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How do I get my work to pay me?
December 18, 2005 10:17 PM   Subscribe

I haven't received payment from my supposedly biweekly paying job for nearly two months. This lack of payment has resulted in financial difficulties for me. How do I force payment? Do I have any recourse for the financial difficulties that have resulted due to their negligence?

I am a university student and work for the university (public university). I am supposed to be paid by direct deposit every other Friday. I have had this job for almost a year now and the payment have been fairly regular, but my supervisors don’t totally have their act together all of the time and once and a while they would only get the payments done once a month or a few days late. I had some money in savings before, so this wasn’t totally killer for me and I didn’t complain much about it. However, at this point I have not received payment from university since the first week of November and I don’t have anything saved. The last month and a half have been super difficult, because I have basically been living on change. I have been pestering them about this for the last month and have been given a variety of excuses, such as problems with time sheets, missing bank hours, etc. Finally I was told by one of the supervisors I had some trust in that I would definitely be paid on the ninth. On the eighth I wrote three checks, for electricity and cable bills that were overdue and really needed to be paid, and a third so I could actually buy some food. Well, no payment on the ninth. I called in and was told the payment would be deposited later in the week. I visited later in the week and was told that the supervisor who was in change of payroll went on vacation that week and I would be paid on the nineteenth when he got back. I was not notified before this that he was going to be absent and that my pay would be delayed as a result. So, in the mean time these checks went through, the bank did not bounce them, but my account was at zero, so they have charged me with three overdraft fees ($99!). I plan on going in on Monday and not leaving until I am either paid or have talked to these people’s supervisor. I know I let this go on way longer than I should have, I just thought it was just another case of these guys being a little lazy, but it seems like something more is going on now and I am in big financial trouble because of it. I don’t think the other workers have been paid either, as they have multiple time sheets in their office mailboxes (which means these sheets have not been paid yet). This job doesn’t have hours over semester break so I am not racking up any more unpaid hours currently, and don’t plan on working with these people after the break. What can I or should I do? Can I get the university to pay my overdraft fees? Might there be fraud going on here? Any advice is appreciated.
posted by honeyx to Work & Money (22 answers total)
 
Not sure what to say as I'm not familiar with Minnesota employment law (assuming that's where you are), however they're likely in breach of their contract with you (you have a copy of it, right? If not, get one if you can), along with any minimum employment standards legislation. You are owed that money, and they should compensate you for your NSF charges (although it's likely not a contractual obligation, and I wouldn't hold my breath, unless you sue, which wouldn't be worth it anyways). You may want to gently remind them of the contract they have with you, as well as their obligations. I would get everything from now on, including their promises, in writing if you haven't already done so. If they refuse to communicate with you, and depending on how much is outstanding, contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (you can find more info about your rights there. Also depending on how much is owed, you might want to have a consultation with a lawyer - the university should have a free legal clinic, staffed by students, or something like that. Good luck!
posted by loquax at 10:42 PM on December 18, 2005


Perhaps you could quote them this statute, from this page:

181.101 Wages; how often paid.

Every employer must pay all wages earned by an employee at least once every 31 days on a regular pay day designated in advance by the employer regardless of whether the employee requests payment at longer intervals. Unless paid earlier, the wages earned during the first half of the first 31-day pay period become due on the first regular payday following the first day of work. If wages earned are not paid, the commissioner of labor and industry or the commissioner's representative may demand payment on behalf of an employee. If payment is not made within ten days of demand, the commissioner may charge and collect the wages earned and a penalty in the amount of the employee's average daily earnings at the rate agreed upon in the contract of employment, not exceeding 15 days in all, for each day beyond the ten-day limit following the demand. Money collected by the commissioner must be paid to the employee concerned. This section does not prevent an employee from prosecuting a claim for wages. This section does not prevent a school district or other public school entity from paying any wages earned by its employees during a school year on regular pay days in the manner provided by an applicable contract or collective bargaining agreement, or a personnel policy adopted by the governing board. For purposes of this section, "employee" includes a person who performs agricultural labor as defined in section 181.85, subdivision 2. For purposes of this section, wages are earned on the day an employee works.

