No money, mo problem
March 2, 2010 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I didn't get paid on time. What do I do now?

I work for a small company. We are supposed to be paid at the end of the month (everyone here is a full time employee), but we didn't get paid this month as usual. When I questioned the HR person about this, I was told that because of the short month, there had been a problem with payroll and that we would get paid "soon". This is ringing alarm bells with me, so what should I do now? I have pushed the HR person for more info, but they aren't saying anything more than what was said above.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total)
I'd say it depends on your position in life and your career. Do you have a family to support? Are you trying to stick with your job to gain experience?

I'd say, if you can afford to and like the job, give them a chance. I was in the same position and I stuck through a few months of getting paid late, then realized that it was in my best career interest to move on - not just for the money, but also because I was looking to expand my resume.

If you do need the money, see if they can pay you partially. When I was in this situation, the company did pay my co-workers who desperately needed the money to pay their families.

I'd start looking for a job just in case - at the least, getting your feelers out. Depending on how many people are in your company, and what your local job market is like, you potentially will be competing with co-workers for positions if the company goes belly-up, so it's good to keep your eyes open early.
posted by beyond_pink at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2010

No definite date on a regular paycheck is a huge red flag. It suggests that your company has cash flow issues, which could mean bankruptcy in the near future. It could also mean your company has incompetent HR or finance people, but that's not much comfort.

1) update your resume.

2) apply for other jobs now.

3) document everything.

4) call your state labor board. Explain the situation to them as factually as possible. They may be interested, and you may qualify for unemployment.

The state has a strong interest in the checks coming out on time, as if they don't, there may be fraud and tax avoidance occurring.
posted by zippy at 11:24 AM on March 2, 2010 [7 favorites]

I'd respond along the lines of "that's cool, I'll get back to work "soon""
posted by Oktober at 11:40 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is one of those situations where you want to be as cautious as possible. Follow zippy's advice. It may turn out to be a one time glitch, but if it isn't (and really, "it's February" isn't a great excuse, and sounds super sketchy), you'll be prepared.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:41 AM on March 2, 2010

The fact that they aren't giving a definite date rings alarm bells - if it was just a mistake they should be able to tell you when you'll get your money. Here's what I would say to HR, or, if they won't listen, someone higher-up:

"I am concerned that the company is unable to meet its legal obligations to pay us on time. If my concerns are not resolved, I will be contacting the state labor board for their help in resolving this issue."

Yeah, it comes off pretty strong, but it should - don't let them think they can jerk you around.

And yes, start looking for other jobs.
posted by mai at 11:41 AM on March 2, 2010

Agreed. February happens - gasp! - every year, and should not be a problem for a competent organization. Definitely take a look at the appropriate web site for your state - for example, in Michigan, it would be the Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth (search your state's main web site for "wage complaint", this is something states deal with often).

As has been said many times here, HR is on the employer's side, not the employee's. You're not likely to get any more information out of HR. Look out for yourself.
posted by shiny blue object at 11:54 AM on March 2, 2010

You're not being paid. Stop working for free. Maybe they'll get the point.

In the spare time, look into unemployment insurance (in event of being laid-off or fired), welfare, food bank, career websites, craigslist jobs (post your resume there, it brought-up some surprisingly unexpected leads for me), consider relocating, etc...

It's not the end of the road, and may bring about a refreshing change.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:01 PM on March 2, 2010

Echoing what everyone said.

In addition, getting paid only once a month, even if it did happen on schedule, might be against the law. California, for example, requires at least two paychecks per month, if I remember correctly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:12 PM on March 2, 2010

In many cases, a missing paycheck is a clock-starter for unemployment. Check with your state's labor board. The words you're looking for are "constructive dismissal."
posted by deadmessenger at 12:18 PM on March 2, 2010

Even large multinational corporations have a rare payroll glitch. This raises alarm bells for sure, and it probably pays to update your resume just in case, but it could be just a glitch. Any more than another day or so though and it would clearly seem to be a sign of financial trouble.
posted by caddis at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2010

As someone who's worked for small companies before, I think some people are jumping the gun a little bit. I don't think you need to lawyer up or call your congressman because your paycheck is 2 days late. If its a week late then maybe you need to find out what the deal is or tell them you aren't coming in untill you get some cash. However, it seems like your company is most likely having financial problems, which is fairly normal these days, you triggering a Department of Labor investigation into the company certainly won't help receiving future paychecks on time. I would recommend Items #1 and #2 from zippys list with great urgency, start the job hunting process now before layoffs start it maybe a cashflow hiccup or it may be the titanic, ultimately you have to protect yourself, and the best way to do that is start lining up other work in the event this company folds.
posted by Scientifik at 1:06 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition, getting paid only once a month, even if it did happen on schedule, might be against the law. California, for example, requires at least two paychecks per month, if I remember correctly.

