What is the law in regards to getting reimbursement for overpaid wages from an employee?

UPDATED: Aug 9, 2011

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What is the law in regards to getting reimbursement for overpaid wages from an employee?

The employee in question should have been receiving $2.63 (it’s a server position) but since he has been initially hired as a host his hourly pay on ADP was not changed from $12 by mistake. This resulted in an overpayment in the last 3 months of around $3,000. Please advise.

Asked on August 9, 2011 Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If the overpayment was truly a mistake--wrong number written down, math done incorrectly, etc.--the employee is not entitled to it. An error or mistake does not create an entitlement to extra pay. (The times that when "overpayment" is not really an "overpayment" is when the employer changed its mind and decided it was paying too much--while it can change wages or salaries going forward, it cannot retroactively change what it had freely decided to pay.)

As a practical matter, if you can show that the error was ADPs, the best thing to do would be to look for reimbursement from ADP; then let them seek the money from the employee, if they choose. If the error was on your end, you'd have to look to the employee specifically--though if he was never told that he salary would change, it may be that you can't get it back, since getting back to the parenthetical above, it's not clear that the extra pay was a "mistake" when the employee was being paid what he thought he should be paid.

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