HIST: 1Sp1985 c 13 s 292; 1993 c 253 s 1; 1999 c 241 art 9 s 44

posted by loquax at 10:46 PM on December 18, 2005


Contact the human resources department of the university. Outline the situation. Ask if they can provide you with an emergency pay advancement while they start a review of the situation. In the meantime, check with your department of labour. I am not familiar with your state law and IANAL. However, that may be another avenue for you to explore. Presumably, though, your university's human resources department can help you liaise with payroll and all the other university departments.
posted by acoutu at 10:47 PM on December 18, 2005


Oh, and head to your student financial aid office to see if they offer bursaries, emergency loans or other resources.
posted by acoutu at 10:48 PM on December 18, 2005


And more from a Minnesota lawyer on how to claim unpaid wages in conciliation court:

Send a letter to the employer asking for payment of all your unpaid wages and vacation days. Be as specific as possible in regard to the amount of unpaid wages and number of vacation days owed. In the letter, you should ask that the payment be mailed to you and list the address to which you want the payment sent. Also include a reference to Minn. Stat. Section 181.13.


I'd bet such a note would get them moving.
posted by loquax at 10:52 PM on December 18, 2005


Are you in the U of M system, or the MnSCU system? Because if it is the latter, I could help you. (For example if you went to Metro, I could help you.)
posted by Monday at 12:47 AM on December 19, 2005


Public universities have to follow the rules or they're screwed. Keep going higher and higher, somebody should care--they're part of the freakin' federal government, your supervisors should know better.
posted by lychee at 1:09 AM on December 19, 2005


Try BOLI a government agency...

more importantly though, is this happening to other workers? If it is, it might make sense to sit down, discuss it, craft an action plan, and confront your employer en masse. Things can get solved with greater ease and expediency that way. But... there are dangers, deep ones that way. I would recommend contacting the IWW if there's a branch in your area. Not that you need a union, but they might help direct you with your rights, and how to solve that specific problem without needing to sign up and what not. Email me too if you'd like help thinking about those issues. The law can be a tool, but it is inherently against working people, clumsy, and slow. Something to think about.
posted by aussicht at 2:36 AM on December 19, 2005


I can't think of a reason why they wouldn't pay you - it seems like somebody in the long chain of command has messed up (either lost some of your paperwork, or just decided to be lazy about it). Definitely keep looking for supervisors until you get results. If this is a problem in a particular department, you might try bypassing them and contacting the U's payroll department directly, to see exactly what info they have, and if they can get a fire lit under the appropriate asses.
posted by sluggo at 4:35 AM on December 19, 2005


Place a call to Mike Hatch's office (Minnesota's Attorney General). Write him a letter, too, and maybe call once a week. I've had several friends get great results after reporting problems that were downright trivial compared to yours.

Also, you're not at the U are you (I just can't imagine.)? If you are, feel free to send me an email and I'll talk to you about it more.
posted by dsword at 4:56 AM on December 19, 2005


RE: Overdraft Fees

Go to the bank [ don't call ] and ask to speak to a manager and explain to him/her the trouble you are having getting paid. You may have to admit to writing checks on funds that were not there but you could explain like you did here -- you needed to eat and pay your utilities. You wrote the checks in good faith and you were burned yet again by your employer. If you banking history is free of excessive overdrafts the bank just might consider rebating those fees for you. If you were my customer and you explained this to me as you did here, I would give you your money back.

'Tis the season after all!
posted by Makebusy7 at 6:03 AM on December 19, 2005


This sounds really bad--I almost wonder if you are getting scammed. Don't mess around anymore with people who are not telling you the truth. Go straight to the HR department and start complaining. The excuses they are offering are complete 100% class *a* bullshit--payroll people go on vacation just like the rest of us--but they make sure their work is done before they go.

I'd bet that there is a problem within the department that you are working in--they probably don't have the money to pay you in their budget and they need to secure it from someone within the organization before they can process the paperwork. If you start complaining to the HR department directly, the HR folks will be horrified, and probably bring the whip down on those in the department that did this to you.

