Accidentally shorted wages.
April 18, 2016 7:56 PM   Subscribe

I've suspected that there have been errors on my paycheck for a while due to a new book keeper, and I confirmed this on my last paycheck where they shorted me nearly half of my hours. I want to ask them to pull and audit the last 6 (if not 12) months of my paychecks, especially the ones since the new book keeper took over and started using their new internal Quickbooks system.

But before I do this, what should I do? I only have so many of my actual pay stubs because I have direct deposit, and the paper doesn't always make it to my hands due to do a chaotic workplace.

I know of several checks where I was deeply suspicious that they were short or wrong. There have been other major errors like mis-issuing direct deposits, switching tax withholding status values without permission, accidentally adding tips to a paycheck (and then taking them away from the next paycheck) and other careless or unprofessional payroll practices.

I'm not sure it is or isn't malicious, but I think it's systemic even if it's accidental. Other coworkers have noticed other similar issues, but other much more malicious stuff like people being shorted on vacation time or overtime.
posted by loquacious to Law & Government (11 answers total)
There should be a way for you to pull your pay stubs electronically. Most payroll companies have some kind of online login. Ask your bookkeeper to help you get a login.
posted by radioamy at 8:07 PM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think it makes more sense for you to do the audit yourself, rather than asking the bookkeeper to do it. One because asking someone else to do lots of extra work is kind of weird, and two because you don't trust their attention to detail anyway, hence the need for an audit. So in your shoes, I'd track down all pay stubs, sit with your calendar, and reverse-engineer your hours, then carefully list any discrepancies, pull proof if needed, and let your manager know so they can look into it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:11 PM on April 18, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you can't get your pay stubs, you can at least pull a list of your deposits from your bank account and compare it to your work schedule. Good luck!
posted by clone boulevard at 8:19 PM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I mean personally I'd ask to sit down with Payroll, HR, your immediate supervisor, whoever is in a relevant managerial position, simply because your paystubs don't always get to you. That's... no. Just nope. Not acceptable.

Personally I wouldn't be working directly with the bookkeeper on this, but above her head. I also think that either talking to an employment lawyer or mentioning to higher-up people that you're considering doing so would be a good idea. Because this is just like 20 different kinds of insane.

If this is a low-stakes service job, I'd also be seriously considering quitting, or at least leveraging that. Assuming you're a valued employee.

Also, can you opt out of direct deposit for the time being? In your shoes, I really really really would not want my pay passing directly from the bookkeeper to my bank account without hitting my hands first. Since that seems to be the main problem in figuring out what's going wrong, in the first place.
posted by Sara C. at 8:21 PM on April 18, 2016 [9 favorites]

Could you start by asking for the last 6 months of paystubs? If they ask why make something up like applying for a new apartment and needing to show proof of income. I would absolutely not mention to anyone that you're thinking of talking to a lawyer - that's something that you either do or you don't, you don't warn people about it.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:35 PM on April 18, 2016 [13 favorites]

If worst comes to worst, consider calling your state attorney general. You can often get them to take an interest in wage theft--which is what it is, if it's systemic.
posted by praemunire at 9:31 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

For sure if you have direct deposit they have a way to pull reports that contain the same info as your paystubs. So get your paystubs and go from there.

Now, your paystubs are only likely to *support* your deposited income - it's unlikely that they'll show you worked forty hours but were paid for twenty. So you'll need records showing your hours worked that are independent of the paystubs, such as timecards.

Good luck, and I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of this.
posted by mwhybark at 11:32 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

You might consider whether you want to ask for interest. A nice rate to use might be the one the courts generally use in the case of unpaid judgments. In your state, in many circumstances, that seems to be an annual rate of 12%.
posted by slidell at 1:12 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bring in the current one and say that you have been shorted nearly half of your hours. Ask them to investigate. When they confirm the problem, request the audit. During this process, start looking for a new job. Because places that do this don't like people who notice them doing it.
posted by myselfasme at 6:51 AM on April 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding myselfasme. Before you do that, log into your online payroll system to find all the paystubs in question, or several of them. If you work a relatively stable schedule or have a system where you enter your hours so that you'll get paid and can access/print that information, that's your evidence and starting point. After you've gotten your documentation, conduct your own "audit" against your paystubs (your bank also most likely makes copies of your checks- I have Wells Fargo, and I can see them online). THEN, let them know that your last paycheck was radically wrong and before this happened, you had reason to suspect other mistakes were being made, and ask them to do an audit to correct it. Make sure your corrected/compensated wages are fairly close to your estimate. Get documentation to show their work, and that it was done. Then, probably quit if this person isn't fired or retrained. Is it just this bookkeeper, or is this level of incompetence accepted in your workplace? Could this happen again? If so, just leave.

When I was a barista, making (slightly) over minimum wage, my employer purposely (illegally) retained my tips (the policy was to give them out every 6 months as an untaxed "bonus." The reason my employer did this was because it was "hard to find people who wanted to work" so the 6 month tip thing was an incentive, especially the tax-free part. The truth is, she was a nightmare, and most people couldn't stand her that long. AND she fired me less than a week before my tips were "due" and I was told I was not "eligible" for the money I earned because I wasn't working at the time the bonuses were going out.

I said okay, then quietly went to my state's Dept of Labor website and filed a claim. They investigated, and ended up getting me and my coworker about 20% what were due because most of the tips were in cash and therefore untraceable. It was supremely unfair, but better than nothing, and taught me a lesson. When I mentioned other employees who had left before me, Labor advised me not to say anything, as there was a statute of limitations of about two years.

The moral: get documentation, act now, and make sure it doesn't happen again. Quitting's probably a good option, but get what's yours first.
posted by serenity_now at 5:15 PM on April 19, 2016

It's not weird to ask the bookkeeper to fix their own mistakes and to go back and redo the job they should have done correctly in the first place. That's not asking them to do extra work, they created the problem in the first place and the time it takes for them to fix it would be their own fault, not the OP's fault. The onus should not be on the injured party in this case - especially since the bookkeeper is doing this on a widespread scale to multiple employees.

Having said that, OP, you may want to look into this yourself first because at this point it's not clear if the bookkeeper can actually be trusted. They're either committing wage theft or they're seriously incompetent at their job. You need to talk to your supervisor and your HR department about this. If they're not responsive and this is a national business, you might try going over their heads. If they're not trustworthy or won't listen, you need to contact your state labor board and file a complaint for wage theft. I would also suggest talking to a lawyer but not mentioning it to your employer until/unless it's absolutely necessary (i.e. your employer refuses to fix the mistake).
posted by i feel possessed at 8:07 AM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

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