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An erroneous paycheck and subsequent overdrafts

OrganichuOrganichu poopspeesRegistered User, Moderator mod
edited January 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey, all.

I worked for a bank for 8 months (in corporate office space). Finally I separated from them (partially out of dissatisfaction, partially because of medical problems). There's a whole issue with whether I was fired for negligence of attendance (despite my calling and receiving positive feedback from my supervisor who agreed I should call HR about a medical forbearance), which will interfere with my possibility of unemployment, but that's not the issue I need assistance with.

My termination letter says I was fired November 15th, 2008. I received a paycheck (correctly) on November 30th. I then received another paycheck, advice date December 15th, 2008. My presumption was that this was my final paycheck, as my employer had more than enough time to amend their payroll system.

I paid bills and conducted business as normally, until the next day my paycheck was debited out of my account. This caused me to suffer extensive overdraft fees (in the order of 5-6 hundred dollars). I was angry, understandably, because this was a banking error on the part of my former employer's administrative department. I called employee banking immediately (not thinking of my termination letter) and they refunded me $120 of the overdraft fees and said they can't help me any further until I 'prove this was a banking error resultant of my employee'.

When I call back tomorrow, is my argument valid? They had a full calendar month, at least 20 business days, to amend their payroll system. They awarded me money in error, which they then took back (I am of course fine with that) but their error led to spending behavior that was destructive, yet totally responsible within the framework of their error.

If the first person I speak to on the phone at employee banking cannot help me, am I justified in asking to escalate this?

Organichu on

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    LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    So you're trying to get them to pay your overdraft fees? Best of luck, but don't count on getting anything back. I used to do payroll for a small company . . . One day our computer system went crazy and everyone's paychecks were delayed by four days--almost a full work week. Lots of our people were getting overdrafted (since they had automatic billing set up for various things) and angrily phoning in wanting us to pay their overdraft fees. The company didn't pay out a dime.

    Things might be different in your state, though, so do check up on it . . . just in case. And who knows, maybe your company will be more hospitable, even if they aren't legally obligated to help you out.

    LadyM on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Thanks. Given my particular situation (plus the fact that my account is with the same bank that employed me), what do you think would be my best route for escalation? I'm really not in a place in my life, financially, where I can take 'no' for an answer for $600.

    Organichu on
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    Romero ZombieRomero Zombie Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Just so I'm clear on something - were you due the entirety of the check at the end? Because if not and if you cashed it and paid bills with it, I'm surprised they even refunded what they did.

    Romero Zombie on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Just so I'm clear on something - were you due the entirety of the check at the end? Because if not and if you cashed it and paid bills with it, I'm surprised they even refunded what they did.

    No, I wasn't, but I was under the impression that I was due it because they awarded it to me (via direct deposit) a full month past my date of termination. I thought that was well, well beyond the scope of 'oops, takesies backsies'. This is the first time something like this has ever happened to me, but I can't help but feel that this falls into absolutely flagrant error on the part of my ex employer. It's not like I wrangled a last paycheck out of them by one day or something. The money they refunded me had nothing to do with my paycheck- that's just their standard courtesy for employees facing an overdraft problem, since I work for the bank.

    Like I said I'm totally inexperienced with this, so maybe there's no timeline and I'm just looking at this irrationally through a lens of wanting my problem taken care of. However I just can't look at the periods of time involved and not feel that they are somewhat responsible for leading me to believe that I was receiving my final paycheck on the 15th of December.

    So to rehash:

    I have no problem returning the paycheck to them. However I feel that their gross failure to accurately handle my financial information makes them somewhat responsible for this situation. I know it's ultimately my responsibility to keep track of scheduled payments for the work I've rendered, but the sheer level of mishandling (30 full days!) that went into and out of my personal checking account makes me a little bitter.

    Organichu on
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    Romero ZombieRomero Zombie Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Organichu wrote: »
    Just so I'm clear on something - were you due the entirety of the check at the end? Because if not and if you cashed it and paid bills with it, I'm surprised they even refunded what they did.

