What will happen if I don’t return an overpayment made to me by my former employer?

UPDATED: Nov 13, 2011

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What will happen if I don’t return an overpayment made to me by my former employer?

I worked for a company and quit. They then hired another guy with my same first name. They then accidentally sent me a payroll check 3 weeks after I left; it was my name on the “pay to” line, first and last. I cashed the check. Now they are threatening to sue me to get the money back. I’m aware that morally I should give the money back but the owner of this company is a scumbag whom I have no respect for. He also shorted me $100 on my final paycheck and when I asked him about it he didn’t have the time of day for me. I was completely ignored. However, now that the ball is in the other court the whole world is in an uproar.

Asked on November 13, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Forget morals for a moment: *legally* you have to return the money. A mistake does *not* entitle you to keep a payment; just as you would be entitled to your money back if you had accidentally sent a plumber a too-large check or duplicative check, so can your former  employer recover the amount they accidentally paid you. If you don't repay, the employer may sue you for the money--and, from what you write, they will win.

If they shorted you for $100, you also may sue them (e.g. in small claims court) for that amount, if you can prove it.

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