interviewer wants me to bring $350 to the interview, administrator asks staff to do his personal research work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewer wants me to bring $350 to the interview

Today I received a call from an armed security company for an interview. I was excited, but when he mentioned I needed to bring my driver’s license, social security card, AND $350, I started to become skeptical. The interviewer received my application from Indeed, where my resume is posted, and after doing research I could not find any info on the company he called from. The $350 is for a firearms class, which could be true, but I am still worried. Is this normal? What should I do?

Nope, it’s not normal, and it’s probably a scam. Cancel the interview. Reputable employers don’t tell you to show up to an interview with money.

2. Library administrator asks staff to do his personal reference work

I’m on the reference staff of a large public library. One of our top administrators, a step below the director, routinely asks us to do his personal research. Examples are vacation planning or church matters. Many of us feel and have expressed resentment among ourselves at this practice – we hustle to keep up with the daily volume of emailed reference requests from the general public.

He has ample research training and experience himself, and access to the same resources. More importantly, he is an influential member of the executive group overseeing information services, whose recent policies and decisions have greatly eroded the overall quality of reference work systemwide: inadequately-trained paraprofessionals doing librarians’ work, a “Google-is-good-enough” attitude, a devaluing of tools such as electronic databases. The morale among many of the librarians is very low these days, which I believe management has failed to grasp (we’re faulted for being change-resistant, which is untrue), and there’s a great deal of “Why doesn’t he just Google it?” and “I thought we didn’t need databases” grumbling when his queries come in. Using staff in this way makes him seem remote, tone-deaf, and clueless at best, entitled at worst.

I know the well-being of the staff and the institution are important to him, and he’d likely be horrified to know he was being perceived in this way. I don’t know whether the director or the manager in charge of our email reference service knows he’s doing this. Any advice? I want to add that of course we’ve been fine with helping him research library-related questions.

Someone should say something to him. Who that someone is depends on roles and dynamics there, but your manager or director is probably a good place to start. Ideally that person should say, “Bob, our reference staff are pretty swamped with work and it’s hard for them to take on the personal requests you’ve been sending them. They’re of course happy to help research library-related questions, but at our current staffing levels, personal requests end up conflicting with their other priorities.”

3. Protecting my references from reference fatigue

I’ve been job hunting for about six months, two months in earnest since I’ve been unemployed after my small nonprofit reorganized and my role was eliminated. In the last two months, I’ve been fortunate to get quite a bit of traction and interviews, and was a finalist three times, with all of my references being called. Unfortunately they went with another candidate each of these times. Upon asking for feedback, they all assured me that my references were amazing, that it just came down to personality/work style in one case, and in the other two, they had a last minute application from someone they worked with previously who was a “known commodity” and who they hired essentially on the spot.

While this is disappointing to me, I realize it’s becoming frustrating for my (C-level) references, who have now invested in three reference checks for me in the last six weeks, and now have the prospect of doing it again. I’m very worried about reference fatigue, but it seems to be a growing trend to check references with multiple folks still in the mix, and often seems to happen with fast-moving companies who would rather have someone vouch for you than spend time looking at work samples or having you do a sample project. I don’t want to pass up a reference check that could lead to an offer, but I’m also hesitant to let my references be contacted if they don’t truly have an offer ready for me. How can I phrase this request at the reference check stage without looking silly? (I’m obviously not eager to share with potential employers that I’ve been passed up at the last stage three times this month!)

You can’t really ask that your references only be contacted if an employer is ready to make you an offer, because some employers use references as a genuine part of the decision-making process; they’re asking the references nuanced questions and using that to help determine which finalist will be the best fit. Saying “don’t contact them until you’ve already decided to make me an offer” would be like saying “don’t interview me until you’re ready to hire me.” (I mean, obviously not exactly like that, but similar.)

You can certainly ask that they only be contacted late in the process, but that’s probably already the case.

I think your better bet is to touch base with your references, thank them for the time they’ve put in for you, and get a feel for whether they’re okay with continuing to be called on. They probably are — at least assuming that these are phone calls and they’re not being asked to fill out lengthy written forms (the former is the most common, but the latter is happening more than it used to). Most references are happy to take more than three calls, and understand how this stuff goes.