    No, I wasn't, but I was under the impression that I was due it because they awarded it to me (via direct deposit) a full month past my date of termination. I thought that was well, well beyond the scope of 'oops, takesies backsies'. This is the first time something like this has ever happened to me, but I can't help but feel that this falls into absolutely flagrant error on the part of my ex employee. It's not like I wrangled a last paycheck out of them by one day or something.

    Like I said I'm totally inexperienced with this, so maybe there's no timeline and I'm just looking at this irrationally through a lens of wanting my problem taken care of. However I just can't look at the periods of time involved and not feel that they are somewhat responsible for leading me to believe that I was receiving my final paycheck on the 15th of December.

    Ok then - you can try and call them to have the reimburse the other half, but I seriously doubt it will work. I can't think of any reason outside of severence pay when a company will give award you money after you are no longer employed. They made their mistake in paying you money which wasn't due, and took it back. Never hurts to try though :)

    Romero Zombie on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Organichu wrote: »
    Just so I'm clear on something - were you due the entirety of the check at the end? Because if not and if you cashed it and paid bills with it, I'm surprised they even refunded what they did.

    No, I wasn't, but I was under the impression that I was due it because they awarded it to me (via direct deposit) a full month past my date of termination. I thought that was well, well beyond the scope of 'oops, takesies backsies'. This is the first time something like this has ever happened to me, but I can't help but feel that this falls into absolutely flagrant error on the part of my ex employee. It's not like I wrangled a last paycheck out of them by one day or something.

    Like I said I'm totally inexperienced with this, so maybe there's no timeline and I'm just looking at this irrationally through a lens of wanting my problem taken care of. However I just can't look at the periods of time involved and not feel that they are somewhat responsible for leading me to believe that I was receiving my final paycheck on the 15th of December.

    Ok then - you can try and call them to have the reimburse the other half, but I seriously doubt it will work. I can't think of any reason outside of severence pay when a company will give award you money after you are no longer employed. They made their mistake in paying you money which wasn't due, and took it back. Never hurts to try though :)

    Ok dude, thanks.

    Yeah, in rereading my posts I'm starting to feel like I'm acting a little bratty/entitled. When I got the money I should have been thinking more "wait, this doesn't make sense, I shouldn't be getting this, better not spend it" versus "well, I guess this is my last paycheck, I must have confused the payroll schedule".

    Consider this solved, I guess. I'm going to try my best to beg for them to help me out, be polite to everyone I speak to, and just hope for the best. It ultimately was my fault but hopefully I'll catch a sympathetic supervisor who has the power to assist me.

    Organichu on
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    tofutofu Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    A good lesson on how you should double check everything about your finances, from your paychecks coming in, to make sure they're the right amount, to your credit card bills, to make sure you aren't being overcharged.

    I'm not saying it's your fault, and I don't know what kind of recourse you have now, but it could have saved you from this humongous headache.

    tofu on
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Are you in the US? I suggest talking to the labor department of whatever state you're in if so.

    I'm not entirely certain it's even legal in all states for an employer to do an electronic debit to correct a payroll error in your favor. IANAL, though, and the labor department will let you talk to a labor law expert for free.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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    wet cardboardwet cardboard Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    If you haven't already, it may be worthwhile spending the time to check that the payment actually was erroneous. Every company has a different schedule - whether they pay in advance, after the fact or just in time.

    If they're that disorganised that they can keep paying you a month after you've left it wouldnt be amazing if they've made a mistake when taking the money back as well.

    But I suspect if the payment really was in error you're on your own and will be relying on their good will to get it fixed. Local laws may vary but, here at least, it's not a problem for your employer to take excess pay back from you after the fact.

    wet cardboard on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Are you in the US? I suggest talking to the labor department of whatever state you're in if so.

    I'm not entirely certain it's even legal in all states for an employer to do an electronic debit to correct a payroll error in your favor. IANAL, though, and the labor department will let you talk to a labor law expert for free.

    See this is pretty much the biggest thing with me. I do plan to take your advice here, but my guess is that somewhere in my direct deposit paperwork I agreed to something like this, my fault for not reading. But I do feel damned uncomfortable about them just dipping into my account. If they just sent me certified mail requesting a returned payment, that'd be cool- that's the modus operandi in most every industry. I should know- recurrent payment processing was my job at the bank.

    Thanks for all your help, everyone.

