a mole-hill.

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            • #7
              I agree completely with cgb and Scott67.

              Unless your wife makes an immediate phone call, she is looking at a major law suit. The phone call should not take more than 5 minutes.

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              • #8
                Chaos, at least a dozen people at the other site you posted on have told you that your wife needs to contact the employer and make arrangements to pay the money back. You seem intent on only receiving the answers that you want to hear and making a mountain out of a molehill. It's a straight forward situation. Your wife was accidentally overpaid. She owes the employer that money.

                No matter how many times you post on how many different boards the answers won't change.

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                • #9
                  I might be reading into things, but it sounds like:

                  reluctance to make the phone call = the money's been spent

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                  • #10
                    OP states on the other board that they have no problem paying the money back. He's just insistent that she's owed the money for "ethical reasons" and wants someone to tell him the law supports that. Not gonna happen and he won't give it up. He's a knucklehead.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Beth3 View Post
                      OP states on the other board that they have no problem paying the money back. He's just insistent that she's owed the money for "ethical reasons" and wants someone to tell him the law supports that. Not gonna happen and he won't give it up. He's a knucklehead.
                      That explains why he thinks it'll take a lot of time. It would take a lot of time to try to build a case that you are owed money that is not yours. I don't know what the minimum wage is for pay due to "ethical reasons". It doesn't seem to be covered in my manual.
                      Please post questions on the forum rather than sending me a private message or email. That way others who have similar issues have access to the discussion.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by cbg View Post
                        The ONLY way this is going to cause her problems in the future, is if she takes no steps to resolve it. She CANNOT create problems for herself by bringing the error to her employer's attention. She CAN create problems for herself by doing nothing.
                        One reason I mentioned she was a immigrant is because from my experience my wife (and other immigrants) tend to have a belief that things work the way they are supposed to or in the very least that they have no say in the matter. Believe me, once she gets home I am going to sit down with her and tell her everything I know and prod her to call and get it sorted out. I just have to spell everything out and make sure he gets the consequences if she doesn't sort it out.

                        Originally posted by Scott67 View Post
                        I would just add that you seem overly concerned - almost obsessed - with the idea that resolving this is going to take too much of your wife's time.
                        Not that this is the concern of anyone here, but since March 9th, my wife lost a job of six years (first time she's been fired), got a new job, had her father die suddenly, had to fly to Germany, had a volcano trap her in Germany (and make her worry she would lose her new job in a area with 12% unemployment) and went from thinking she lost her bonus and vacation pay, to having it and losing it again. Is might be obsessed with how much this will trouble her and any potential problems because she's at her threshold right now. I apologize for how much that might make me come off but yes her well being in all respects is of great concern to me.

                        Originally posted by Beth3 View Post
                        OP states on the other board that they have no problem paying the money back. He's just insistent that she's owed the money for "ethical reasons" and wants someone to tell him the law supports that. Not gonna happen and he won't give it up. He's a knucklehead.
                        Don't get me wrong, the money we initially believed was intentionally paid out and was money she earned would have gone towards a second car for us. It isn't as though it holds no value, however, yes we can pay it back and if that's our legal responsibility it will be done.

                        As for the other board, I take responsibility for how I came off as but the exact reason I posted here was the direction it took and some things that were said that left me with more cause for concern. One poster in particular seemed to take issue with me and they responded to my saying it was direct deposit with something like "whoohoo be prepared for a surprise" (which led to my comments about them taking the money back out), or accusations about it being theft or the like. Knucklehead or not, you start telling me it could be criminal because we haven't sorted it out since we realized what was going on Sunday, and they can deduct money from our account, that they probably won't try to get 12% interest and legal fees unless it goes to court, etc... yeah I'm getting paranoid.

                        I think the responses here (which thankfully have been civil and I appreciate it) have clarified things for me which is what I needed to explain to my wife what she needs to do to resolve this. Thanks again for the help and advice.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If you do not take very definite steps to straighten this out RIGHT NOW, that IS criminal. You may not have been aware initially, but you are now aware that the money was NOT owed; therefore, continuing to accept the payments is THEFT. I simply do not believe that you only realized three days ago that you were not due the money that kept landing in her account. But even if that's true, she should have been on the phone to fix it at 8:01 Monday morning. Here it is after close of business on Tuesday and you are still dithering around trying to find a way to avoid making a simple phone call.

                          It's a shame your wife has so much happen all at once but not an iota of it makes any difference to the legal answer here.
                          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by cbg View Post
                            If you do not take very definite steps to straighten this out RIGHT NOW, that IS criminal. You may not have been aware initially, but you are now aware that the money was NOT owed; therefore, continuing to accept the payments is THEFT. I simply do not believe that you only realized three days ago that you were not due the money that kept landing in her account. But even if that's true, she should have been on the phone to fix it at 8:01 Monday morning. Here it is after close of business on Tuesday and you are still dithering around trying to find a way to avoid making a simple phone call.

                            It's a shame your wife has so much happen all at once but not an iota of it makes any difference to the legal answer here.
                            I tried to specify we had some uncertainty with the mid April payment, but my wife was out of the country and we were not aware of that immediately either. I did prod her to asks someone (when we found out about that payment) that works there (she didn't know anyone in HR) she could contact about it and they said it was probably vacation pay. It wasn't until the last payment that the numbers couldn't possibly add up.

                            HR only is available certain hours and my wife is at work or in transit from 5:30AM-6PM and HR is not available before or after that. Yes, she will call on her lunch break if I have any say in it but it simply isn't a option to take more time off work (she's already missed far too much time because of the volcano) to sort this out.

                            Once again I appreciate everything, it is crystallized for me now and I will do everything in my power to insure it is resolved tomorrow. I will reiterate my thanks to everyone that provided helpful information. No, I didn't hear what I wanted to hear but I got sound information and that's what I needed most.
                            Last edited by Chaos313; 05-04-2010, 02:30 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              OK. Good luck in getting it sorted out. I do have one more thought for you. While HR will typically not discuss employment issues with a spouse of a former employee, I have know very few who would not listen if a spouse called and said, "My wife was terminated 3 months ago and we are still receiving what appear to be regular paychecks direct deposited into our bank account. Could you please look into it?" -- If you have time to make the call, it would cost nothing to try.
                              Please post questions on the forum rather than sending me a private message or email. That way others who have similar issues have access to the discussion.

                              Comment

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