That said, I’d also do some digging about what kind of references you’re getting — and don’t assume. Being knocked out of the running at the reference stage three times says that it’s possible that at least one of these references might not be as enthused as they need to be — and it’s worth finding out if that could be happening here.

4. Can I direct employers to my LinkedIn recommendations in lieu of references?

This is a follow-up to the question above:

Is it worth it to ask my references to give the quick reference on my LinkedIn profile that would be visible to potential employers? Then potentially I could say something like, “My references have actually vouched for my ability on LinkedIn if you want to take a look there first. To protect their time, I’d prefer they only be contacted directly as a last step before extending me an offer, as I don’t want them to spend that valuable time more than once.”

Nope. Employers don’t usually put a ton of stock in LinkedIn recommendations, in part because they’re public (so obviously no one is going to say something critical about you there) and in part because the value of a reference lies in being able to ask specific, targeted questions and not just reading a pre-written statement. References aren’t just about vouching for you being a generally competent person; they’re about probing deeply into your strengths and weaknesses, how you work best, what kind of management you do best with, and so forth.

5. I was overpaid and now I need to pay it back

Due to a payroll error by my employer, I received overpayment in my paychecks. Now they want to cut my checks or have my consent and signature on a contract they created to grant access to my bank account to withdraw to pay them back for the erroneous extra amount given to me. The contact does not state the amount they will deduct/withdraw, but looks like they want to cut all of my checks for five months straight until it adds up on what was given extra to me. But one thing is they did not mention how much they will deduct from my paychecks or how they came up on the total amount I need to pay back.

I’ve been feeling bullied and harassed and stressed. I do understand it was a error and I’m willing to pay it back, but I cannot have all my checks for five months straight to be taken away as I have bills, rent, car payment, medical bills, and other pending bills.

Ask them for clarification. Say this: “Can you show me how you calculated the total amount of the overpayment? And how much you’d like to deduct from each check?”

If the amount they want to deduct will cause you hardship, ask if they will consider a different arrangement. Say something like this: “Deducting that much from each check would cause me serious hardship; I wouldn’t be able to pay all of my bills. Could we instead deduct $X and spread it out over Y checks?”

Most companies will be willing to work with you on this (at least to a point), especially since it was their error.

{ 308 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne

    #1, I wonder what they really want you to buy with that $350. You could buy a chance to have your own security company. You could buy special financial advice. You could buy Amway. You could buy your first auditing session with Scientology.

    I vote just don’t show up.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      They could be selling a “personal security assessment”, where they mug you, take your $350, and tell you “next time, don’t carry so much cash, it makes you a target”.

      1. Charityb

        Honestly that’s what I think it is. If it was just to pay for a class, they could do that at any time, and they shouldn’t really need cash instead of a credit card or even a check. Why not just ask the candidate to bring some expensive jewelry.

        I would not be shocked if the “interviewer” was waiting outside with a knife and a bandanna over his face..

    2. Expendable Redshirt

      ….social security card? At an interview? I can’t think of a reason for bringing it that is not a scam.

      1. Elysian

        I’ve had to bring mine to an interview before. I think it was a lazy and somewhat discriminatory way for the employer to be sure I was permitted to work in the US and that I was who I said I was. But – not a scam.

        1. Expendable Redshirt

          I’m curious, was this at the first interview?
          I’ve never had to supply my SIN before the job offer stage, so requesting it during interviews is very surprising. Okay, so there is at least one situation where requesting a SIN at the interview stage is not a scam. But add to it the “bring cash” request? Yeeaackk…..that doesn’t make me feel good at all.

          1. Audiophile

            Almost every interview I’ve been on, has had me fill out an information sheet listing my SSN and all work history. And this is almost always during the first round. I almost always fill it out last, but they still want it. I’ve never had any ask me for the card physically except for retail jobs I worked and the security staffing agency I currently work for.

        2. Elysian

          Yup, it was my first and only interview for that position. Now granted, with this position if you showed up to the interview you pretty much were hired. But I don’t think the practice of asking to see a social security card is that uncommon in lower wage jobs (which this one was). I think the goal is to weed out undocumented individuals. So… discriminatory — and not exactly on point because certain individuals who have the legal right to work in the US don’t get SS cards/numbers — but not exactly a scam.

