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Overpaid Stipend for 15 years in Virginia Virginia

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  • Overpaid Stipend for 15 years in Virginia Virginia

    My wife recently transferred from a High school to an elementary school in the same school district. Upon reviewing her record HR determined that the stipend she was receiving for her Masters + 30 was in question. She received $2500 for her masters and $1300 for the +30. They asked for her transcripts and after provided with them determined that even though she had 61 credits she did not qualify for the +30 stipend. She has been receiving this stipend for 15 years and was told by HR when hired that she qualified for the stipend. Now they are asking for repayment of over 14,000 dollars to make up for the mistake. They want to hold her stipend of $2500 she earns for her masters to collect the over-payment over the next 7 years. While I agree that if she doesn't qualify she shouldn't get the money. $14,000 is a big mistake. Are their any statute of limitations? What options do I have?

  • #2
    Get your union involved pronto and do not agree to anything just yet. I don't think this is a question of time as such.

    1. If she is entitled to stipend of $2500 for a masters per contract then she is entitled to same , period.
    2. Generally speaking an employer cannot claw back wages unless there is some written agreement as to same . Don't sign ?at least not without counsel.
    3. Explain to me how one can have 61 extra credits and not qualify for M + 30?
    4. BTW is she still short a few credits per their math for M + 30 ...if so, Id sure take a serious look at adding the missing credits PRONTO.....some of this on line credit stuff if your district allows for same is duck soup and quite inexpensive. get back to M+ 30 pronto, IF you are factually short..and so far that not even clear.
    5 If I gave you my transcript or whatever you wanted some 14 years ago and you determined I met the standards for M + 30 then it's reasonable for me to rely upon same to my detriment ..and in a sense employer has created promissory estoppel as to pay rate....absent some fraud or misrepresentation of credits.
    6. Absent more details I do not see managements point. Around me credits in underwater fish photography would count..unless it's in contract otherwise....read it ..word for word..and go back to,contract of 14 years ago as well.

    Comment


    • #3
      Raster, you can complete the courses for a master's but not have done your dissertation yet.

      If your wife belongs to a union then she should speak to the union rep. If there is no union, then she needs to read over the policies on the two programs. A well written program would contain contingencies on how the money would be recouped in the event of overpayment.

      I can see legally that the money (or some of it) might be withheld. Is your wife the first person this has happened to or is there a past precedent?

      Comment


      • #4
        per OP she has masters but issue is over the + 30.....something is missing

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        • #5
          Reply

          To clarify when she was hired HR told her she qualified for the Masters +30 because in Virginia they only required 30 for a Masters and she had 31 credit in addition. We have an association but there are not unions in Virginia. Their claim is that the masters may have been more than 30 hours and the additional hours outside of that did not add up to +30. Her transcripts from WVU show 55 credits were earned during her masters but she took additional courses to get certified in Elementary, Middle and High School counseling. In addition she took 6 additional credits to get certified in Special Ed. The licensure analyst is looking at the transcripts as if it took her 55 credits to get a masters and she only has 6 additional credits. There are very few Masters degrees that would require that many hours most are 30-36. I would almost be happy to surrender the $1300 a year going forward but I have a real problem with (1) someone making that mistake and not catching it for 15 years. (2) The amount of money we are responsible for and (3) Holding the $2500 stipend for her masters which she did earn for ransom until the debt is paid off. I can only imagine if this had gone on until we retired and they were then asking us for $30,000 all at once. I know each state has their own laws when it comes to this sort of thing.


          Originally posted by Raster View Post
          Get your union involved pronto and do not agree to anything just yet. I don't think this is a question of time as such.

          1. If she is entitled to stipend of $2500 for a masters per contract then she is entitled to same , period.
          2. Generally speaking an employer cannot claw back wages unless there is some written agreement as to same . Don't sign ?at least not without counsel.
          3. Explain to me how one can have 61 extra credits and not qualify for M + 30?
          4. BTW is she still short a few credits per their math for M + 30 ...if so, Id sure take a serious look at adding the missing credits PRONTO.....some of this on line credit stuff if your district allows for same is duck soup and quite inexpensive. get back to M+ 30 pronto, IF you are factually short..and so far that not even clear.
          5 If I gave you my transcript or whatever you wanted some 14 years ago and you determined I met the standards for M + 30 then it's reasonable for me to rely upon same to my detriment ..and in a sense employer has created promissory estoppel as to pay rate....absent some fraud or misrepresentation of credits.
          6. Absent more details I do not see managements point. Around me credits in underwater fish photography would count..unless it's in contract otherwise....read it ..word for word..and go back to,contract of 14 years ago as well.

          Comment


          • #6
            just a lay view....go back to the WVA requirements at the time for a masters....if for example she qualified for a MA at 32 credits then my lay view is that the extra ones count towards the + 30....facts count. And one might well have piled on extra counted courses before the MA was granted . Triple,check how WVA did it at the time .

            Wage recovery is state specific and rather convoluted see VA Code 40 - 1.29 ( at least one state bars it if not addressed real quickly that's NOT VA )
            if she has an employment contract for her to be paid X then that further complicates it for employer.
            And as a layman I would think a 14 year old question about being overpaid as per contract is now very stale and "might" run afoul of VA statute of limitations as to contract matters ..5 years in VA.

            One can have a long semantic debate over if a stipend is wages for work or merely to hold the added certification ..been there to see some odd interpretations in public education elsewhere.

            T?his is far from a slam dunk either way...