    Organichu on
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    ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Yeah, I don't think what they did was okay.

    The first thing I would do is start working my way up the chain of command at the bank. Be polite, but insistent. Every time someone tells you "I'm sorry, I can't help you," thank them for their help, and ask to speak to their supervisor. If working your way up that way fails, send a politely-worded letter to the manager of the bank. Get signature confirmation on that letter, and inform him that if the overdraft fees aren't returned to you and you don't hear from him/her within some reasonable amount of time (say, eight business days), you are going to file a suit in small claims court. Then, if you don't hear from him/her, file a suit in small claims court.

    Thanatos on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    The manager of which bank, Than? You mean the manager of HR for my operations department at the bank, or the manager of the bank branch at which I opened my account? When I spoke to a bank employee (at a branch) they told me they can't make any alterations to my account, that since I've been an employee I must deal with employee banking. Are they blowing smoke?

    With whom should I be speaking?

    Organichu on
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    ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Organichu wrote: »
    The manager of which bank, Than? You mean the manager of HR for my operations department at the bank, or the manager of the bank branch at which I opened my account? When I spoke to a bank employee (at a branch) they told me they can't make any alterations to my account, that since I've been an employee I must deal with employee banking. Are they blowing smoke?

    With whom should I be speaking?
    If they've told you to deal with employee banking, deal with employee banking until told otherwise by them.

    Thanatos on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Update: they refunded me another $105. I thanked the representative and politely escalated, requesting that Wachovia meet me closer to the middle. I think I hit that department's 'you're fucked' bar, so they recommended I call HR, payroll department. Either I'll get a full resolution there or they're the 'highest up' I can get, and they'll tell me to fuck off.

    FWIW I've discovered that debiting out an erroneous paycheck is totally legal and is in my direct deposit contract. However the grounds on which I'll argue (politely) tomorrow are: they had an absurd amount of time to amend it, and this is a 'GROSSLY erroneous' paycheck. Hopefully it works- if not, I learned my lesson for about 65% of the cost.

    Thanks for all the help.

    Organichu on
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    ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Did they do the thing where they processed your purchases in order from largest to smallest, rather than chronologically, too?

    Thanatos on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Of course. :) The only two big purchases were my internet bill ($78) and my cell phone bill ($147 because of the activation fee and prorated first month). Everything else was under $20. $500 in overdraft fees lol.

    Organichu on
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    illigillig Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Thanatos wrote: »
    Yeah, I don't think what they did was okay.

    The first thing I would do is start working my way up the chain of command at the bank. Be polite, but insistent. Every time someone tells you "I'm sorry, I can't help you," thank them for their help, and ask to speak to their supervisor. If working your way up that way fails, send a politely-worded letter to the manager of the bank. Get signature confirmation on that letter, and inform him that if the overdraft fees aren't returned to you and you don't hear from him/her within some reasonable amount of time (say, eight business days), you are going to file a suit in small claims court. Then, if you don't hear from him/her, file a suit in small claims court.

    wait wait wait

    file a suit for what? spending money that wasn't his?

    a judge will laugh him out of court... and he'll be out the court fees + the overdraft fees

    illig on
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    illig wrote: »
    Thanatos wrote: »
    Yeah, I don't think what they did was okay.

    The first thing I would do is start working my way up the chain of command at the bank. Be polite, but insistent. Every time someone tells you "I'm sorry, I can't help you," thank them for their help, and ask to speak to their supervisor. If working your way up that way fails, send a politely-worded letter to the manager of the bank. Get signature confirmation on that letter, and inform him that if the overdraft fees aren't returned to you and you don't hear from him/her within some reasonable amount of time (say, eight business days), you are going to file a suit in small claims court. Then, if you don't hear from him/her, file a suit in small claims court.

    wait wait wait

    file a suit for what? spending money that wasn't his?

    a judge will laugh him out of court... and he'll be out the court fees + the overdraft fees

    Yes, that's a bad thing.

    It's also really fucking bad to debit an account where you weren't given permission to debit from. You have to get the funds through normal means if they only gave you permission to put in, but not permission to take out. That means sending a letter and a bill. If the result of a debit that wasn't authorized you better be damned well sure they're liable for it.