          1. TootsNYC

            Except that the company can’t hire undocumented individuals.
            I’m required to get proof that someone can work in the U.S.; they have to show it on their first day at work.

            The easiest document for that is a passport, and I used to just remind them to “bring documentation, like a passport.” Everyone I was even interviewing was a U.S. citizen, for the most part, or at least I had assumed they were (even the guy with the Hispanic name and the accent who SMOKED my test and is top on the list of people I haven’t hired but would recommend).

            Later, I read about the passport not applying to everyone and potentially coming across as discriminatory, so I started saying, “bring the documents that prove you can legally work in the U.S.–do you want me to send you the link to the list of documents?”
            And every single one of them said, “No, I’ll just bring my passport.”

            Sure, a ” green card”or visa provides that proof, but some people just say “SS card” as shorthand. If I were the person with alternate documentation, I’d just show up with whatever documents I had that proved I could work in the U.S.

      2. Anx

        I’ve brought mine to every interview I’ve been on, and when applying in-store at retail outlets. I’ve been hired on the spot before and had to fill out forms then and there if I wanted to get started.

        I also have shared my SIN, begrudgingly, with at least 3/4 of the employers I’ve applied with. I’d love to have the leverage to hold out. I hate how many applications I have floating out there with it.

    3. Lily in NYC

      They are selling fake training and then give the “graduates” fake referrals from companies that are hiring (it’s in the link Alison provided and is quite depressing).

    4. WorkingMom

      Definitely agree. If there really was a required firearms course to take during training – a reputable company would cover the cost. Even if there was a weird setup where they could not cover the cost, the company would not ask you to pay for it at the interview, it would not happen until after you’ve accepted an offer and started training. RUN. In a zig-zag pattern.

      1. DArcy

        There is a small but nonzero possibility of this being legit.

        Here in Oregon, we have the nation’s strictest regulations on both armed and unarmed private security, which means you DO have to pay for training and certification when you are hired for security work. Many security companies provide the required training in-house, but do so at the employee’s expense — and because of the high rate of immediate turnover, they do often want that training paid for up front instead of taking a payroll deduction.

        (The company I work for is a little more generous: the company pays for the required training and fronts the fees for the state paperwork, then deducts the fees from your first two paychecks. But this is not universal practice.)

    5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      #1 – Quite often – in this day and age – people answer ads that appear to be “job situations” but they turn out to be back-room schools to teach you how to get a job at, say, the post office or IRS. It looks like a job announcement but you reply — and they take your money and teach you how to take the test.

      This looks like OP was contacted thinking it’s a job interview scenario – actually they may want his money to teach him how to be a security officer.

      Run, OP. Run.

  2. Jenniy

    In that particular industry, it could be a background check and the firearms cert, I’d look into the requirements for your state, OP. If you are not already DCJS certified you may have to pay for that class up front, but I can’t see doing that at the interview, but I can see the background check (I had to do that as a sub teacher)
    Please don’t show up with cash though, until you know exactly what it is for. Don’t wanna see you get mugged or something. :(

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Given the red flag of them asking for interviewees to bring cash, I’d be also really wary of handing my social security card and driver’s license to these people.

      When I got hired, I had to pay out-of-pocket for fingerprinting for a background check, but it did not happen at the place where I was hired, and it certainly didn’t happen at the interview.

      OP, run. I’m sorry, because it sounds like you really want a job like this one pretends to be, but I don’t think this is legit at all.

      1. Stephanie

        In my state, if you need a fingerprint clearance, you usually go to the State DPS or at least a local municipal police office. Bringing it to the interview (and in cash, no less–I don’t think I was even able to pay for my fingerprint card with cash IIRC) raises a Red Army’s worth of red flags.

        1. TootsNYC

          and that amount, too.

          No reputable business wants to be walking around w/ that much cash on them.

      2. UKAnon

        This. If they’d said there were costs associated that would be fine, but asking for cash is a really bad sign. If you’re really keen to follow up on the job, ask if they will accept online transfer (direct debt etc) and test the water. If they insist on cash (or if you can afford to just let it drop) run!

