Does an employee have rights after an employer makes an error in issuing a stipend?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Does an employee have rights after an employer makes an error in issuing a stipend?

My brother is a public school teacher. This winter, he worked as an assistant coach for his school’s basketball team. In receiving a stipend at the end of the season for his coaching work, he realized that the amount he received should have been given to the head coach. He discussed this with the head coach who explained that he received a lesser stipend amount which should have been awarded to the assistant coach. I understand that the amounts were directly deposited into either of their

accounts, so my brother thought he should give the difference in stipends to the head coach to personally address the mistake. He then realized that the amount he received had greater, income tax implications, so he attempted to have the school rectify the mistake. His request was met with at least 2 meetings in which administrators told him that the mistake would not be corrected. In fact, in a meeting with his principal about the issue, she insisted, despite his protests, that he had previously accepted the head coaching position by verbal agreement. My brother has no recollection of such an agreement and denies it while the school appears to have no record of his accepting a head coaching position. My brother is not part of a union but does he have any rights in this situation, so it can be corrected?

Asked on March 1, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) If your brother has no written contract or union agreement protecting his employment, then he is an "employee at will" and may be terminated (or suspended, demoted, transferred, etc.) at any time, for any reason. If he a contract or union agreement, he may only be disciplined or have other action taken against him in accordance with the terms of the contract.
2) Your brother is not obligated to fix this situation IF the school wants him to keep the money--if they'd wanted it back, he'd have to return it, but they have the right to let him keep it. If the head coach wants to get the money he should have gotten, that's for the head coach and school to work out.
3) The school could offer him the head coach position now, if they wanted, even if they had not offered it previously, so to a large extent, it does not matter what was done previously: they can make him the head coach now, and pay him a larger stipend, if they want.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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