Don't go to a lawyer just yet--I think the HR department will make good. If you have to escalate, keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to get your money as quickly and simply as possible. You stand a much better chance of this within the organization then with a lawsuit, or the threat of a lawsuit.

And lastly--find a new job. If these idiots don't care enough about your services to make sure they are paying you on time, then they are not worth working for. I bet they will start lying to HR when they come calling and wanting to know why they are circumventing payroll proceedures. I have worked for a lot of companies over the years, and have been in this situation a few times myself. It has never worked out--I did eventually get my money, but I also discovered that the organization was so messed up that it would be foolish for me to remain.
posted by lester at 6:08 AM on December 19, 2005


Oh, and Makebusy is right--and a letter from the HR department explaining the issue will also probably help.
posted by lester at 6:10 AM on December 19, 2005


Does you University have a newspaper? I bet they'd love to do a story on this, particularly if its happening to a large group of student- employees.
posted by anastasiav at 6:21 AM on December 19, 2005


Most universities have an ombudsman to help resolve disputes before they go to court. I would heartily recommend taking this up with that office.
posted by jimfl at 6:29 AM on December 19, 2005


Also, if you're in the U of M Twin Cities they have a student legal resources center that might be able to help you better understand your options, their obligations, and the next best steps. I haven't been there in ages but I think it's in the building on the West Bank with the convenience store.
posted by whatzit at 7:01 AM on December 19, 2005


Anecdotefilter: I know of a fiscal person at a university here in Virginia who was delaying student worker paychecks for some unknown reason; lots of students found themselves in your position, scraping by with no check for 2 months. Their complaints and demands fell on deaf ears. However, one of those students happened to be an intern for the governor (Warner 2008: coming soon to a presidential campaign near you), and word of her financial stress reached him. He made a pointed phone call to a dean, who was ignorant of the whole situation, and payment was remitted to all of the students immediately. The offending employee had a letter "put in her file," but otherwise wasn't punished; too much seniority.

If you lack connections to a powerful political figure, you can still appeal to the higher-ups. The head of your department reports to a dean; find that dean and get his/her attention. Send emails to these dastardly office managers and fiscal supervisors and copy the dean, your department chair, and your direct supervisor. Anyone with a PhD was a poor starving student at one point; they won't begrudge you space in their in-box, and they can force the system to cough up what it owes you.
posted by junkbox at 8:29 AM on December 19, 2005


Thanks so much everyone. Your suggestions have been incredibly helpful in thinking about how to deal with this. I am at the U of M for those of you who asked. I contacted the payroll department about half an hour ago and explained my problem and brought up the fact that this was both a legal and contractual violation. They confirmed with me that I have a good deal of missing pay. They said they were going to investigate what happened and get back to me. I explained that this wouldn't work for me, as I needed to make sure that this got taken care of today and that I would be back in an hour to see what they had figured out and they agreed. If this goes the way it should, hopefully I will be paid my missing wages today. If not, I will take this to human resources and the student legal resources. I also want to follow through on making sure that my supervisors' failure to pay me gets recorded somewhere so it doesn't continue to be a problem other students might have to deal with. Anyway, thanks again. I'll post when I know how it all turns out.
posted by honeyx at 11:08 AM on December 19, 2005


Hey- if you haven't been paid yet follow up on the emergency loan. I did that once and the financial aid people were super nice and fixed me right up.
posted by fshgrl at 8:17 PM on December 19, 2005


Thanks for all your help everyone. The university cut me an 'emergency check' covering all my unpaid hours (this was arranged through payroll). They also wrote me a letter for the bank explaining what happened. I took this to the bank and explained the situation and the bank reversed all the overdraft fees. The people I talked with at payroll said that they were going to continue to investigate how this happened. Thanks again.
posted by honeyx at 11:29 AM on December 20, 2005


Fantastic. Good for you.
posted by loquax at 11:53 AM on December 20, 2005


That's great to hear. It sounds like you did a good job of explaining yourself. It's also nice to hear you found some reasonable people to help you.
posted by acoutu at 9:22 PM on December 20, 2005


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