      3. Ad Astra

        If I recall, my husband had to pay out-of-pocket for a background check and fingerprinting in order to get his teaching license, but he was never asked to bring cash (or even a check) to a potential employer.

        If a legit company wanted its employees to have firearms training, it would either make that a requirement in the job listing and only interview certified people, or it would pay for the certification once you’re hired. Even if they were cheapskates who didn’t want to pay for training, they wouldn’t ask you to pay up-front before you’ve even interviewed for the job. This is wild sketchy.

        1. Storm

          I agree and have decided not to go to the interview (better to be safe than sorry) This interviewer definitely seems sketchy, I asked for the company website (to investigate) and he gave me the website of a shooting range. My question now i,s should I call to cancel or just no show?

          1. Jeanne

            I would cancel. Maybe say you have an offer from a different company. If they are truly, truly criminals (not likely but possible), you probably want to back out gracefully.

  3. FTW

    For #5, I’d make sure they deduct from your paycheck, and not from your bank account. You’d want the amount to be deducted from your gross pay in your check, rather than the net pay in your account which has already had taxes taken out.

    1. Jenn

      Yes, what is given by paycheck must be taken away by paycheck. Otherwise you’ll be penalized at tax time for their mistake. Also, you want a paper trail of the repayment which is better documented through payroll. And you don’t want to given them access to your bank account. If they mane another mistake you’ll be in deeper trouble.

      1. MashaKasha

        And you don’t want to given them access to your bank account. If they mane another mistake you’ll be in deeper trouble.

        +1000

        1. catsAreCool

          “And you don’t want to given them access to your bank account. If they mane another mistake you’ll be in deeper trouble.” This!!!

      2. Kelly

        THIS! All day long. I work in our payroll department and if they over paid you they also over taxed you. By going to your bank account instead of taking it directly from your pay check you will have reported income that in truth you didn’t actually receive and will have paid tax on that income.

        Also, it seems to me they are trying to circumvent having to refile/amend their quarterly payroll reports and that is not okay. I can’t even imagine a reason why they would want to take it from your bank account rather than your paychecks.

        I’m curious – did you notice you were being over paid and never said anything? I’m also curious as to how this mistake occurred.

        If this happened in our office and it was definitely our fault we would either a) correct it via payroll deductions at a rate as to not burden the employee or b) eat it.

        1. Koko

          I agree with your final paragraph. If deductions have to be made, take them from the people responsible for causing this error, not from innocent employees. But better yet – exactly what you said – the company should eat it, and learn to be more careful from then on.

    2. Kara

      I’d also make sure (if you’re in the US) that they comply with FLSA when deducting amounts from your check. They can’t legally take your whole paycheck until the amount is reimbursed, even if it was a large sum. They absolutely need to disclose the amount being deducted, how many checks it will be deducted from, and you need to sign an agreement stating as much.

      1. Kelly L.

        This was…something I wish I’d known about years ago when something happened at an old employer, or that it was in place if it’s new.

    3. Gandalf the Nude

      I agree that they should deduct from the paycheck if it at all possible, but if they are at all competent and/or have a good payroll system, they could take the money from the bank account without it affecting taxes/gross/401(k)/etc. by recording a manual check. We’ve had to issue live checks through A/P to quickly correct payroll errors, and recording the manual check in the payroll corrects the register. I assume it would work in reverse. It’s just more work than it’s usually worth and inadvisable, especially considering the amount of money implied here.

    4. JGray

      Agreed. My biggest issue with this is that the LW has been told there was a mistake but not how much needs to be paid back. Also, I know that not everyone is like this but I always check my pay stubs to ensure that they are correct. Errors do happen- one time at my previous job they were taking someone elses garnishment out of my check- I knew it was happening because it was shocking when I got a $230 paycheck. It took about 3 months for it to get corrected but what would end up happening is I would get the $230 paycheck and then I would have to be issued a check for the remaining amount of my paycheck. It was a huge pain in the butt but I stayed on top of it to make sure that it got fixed.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Is anyone else wondering how much money this is and why the Op didn’t notice? Or, if they did notice, why did they keep spending the money and not say anything? I don’t mean to be adversarial to the Op, but she says the deductions will cause hardship, of course they will, but hasn’t she had extra money all these months? I think we need more details. But, overall, the way her company is approaching it doesn’t sit right with me either.

