How to handle accidentally being overpaid for a year?
January 14, 2012 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Made an error in timesheet way to handle it?

So: way back when I started my job, my direct supervisor (who is no longer with the company) gave me the wrong info about how to fill out my timesheet. Basically I was under the impression that we got half hour lunch paid, but were given a full hour, therefore subtracting .5 of an hour from an 8 hour day with a 1 hour lunch. The schedule has been made with me having an hour lunch each full shift I worked, and I put down 7.5 hours for each full shift on the timesheet, and every week it was signed by the same person who made the schedule. So I thought all was well.

After working there for a year and now finally eligible to join the union, and I discovered that this is not correct. Our contract states that I'm supposed to be given a half-hour lunch, unpaid. Now, I only work one full-shift per week, but after a whole year, that adds up.

I contacted my union rep (a coworker) who basically suggested that I not mention it to anyone, and that I not make a big deal out of it. But I have a guilty conscious (even though I didn't do anything intentionally wrong!) And going forward I'm going to need to change how I do things (ie either ask for a shorter lunch or start filling in my hours differently) and I can't help but think that someone is going to notice this.

On the one hand, I feel like I should take the union rep's advice. On the other, if it is later discovered that I made this error, then I'm pretty sure that I'd be fired, and I love my job!

So the options, as I see them are to either minimize it, and just fill out the timesheet correctly in the future (as the union rep suggested) or go to HR and explain what happened and suffer the consequences.

I am not very savvy at office politics. In fact, I quite hate them! I don't mind paying the time back or even writing a check for the difference. But I really don't want to lose my job, which I guess could happen either way.

Anyone else been in a similar pickle? Any advice?
posted by Calicatt to Work & Money (10 answers total)
So, let me get this straight. You've been taking an hour for lunch, but marking your timesheet as though you'd taken only 1/2 hour? From the perspective of HR, the timesheets have nothing wrong with them, so you coming to them and explaining what you've just said here will only make them go "Bwuh?"

While I commend you for wanting to be scrupulous and do the right thing, this is one of those sleeping dogs that is better left alone.

Do as your union rep suggests, and simply do things the correct way going forward. Take a half-hour for lunch, and get back to work afterwards, and do your 7.5 hours.
posted by LN at 5:57 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your advice LN. :)

One thing I should add is that I work in a retail-type environment, so each day is scheduled. So if I want to start taking 30 minute breaks, I have to get my supervisor to change my schedule. Or I have to fill in my timesheet differently. As of right now there's a blaring discrepancy between the printed schedule and my timesheet. I can't help but think that someone is going to notice when I start filling out my timesheet differently (and/or changing the floor schedule), and demand an explanation.

I should add also that someone was recently fired on the spot (after working there for something like ten years) when they were discovered to be cheating the parking payment system. Our overlords are very harsh about anything that might qualify as stealing...
posted by Calicatt at 6:11 PM on January 14, 2012

I agree with LN. You took an extra unpaid half-hour, so there's no payroll mistake, just a little fix to make in your schedule going forward. Your supervisor, or whoever approves your time, and whoever in payroll turns your timecards into money, saw nothing amiss during the entire year. So don't worry about it.

And...I can tell you, as someone who has to edit and approve timecards every 2 weeks, that it would be a big relief for them NOT to have to worry about your half-hour...just thinking about having to look up 26 pay periods' worth of information makes me feel a little woozy!
posted by mittens at 6:13 PM on January 14, 2012

Oh, wait, I just re-read your question in light of the above took an extra paid half-hour. Hm. But that's even weirder, because it seems like the supervisor would've noticed you weren't there a full 7.5. If you took a mid-day lunch, he didn't notice you were gone twice as long as everyone else?

Seriously, if he hasn't ever noticed, then the conversation goes, "Boss, there's this whole hour lunch on my schedule. Am I supposed to get half an hour or an hour?" Then he changes it for you and it's over.

(Disclaimer: I am not your supervisor. I am a wise, kind, and understanding supervisor who would not want anyone to realize I hadn't actually noticed a gaping half-hour hole in my staffing for an entire year.)
posted by mittens at 6:31 PM on January 14, 2012

I wonder whether you get your mandatory mid-shift 15 minute breaks (state law required a 15 minute break every 4 hours you worked, at least in MI). I worked at least one job years ago where we had an hour lunch, but half of that was actually the two breaks, so it was marked as a half-hour on the time card. It was too hectic when we were working to get a break, so it was just easier to take the breaks as part of lunch. Not totally legal, but more legal than not giving the breaks at all.
posted by rockindata at 9:20 PM on January 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks Mittens: I hope all supervisors are as wise and kind as you!

One further note: the supervisor who gave me the wrong info in the first place just quit a few months ago, and there is only an "acting manager" in his place. If the same guy was still there I would have just taken it directly to him.

His leaving also adds in the factor that one of the head bosses is directly involved in our scheduling, therefore if I start being scheduled for 30 minute breaks, he'll probably notice...but whether or not he'll go so far as to then compare it to my timesheets, I don't know.

Rockindata: yes, my state has the same 15 min rules...I wish we just squeezed them on to lunch, I would prefer that! But no, we take them separately.
posted by Calicatt at 4:33 AM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: And, to clarify one last thing (sorry to hover!): the rules are that we can take either 30 min breaks or 1 hour breaks, both unpaid.

I have been taking 1 hour breaks, but writing down that I've been taking 30 min breaks (because I thought half of the break was paid)
posted by Calicatt at 4:40 AM on January 15, 2012

If you have the option of taking either a half-hour or an hour lunch break, you fix the scheduling issue by saying, "Hey, Boss, I'd prefer a half-hour break instead of the hour I've been getting." If your boss says no then you'll have to eat the cost of that extra 30 minutes, but I don't know why anyone would find the request odd since they know a shorter lunch break = more money for you. (Theoretically.)

I think as long as you account for your time correctly going forward you should take the advice from your union rep and the other replies here and leave the prior stuff alone. This situation was due to your former supervisor's misinformation/carelessness/whatever (the person signing off on the timesheets is reponsible for making sure they're accurate) and most retail-type places don't have a very long institutional memory so they'll barely remember Former Supervisor soon.
posted by camyram at 7:02 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you are way overthinking this. If you want to fix this the easiest way would be to get your schedule changed. Individuals' schedules get changed all the time for whatever reason and in the puzzle that is scheduling all individuals to get every shift staffed adequately there are likely frequent changes to "the schedule", i.e. all your individual schedules. Nobody is going to bat an eye lid just because yours gets changed.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:38 AM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all your advice everyone!
posted by Calicatt at 3:28 PM on January 15, 2012

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