    Of course, if you signed anything in your contract that says "Because I'm letting you do direct deposit, if you make a mistake I'm also giving you the right to debit my account in the amount mistakingly entered," you're pretty much fucked.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    bowen wrote: »
    Of course, if you signed anything in your contract that says "Because I'm letting you do direct deposit, if you make a mistake I'm also giving you the right to debit my account in the amount mistakingly entered," you're pretty much fucked.

    Yeah, sounds like his DD contract had this clause. So legally, he's fucked.

    I still think it's absolutely absurd that they aren't just waiving the fees, considering that they're the one that made the erroneous deposit and subsequent withdrawal. I mean, when somebody else fucks up in your account, I can see them telling you to get fucked when it comes to the fees...it wasn't their mistake, it's not their problem.

    But this was their mistake.

    mcdermott on
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    Yeah but if he hadn't spent it he wouldn't have the fees. He's probably lucky he's gotten as much back as he did.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    bowen wrote: »
    Yeah but if he hadn't spent it he wouldn't have the fees. He's probably lucky he's gotten as much back as he did.

    I'm in the "when my employer pays me as long as it's not obviously wrong (like a million dollars) I can spend it, and if somehow it is wrong payroll will notify me and give me some reasonable time period to pay it back" camp. Or at least this is how it should work.

    Like I said, if his employer wasn't also his bank I'd say they'd be justified in taking the "not our problem" route. But they are his bank, those fees don't represent actual losses, and they're the ones that fucked up by giving him the money.

    Not taking them off is just another example of horrible, horrible bank policies designed to fuck over their customers to maximize profits.

    mcdermott on
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    I agree. I'm in that boat too. But legally I'm not so sure. But yeah an extra paycheck I'd probably spend too. This is exactly why I don't like direct deposit.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    illigillig Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    bowen wrote: »
    Yes, that's a bad thing.

    It's also really fucking bad to debit an account where you weren't given permission to debit from. You have to get the funds through normal means if they only gave you permission to put in, but not permission to take out. That means sending a letter and a bill. If the result of a debit that wasn't authorized you better be damned well sure they're liable for it.

    honestly, i don't think that would hold up in court either... it's not like they're stealing your money, just retracting an erroneous deposit

    it's not like law has a "no taksies backsies" clause, or canceling a check and doing a credit card chargeback would be equally illegal

    illig on
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited December 2008
    Yes legally I have no meaningful recourse. I appreciate all the input, though. :)

    Offices are closed for the holiday, but I'll update with the resolution on Monday (I expect that I've hit the limit for how much they plan to refund me).

    Organichu on
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    VThornheartVThornheart Registered User regular
    edited December 2008
    =( I'm sorry to hear that Organichu.

    VThornheart on
    3DS Friend Code: 1950-8938-9095
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    OrganichuOrganichu poops peesRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited January 2009
    Here's another big lol: I just got another check from them (this one for 10 hours worked from January 1st-15th, despite having separated from them on November 15th). This wasn't direct deposited (the payment method I always had) but instead is an official check. So much lol.

    I'm not cashing this one, of course, but it really just showcases the hilarity of this entire situation. Here's what may be the funniest part:

    I received an erroneous paycheck on November 30th for a full period of work (80 hours from the 15th of November to the 30th of November). I received another erroneous paycheck on December 15th for a full period of work (80 hours from the 1st of December to the 15th of December). I received no paycheck on December 31st.

    However I've now received an erroneous paycheck for hours worked from January 1st to January 15th and this time it's in a payment method I never, ever had with the company.

    Organichu on
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    VThornheartVThornheart Registered User regular
    edited January 2009
    This is indeed very strange. They've got to get their act together on this whole payroll thing. =(

    VThornheart on
    3DS Friend Code: 1950-8938-9095
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    Reverend_ChaosReverend_Chaos Suit Up! Spokane WARegistered User regular
    edited January 2009
    I thought that it was illegal for a bank to take money from your account. And if they are allowed to "fix" their mistake, can they do so without notifying you?

    Personally, I would fight for the money, as the worst thing that can happen is that they will tell you no. Also, I would frame that last check.

    Reverend_Chaos on
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