        1. Just Visiting

          She doesn’t say how long this has been going on. An extra $20 every two weeks for ten years is $5200. Would you really notice an extra $20? Maybe you might at first, but if you weren’t paying attention when your pay changed, or maybe it had ALWAYS been wrong, then that amount would be your new normal. I agree that if she was getting extra thousands of dollars like some people downthread, that’s a different story, but it seems more likely she was getting very small amounts over a period of years. The fact that they won’t let her know exactly how much she “owes” is very, very fishy.

          To restate what others have said: DO NOT give them access to your bank account.

          1. Jeanne

            If it was a very small amount each check for a long time, I might try to negotiate. Especially if OP is a valued employee. Kind of like I have worked hard for you and went the extra mile but your mistake is going to effect me very negatively. Would it be so bad to say that was my pay rate?

            I know it wouldn’t always work but it could be worth a try.

          2. Hope that this wasn't said already. Don't have time to read all the chit chat.

            Access likely was already given when the employee signed the direct deposit form.
            Sometimes the signed “agreement” document is only to protect the employer if/when the employee leaves.

            1. TootsNYC

              This: w/ a direct deposit, you almost have to give them permission to get the money back out.

        2. TootsNYC

          I think several things feed into not realizing.

          w/ direct deposit, I now don’t get a pay stub handed to me; I have to go online to look for it–guess how often I do?

          w/ variations in hours, etc., maybe paychecks are exactly the same. Or, if the error in, perhaps an hourly rate, was made at the beginning, you might never realize.

          deductions are hard to predict, so if someone looks at the end number, they may not realize what the start number was.

          If I worked for an hourly wage, I would check to be sure the hours were right. But if the rate doesn’t show up clearly, and if I have to do math to figure it out, I probably wouldn’t check. I wouldn’t think they’d get THAT wrong, so I wouldn’t double-check it.

          W/ a salary, it gets divided up by 52 weeks, so I’m not always certain what that divides out to.

          also, I could maybe lose $20/paycheck without hardship (though it’s a drop of $40 in cash flow–the $20 you used to get goes away, and you pay back the $20 you were overpaid)

    5. Ad Astra

      I second this. If the payroll department is capable of accidentally overpaying employees (and it sounds like it was a significant amount), the department is surely capable of accidentally over-charging you for repayment. And, absolutely, you need to be clear on exactly how much money you’re paying back and in what increments.

      I’m super curious about how all this happened in the first place.

    6. Jazzy Red

      #5 – Don’t sign anything until you have a lawyer check it over. The document needs to have the exact amount they want back, how much they want from each paycheck (NOT from your bank account), and how many paychecks this will affect. Then have a lawyer check it over before you sign it to make sure everything is legit. And tell your employer that you can’t sign anything until your lawyer gives you the OK. They will pressure you to sign right away, but don’t be intimidated by them.

      1. neverjaunty

        THIS. Because unless you are a lawyer with experience in the area you don’t want to be parsing state and federal laws to figure out what they can do. (Heck, I’m a lawyer and I have no idea what the FLSA requires on this; not my practice.)

        In the US you can often get free or affordable legal care by contacting your state or county bar associations.

      2. Dorothy

        Absolutely. You wouldn’t treat yourself for a serious medical condition; don’t try to be your own lawyer.

  4. Tim-Tim's Teapots Inc.

    1. If they were asking you to bring $5 or $10, then it might be worthwhile to ask them *why* they want you to bring that money.* But $350? No way! Don’t even ask – just cancel, as Alison said.

    4. Whenever I’m on LinkedIn, I’ll see, “Does Alison Green know about teapot finish?” followed by an “Endorse” button. I don’t think that’s a worthwhile and credible way to gauge skill sets!

    *Of course, *never* actually give them any money unless you know for sure that you need to.

