Can my employer retroactively withhold the "first paycheck" after years?
June 26, 2014 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal for an employer (FL Tax ID in FL) to suddenly decide after four years that they want to withhold the "standard" week's worth of pay (based on salary, not hourly)?

After working for my company (in Florida, less than 10 employees) for four years, due to a morass of issues, there are some new partners.

As part of their SOP at the companies the partners own, they reserve a week's pay for all new hires. While this is the SOP I have always been employed under and is nothing unusual to me, my issue is that when I was hired, I was paid on the next pay period as that was the then standard, and it now seems unfair, weird, and perhaps illegal to suddenly decide that a reserve of salary is necessary and reserve this pay just so some protocols are being followed.

We are on biweekly pay periods and the initial "solution" was to have an upcoming pay period consist of three weeks instead of two so we would be "caught up," but after much decrying of this, it looks like they will instead "loan" us the money, and then deduct a set amount out of each paycheck until our individual week's reserve of salary is met.

This is all strange, and unsettling, but especially as there are a fuckton of issues going on besides the pay checks, I want to push back on this if possible.

In my mind, the new partners should eat the cost (there's only a few of us left), or just let it go. However, I don't know if there's some actual labor precedent that a portion of salary is initially withheld, and I don't have a leg to stand on, or if they're the ones being ridiculous.
posted by Debaser626 to Work & Money (10 answers total)
This strikes me as maaaad illegal. You should call the Department of Labor, it's their job to protect workers from shady situations exactly like this one. Keywords for you include wage theft and withheld wages.
posted by Andrhia at 8:09 PM on June 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

You need a lawyer on this, then a new job. Not necessarily in that order. Wage withholding from what I've been told off HR and law friends is always a tricky situation since most cases aren't cut and dry.

Get a lawyer.
posted by lpcxa0 at 8:15 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just so I understand the issue...

Currently: you are paid for the next two weeks you're going to work.

Future: they want to pay you for the previous two weeks you've worked.

Or is it something else going on here?

I'm in IL, and many years ago where I work they did something similar to the salaried employees. They wanted to move the date everyone was paid forward a week so that paychecks across the entire system were cut at the same time. But this meant that that paycheck would be for 3 weeks and not 4 weeks of work.

Mathematically it works out. When you leave you will get all the pay you'd otherwise be entitled to. But practically it's a punch in the gut to people who rely on their monthly paycheck being a certain amount.

The employees complained as hard as they could, but in the end it didn't change the policy. They gave no-interest, short term loans to those who absolutely needed the money, but the pay date change happened just as they wanted it to. At least where I live, it wasn't an illegal thing to do.
posted by sbutler at 8:18 PM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You don't need a lawyer.

Google tells me that, shockingly,

Florida does not have any laws dictating when or how frequently an employer must pay employees their wages..

So it sounds like they can maybe do what they want as far as delaying when you receive your pay. But there's definitely a state Wage Commission or Dept. of Labor you can just call and ask. Don't waste money on a lawyer.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:36 PM on June 26, 2014

What sbutler describes happened to me also. As I had to explain it to a lot of employees in my area, I did try to understand but it still was a great inconvenience. Nobody lost any money in the long run but everybody got put on the same delay.
posted by Anitanola at 9:27 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't need a lawyer.

Nah. You always need a lawyer, at least a quick consult. This is too tricky a situation. To google and sort.

Also I strenuously vote for you need a new job too.
posted by chasles at 4:51 AM on June 27, 2014

Googling the term "payment in arrears system" will help you find out more about this. Basically your company wants everyone on the same pay schedule. The university I work at did this several years ago. This FAQ explains their process. You might want to suggest something like this to your employer. Instead of deducting the amount from several paychecks, they deduct it all from your final one. That way you don't ever have a period of time where you're getting paid less.
posted by MsMolly at 5:29 AM on June 27, 2014

Best answer: Speak to the department of labor, but I've been through this with a smaller company being purchased by a larger company.

We were given the option of a "loan" over the period of a month such as you describe, or a "short" check one two week period and back to "standard" the next two week period, and going forward we were a week "behind".

The company gave us a six week warning, and then did it in January (as the fiscal calendar flipped, and post-holiday season).
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 5:47 AM on June 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for confirming my fears.

sbutler: We are currently being paid for work already performed (and not ahead of time). On initial hiring we all went unpaid for a week or so until the pay period hit, and then were only paid for the amount previously worked up to that date.

But regardless, it looks like for all intents and purposes there isn't much anyone can do about this. I guess it is something that outside of some passive resistance Ghandi-esque actions, it is something we have to suck up.

I already put my foot down as hard as I could on the three week time / two week pay nonsense and it looks like that's off the table (though not in writing), but I guess there's nothing I can do about a deduction from each check until the reserve amount is met.

What is even more annoying is that this was brought up over two weeks ago on the last pay period to much anguish and another tailspin in morale, and now we still don't know what's going to happen, as we were paid today in full with no comment (at least until accounting was prompted) besides "They're still working on it." ... sigh ...
posted by Debaser626 at 8:09 AM on June 27, 2014

How many of you are there?

You could always "blue flu" it: even if you aren't a formal union, you could take turns where 80% of you call in sick at the same time and work grinds to a halt.
posted by Oktober at 8:19 AM on June 27, 2014

« Older questions about volunteering as a ZMP worker   |   Air Force Jobs: Cyber Security vs. Computer... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.