Many, many people only get paid once a month, including me. It's not sketchy at all.

Things happen, it's possible there really is some error. I would keep quiet for a week, while looking for jobs to get a head start, and if it takes more than a week start raising a stink.
posted by ghharr at 1:13 PM on March 2, 2010

If they are withholding amounts from your check to pay to others on your behalf (such as your 401(k)), check to make sure those payments have been made on time in recent weeks/months. If the company is circling the drain, they may have stopped making those payments, giving you more reason to take the steps recommended above.
posted by Sukey Says at 1:34 PM on March 2, 2010

As an HR manager myself, the few times that this has happened at a company where I worked it was always the beginning of the end of the company. The only exception to this was for a small company where the payroll person quit and I started the day that payroll was due and there was no way that I could get it out in time. In that case I just sent out a quick email to the staff to let them know that pay would be delayed by 1 day and that we were very sorry the major inconvenience that this caused. So, unless your HR/payroll person just started on Friday I'd be very worried and would prepare yourself to receive late paycheques again in the future. Look to get out of there as soon as possible and try to leave right after you get paid because going after a bankrupt company for vacation owed, or back pay can be exhausting because at that point all the judgments or department of labor violations mean NOTHING to a dying company.

This is assuming that no one got paid, not just you - that's a whole other issue.
posted by saradarlin at 1:46 PM on March 2, 2010

drjimmy11 - just an FYI my husband and I are both employees of UC Riverside and get paid once a month - it is legal in CA.
posted by a22lamia at 2:46 PM on March 2, 2010

Many, many people only get paid once a month, including me. It's not sketchy at all.

Quite true, but it is also illegal in California, where you need at least two pay checks per month. so you're both right.

A payroll glitch should clear very quickly (couple of days). That HR isn't all over everyone apologizing profusely, with a very solid reason for the problem and a timeline for a fix is a big red flag to me. If I screwed up pay roll I'd be mortified and doing everything I could to make sure my best folks weren't starting a job search.
posted by Long Way To Go at 5:35 PM on March 2, 2010

This happened to me last February! The company folded one month later. Prepare your resume and get your documents together so you can file for unemployment immediately.
posted by greenland at 6:03 PM on March 2, 2010

Sorry, some elaboration...I was working for a small company, 7-10 people, that was only 16 months old and had been re-tasked away from its primary income stream to building something that would allow the owner to automatically run the company by himself. The writing was on the wall, basically. (And I didn't like the place, anyway.)

However, even if I were working somewhere I was completely devoted to, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I would still get my resume and papers together. Payroll is one of a small-to-medium-sized company's biggest expenses, hence its irregularity when the business's income stream falls below manageable levels.
posted by greenland at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2010

Do they pay your health insurance? Call your insurance company and see if they got paid. If they haven't been paid, then you know it wasn't an accident. The company couldn't cover payroll.
posted by 26.2 at 6:23 PM on March 2, 2010

Could we please stop with how often OP should be paid per month? The "twice or more" California rule doesn't apply to executive/administrative/professional jobs!

OP, the fact that something as completely normal as the month of February tripped up your company's payroll is hugely sketchy. Unless they have something extraordinary to explain it, for example just switching to new payroll services/software/something that could possibly, legitimately explain such a glitch, I would be preparing to find a new job ASAP.
posted by asciident at 6:56 PM on March 2, 2010

Just wanted to add to my answer (the first one) that the company I had worked for had payroll issues for a few months, but a couple of years later is doing very well again (so am I - though at another job). The economy sucks for everyone. Working for a small company is always a risk, but one that sometimes pays off. If you can afford to, and you enjoy your job, I wouldn't just stop working because your paycheck is a bit late, because if everyone does that the next paycheck certainly will not come!
posted by beyond_pink at 7:40 PM on March 2, 2010

They didn't tell you there was problem. You had to ask. This means almost certainly the company is broke.

Once at my company the system which sends people their pay notification broke. The payments themselves were fine, just there was no email notification as usual. That was a BIG DEAL with multiple announcements and reassurances, and the money itself was unaffected. Anytime a company has an actual IT related payroll glitch, you can expect continuous proactive communication on the issue.

The "problem" the HR person speaks of, is that the payroll account has no funds. It's unlikely you will get another paycheque from this company. How long can you stay there with no income? In your shoes, I would spend the time looking for work.
posted by dave99 at 5:39 AM on March 3, 2010

So have you been paid yet?
posted by caddis at 5:42 AM on March 5, 2010

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