    1. Shell

      I get endorsements for things that aren’t the least bit related to my actual job. LinkedIn endorsements are absolutely worthless and I don’t know anyone who puts stock in them. The volume of endorsements also depends heavily on industry (I see a lot more for marketing than, say, STEM).

      1. Artemesia

        People who have never more than met me in passing at a conference have endorsed me for stuff that is probably in my wheelhouse, but they have no experience of it. A cousin I haven’t seen in 40 years (and who is not obviously my cousin — different last names) endorsed me for a couple of things. Linked in it mostly a PITA.

      2. MashaKasha

        Yup, I’ve gotten endorsed for things I’ve never heard of, by people I haven’t talked to in years.

        1. Kelly L.

          HA! Yes! My mom tries to endorse me for evvvverything. She’d probably try to endorse me for rocket science*.

          *I am not a rocket scientist.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Just to be clear, the OP is asking about LinkedIn recommendations, which are different from endorsements. Recommendations are where people actually write testimonials for you on your profile, rather than just “endorsing” you for a particular skill.

      1. Shell

        Oops. My apologies.

        OP #4: Aren’t LinkedIn testimonials also very short? I don’t think I’ve seen any that are more than a paragraph or two long; that’s not even a recommendation letter, that’s a recommendation blurb. As Alison said, rec letters already fail to provide nuance and specificity to a given interviewer’s particular questions. I can’t imagine a blurb would be in any way useful.

        I’m siding with Alison: LinkedIn rec blurbs may be marginally more useful than endorsements, but still rather worthless overall.

        1. Kyrielle

          Disagree with your last paragraph. LinkedIn recommendations are *incredibly* valuable in my experience. What they are not, is references. They are recommendations – the same way someone might speak to someone else they knew, except public. As such, they’re usually taken with a grain of salt – because of course they only contain the positive bits (otherwise, the person wouldn’t approve them, right?). But their utility is in networking and early contact. They are usually 1-2 paragraphs, but if they’re 1-2 enthusiastic paragraphs they can be good – for what they’re good for. Not for references, because they’re not nuanced, and in any case they *can’t* pre-emptively answer any questions any employer might have.

            1. Charityb

              I think it’s definitely industry-specific. I can’t remember the last time I even looked at those things to be honest. it’s probably one of those things where if your industry values them and takes them seriously you already know that and you probably already have racked up an appropriate amount of them from your colleagues. Whereas if your industry doesn’t care at all then you probably don’t even know the difference between them and endorsements…

      2. MashaKasha

        Ohh I see. Yeah that is marginally different than en endorsement, but still.

        I’ve received emails from people asking me to write them a recommendation. So of course I threw something quick together in each case. Wouldn’t put much stock in them, though. No way can they replace an actual call for references.

        1. LoremIpsum

          Once when I asked for a reference from a professor, he did say to draft it myself as if he wrote it, and include what I felt was important. I was a little surprised, but then I thought that was smart. Particularly coming from a professor setting up a new department and editing a journal and doing research and mentoring students and all the other things that academics are asked to do – in addition to probably other graduate students with similar requests.

          Since then, I’ve drafted a reference letter for everyone that has worked with me and asked them for what they wanted to have included in it as examples of their work. I’ve given one to them, filed one, and also kept them as backup myself.

          This has come in very handy as I’m seeing a new kind of request recently: for a written reference with personalized address – and on very short notice, once it was with two days notice.

          I’m glad to give former employees whom I mentored and coached a reference, though if I didn’t have this saved this could be quite a bit of work from a standing start. Especially if it was over a year ago. I certainly hope this means they are checking all the boxes and ready to make the hire – because that’s a lot to ask of multiple people if they are not. The flip side of this is the inevitable phone tag.

      3. Zahra

        More than once, when I asked for recommendations, people asked me to write the recommendation myself. At that point, what’s the point?

        1. MashaKasha

          What? That’s just crazy talk.

          I’m kind of saddened about all this, because I know someone through an online community who worked at LinkedIn for the first few years since its inception. They worked hard, did a great job, and gave us users a reliable product. And now people are making it completely unusable with stuff like this. But what can we do, I guess that’s the human nature.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            I feel like LinkedIn has really gone downhill lately.

