Does an employer who paid you the wrong amount of money without you realizing, have to pay you back when you find out?

UPDATED: Jan 6, 2012

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Does an employer who paid you the wrong amount of money without you realizing, have to pay you back when you find out?

My husband is a veteran and now currently a police officer. He was supposed to be paid time and a half on veterans day and memorial day. He did not realize he was not receiving this pay for approximately 10 years. The mistake was found and his employers do not want to pay him the money he should have earned.

Asked on January 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, if an employee was underpaid--he was not paid for all the hours he worked, or was paid at the wrong rate--the employer needs to make good the shortfall.

If they won't voluntarily pay, though, you'll need to sue, which brings up two issues:

1) Proof--what evidence do you have of the underpayment and of what your husband should have been paid?

2) The statute of limitations--the statute of limitatations is a law which defines how long you have to sue. In a case where there was ongoing underpayment--e.g. for 10 years--you can only recover for underpayments within the statutory period; for example, if the statute of limitations in your state if 4 years, you could only recover the underpayment for the last 4 years.

Given the impact of the statute of limitations and the need to sue, it may not be worthwhile to take action--you might not be able to recover enough to justify the expense of a lawsuit. You could consult with an employment attorney--many provide a free initial consultation--though, to explore whether you do have a worthwhile case.

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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