            Comment


            • #7
              Bottom line is that in the scenario you describe, it very well may not count as the +30. It wouldn't in MD. The +30 must not be obtained while pursuing the Masters and must not be part of that program. I strongly suspect VA is the same as are most states. An association in this case is the union, though they don't like to use that terminology (NEA, is in fact a union). She certainly can appeal the decision but if she has exhausted the appeals, she is going to owe that money back. There is no statute of limitations. She was paid through public funds and even if her employer were willing to overlook the overpayment, legally and ethically, that would be a huge problem. Using a stipend toward an overpayment is not at all unusual. That they are willing to spread out the repayment over 7 years is generous and a sign that they are trying to work with her.

              Best practice is to have an employee sign that they know and consent to the deductions but as it is considered a wage advance, she owes the money anyway.
              I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

              Comment


              • #8
                Bottom line is we are still short of facts.......

                What is likely to count is what that degree granting institution had in its rules some 14 years ago. one major WVA instruction now calls for 36 credits..for a MA but that is not determinative of how it was back whenever ...for 14,000 I'd do more homework

                and perhaps any rules as to how VA counts credits. But generally one state recognizes the acts of another..so if WVA granted a MA upon 30 credits and a paper ...and the rest counted as beyond MA in WVA that may be likely case for VA to follow.

                BTW if one gets a Doctor of laws degree for 40 credits does that count as an earned doctorate ?

                as an aside and going forward if I was a few short Id get them added post haste..but no admissions of prior count issues.

                VA is about as odd as it gets as to governmental structures and I am simply not aware if a VA public school is a unit of sovereign government..the usual standard upon which statute of limitations does not apply.

                until it is determined that she didn't have 30 +'credits beyond the requirements for an MA I think its premature to assume she owes anybody a dime.

                if there is a contract which says she gets a stipend for x and she holds x she is entitled to be paid x.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yes I know WVA is not VA but at least on the surface the legal definition of masters + 30 in WVA does not address that only credits earned after the MA was earned count as +'credits.

                  And both my daughters cross enrolled in Wharton, Law, and Government and one did so while an undergrad as well..some of the issues or what counts for what are pretty much up for debate in some quarters .

                  Id for sure ask my employer for a written description of how they counted anything?

                  Spouse is tenured?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Raster, you clearly have not ever worked in this area before. The issue is not how many credits it took to achieve a degree in another state. The issue isn't even that the credits obtained in another state have to count in VA. There is no question that the degree was obtained. The issue is that in the state of VA and every other state I am aware of, credits obtained while in pursuit of a Masters do not count toward the +30. Period. Some Masters programs are 30 credits, others 36 or more. In this case, it seems it was 55 credits. That is high but not unusual if you are talking about multiple certification programs. The +30 credit count does not start until after the Masters has been obtained. Anything before that point may satisfy other requirements but not count toward the +30. If there were not 30 qualifying credits obtained after the Masters, the employee is not eligible for the distinction and resulting pay raise. Hurrying up now to finish off those credits does not change the fact that the employee did not have them when the raise was given. And yes, I promise you that the school system will seek a transcript and will see when those credits were earned.

                    Please, please, please stop making up law and throwing around terms which do not apply and which will do nothing but confuse posters. School systems being a unit of sovereign government or not has zero meaning here and it certainly means nothing as far as a statute of limitation. There is no statute of limitation issue no matter how much you seem to think that there ought to be. Tenure is likewise meaningless here. Tenure does not prevent an employer from reclaiming an overpayment. I'm not sure what you think the term "tenure" means but there is no way it has any application to this situation.
                    I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So far we are both short of facts....I assure you I have dug thru more than 1 CBA as to public sector teachers and a stack of state laws and codes....and so far I have not run accross a clear definition of term. m +'30 that would rule in or rule out how to count 55 credits taken for a degree which say required 30 at the time. If somebody wanted to dock my pay I'd be keen to!ask for proof as to point of view. And how MD may count is not for sure an answer for VA...and while it may be likely that if OPs education counted as M+30 in WVA, so far OP I has provided no cite to back up that view.

                      You'd be surprised as to what is not defined in many a set of rules! And we cannot rule in or rule out a SOL issue ..in general if there was a contract dispute as to rate of pay or qualifications for same, the issue would need to be brought forward on a timely basis ...but for some government issues ..it become stale when law says its stale ..and that requires knowing the status of the employer. Local to me in PA a public school is a unit of state government..but that no help as to status in VA.

                      And at least part of the OPs post suggests the information was provided to,employers satisfaction some 14 years ago and not some new kid on the block wants to RE examine the criteria...give me a break...
                      I don't think if it goes to court the school is going to impress the court seeking to remedy its own 14 year old administrative error unless they can find law or case law on point.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Raster, you've been warned before.

                        When you try to second guess responders who have direct experience with the issue and in the same state as the poster, you do your own credibility no good.
                        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


                        • #13
                          Raster, I don't see the point of you trying to second guess responders - in this case Elle who knows what she is talking about. As cbg said, please refrain from doing so.
                          Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                          Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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                          • #14
                            Well for starters in Montgomery county, Md which is not relevant to VA but MD is cited by one as a point of reference, exactly my point of view might well prevail..I cannot get new I pad to link to I" ll post it next..but that school system says any credits beyond 30 earned in pursuit of MA would count toward m + 30 ..and since schools are county wide in Md we are not talking about some hick town school with a provincial view of anything.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Www.montgomerschoolsmd.org ..salary advancement

                              Also see a kent county decision as to local board does have power to specify that a minimum of say 15 of the 30 extra credits must be graduate level..a concern not raised by OP.
                              It is not cut and dry..and we need more input from OP as to the specifics raised by that school...
                              And I,d want to read that boards policy and contracts from that 14 year ago era...

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