            It was one thing when I started getting the it’s “Jaimie’s birthday” emails from them, but lately the job boards have been flooded with volunteer positions. They won’t take them out because the groups are paying to post, even though numerous people have complained.

            1. NickelandDime

              Okay, I was totally wondering about those “volunteer” positions! I see those listings are appearing across numerous industries. I wonder why LinkedIn won’t take a stand on this? There are more of those volunteer positions than actual paying jobs sometimes!

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

                  Nope.

                  I even signed up for the one free month of their “job seeker premium” because it has advanced search options (you have to have premium to search by salary) and it is still all the volunteer opportunities.

                  I’ve noticed that these “jobs” still have an estimated salary, which leads me to believe that’s why the salary filter doesn’t work.

              1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

                It’s absolutely ridiculous. I had two go through 60+ jobs to find two actual paid positions.

                What I was told is because these organizations are paying to post these as “jobs,” so it’s not in LinkedIn’s interest to sort them out :(

              1. NickelandDime

                AAM could write a week’s worth of posts on how LinkedIn just isn’t what it used to be. I only keep up my profile because in my industry, it would look out of touch if I didn’t have a strong presence on there.

          2. mander

            I have never once seen a suggested job on Linked In that was even remotely relevant to me. I’m an archaeologist and I live in the UK. IT specialist or marketing jobs in New York or Chicago? Why do they even show these to me? Being able to use LaTex and Linux does not make me a system administrator, and having my own tiny freelance business with a Google+page does not mean I know diddly squat about marketing. Especially not the later, since it’s Google+!!

    3. Stranger than fiction

      Yeah, I’ve been asked for $50 for a background check before (and even that company seemed so shady, I didn’t go to the interview), but $350 is a lot. Regarding Linked In, the Op is talking about actual recommendations somebody writes on your behalf, not the endorsements that are just buttons anyone can click in a split second. Still, though, I think the Op is overthinking the whole reference fatigue thing, this has never even occurred to me when job searching and my references have never mentioned getting too many calls. I’d wonder about my references if they did.

    4. TootsNYC

      endorsements are different from recommendations.
      I’ve spontaneously written recommendations for people I know and admire. They’re not as worthless as the endorsements.

      They carry a small amount of weight with me (based, of course, on what they say and how credible they are). But I would always follow up with the person.

  5. FiveByFive

    It sounds like for #5, the missing piece is that the OP blew through the extra money, and therefore can’t simply pay it back. Which might also mean OP wasn’t the one that reported the overpayment in the first place. I feel badly about the reduced paychecks causing hardship, but perhaps that’s the downside to not reporting the windfall and instead spending the money.

    Perhaps that’s not how it went down, but it seems to fit the scenario.

    1. Zillah

      This seems harsh to me. It doesn’t sound like the OP realized they were getting overpaid and just chose not to say anything; it sounds like they just didn’t realize. Particularly if they’re paid hourly and those hours differ from pay period to pay period, I can see how that could happen. We also have no idea what the OP spent the money on, so the dismissive “blew through” seems a little overboard as well.

      1. Just Visiting

        TBH, I never check my direct deposit (I don’t get a paper paystub). I’m paid hourly, don’t always work a consistent number of hours per week, and I’m lucky enough to not be living paycheck to paycheck. It’s not really the employee’s job to make sure they’re being paid correctly. I think it sucks that she has to return the money at all.

        1. Liane

          Even people who do get a paper stub for DD often don’t look at it. A former boss of mine didn’t notice he’d been issued a check instead of the usual DD once, until the overdrafts started a few weeks later. Then he had to ransack his desk to find the unopened check, which he did, fortunately.

        2. Elysian

          Yeah, I’m not even hourly and I don’t look at my DD statements. Once I got a raise and they forgot to tell me about it, and it took me like 3 months to notice. Honestly, I didn’t even notice, it was my spouse who finally saw it when he was going through our joint bank account for some reason and asked “is there a reason you’re getting paid more now than at the end of last year?” That was ended up being an awkward conversation at work, while I tried to figure out if it was a raise (Why wouldn’t they tell me!?) or a mistake. If it had been a mistake I would have let it go on long enough that it would probably have been a PITA to pay back.

        3. Jazzy Red

          Sorry, Just Visiting, but it IS the employee’s responsibility to make sure the paychecks are correct. If you’re old enough to be working, you’re old enough to be an adult and keep track of your income/expenses.

          If there’s a discrepancy in a paycheck, it can be corrected quickly when it’s caught early.

          1. Green

            That’s not really fair. I’m a crazy spreadsheet person and I know when I max out on SSI etc. and my paychecks jump, but ultimately it is the employer’s job to issue the paychecks correctly. Employees typically make sure they’re not underpaid; employers make sure they’re not overpaid. Those incentives work well enough to keep the vast majority of paychecks correct. If the company makes a mistake and overpays, employees help the company correct it. But it’s still the company’s error, not the employee’s.

          2. neverjaunty

            If you’re old enough to be operating a business, you’re old enough to be making sure you’re paying your employees exactly what you owe them.

          3. Ad Astra

            I have a hard time imagining a 15-year-old poring over their paystub with a calculator to make sure the local grocery chain deducted the proper taxes from his paycheck.

            1. AnotherFed

              Really? That was one of the first things my parents taught me to do when I started my first cashier job… they also pointed out that if it was wrong, I needed to make sure it got corrected, even if it was wrong in my favor.

              1. Sunflower

                I was never taught a thing about checking paystubs . I usually checked the amount of hours worked to make sure that was right and maybe my pay rate but if extra money was going into my check, I would have never noticed. Taxes didn’t make sense to me. As a teenager, I had no clue how companies and payroll worked. If you asked me then, I would have never believed a company could accidentally pay me too much money

              2. Ad Astra

                That surprises me. Did you look up how much state and federal tax is supposed to be? Cause I wouldn’t even know that now, as an adult with access to the Internet. Granted, my parents weren’t great resources when it comes to finances, but I never would have thought to check anything on my paystub besides hours worked.

              3. Regina 2

                Same here. Not that I did it or do it now, but this was the first thing I ever learned once I started working.

                My parents tend to blame the victim for everything though, so there’s that too.

        4. CuhPow

          My paychecks are always confusing. I only check the online stub if it’s significantly less or more (~$100) of the average range. My hours change every week, as does my position each shift, and there are different differentials for different days, times, and positions as well as holidays and vacation pay. So if I make an average of $550 every two weeks, I won’t notice a DD of $470 or $630 but I’ll try to figure out why I got $300-450 or $650-750. Usually I still can’t figure out why though. I just chalk it up to more hours or higher paying shifts/positions for the pay period. I could easily see how consistently getting $75 more wouldn’t be noticeable and it can add up, and this is for a person who’s paychecks are only in the triple digits. That amount would be even less noticeable if you were in the quadruple digits, but would still add up.

      2. steve g

        I’m curious for more info. The amount actually does sound large enough to be noticed, since the op says it is going to impact their ability to pay bills for the five months (unless they’re struggling to begin with and a small tax or other error greatly changes the percent of their income that is take-home).

        It’s also a bit concerning that a few people are saying they don’t check their paychecks, in the day of online banking and online tax calculators.

        1. LBK

          It could also be that this error has been occurring for years, so trying to recoup it all in 5 months means it’s a much larger percentage per check being withheld now than was being overpaid.

          5 months seems like an odd amount of time, though, so I’m wondering if that’s the end of the fiscal year and payroll is trying to balance their books before they have to submit it to someone higher up who’s going to notice the error.

        2. Zillah

          People generally have a rough idea of what they should be paid, so they would notice a significant deviation from that. However, while most people have a very good idea of what’s in their checking account, they don’t scrutinize every paycheck. In a lot of ways, it’s actually easier to miss the mistake with online banking than with a physical paycheck, and I’m not sure what online tax calculators have to do with it.

          1. steve g

            As per online calculators, you can now verify that your accounting is taking out enough, instead of taking their word that they are

            1. Zillah

              Yeah, I’m not sure I know anyone who checks each paycheck to make sure that their work is taking out the appropriate amount of money in taxes.

              1. steve g

                Well I don’t think anyone does every year either! But we did in at my last office when one of the payroll people seemed confused about state taxes up hear in NY and NJ so we checked that the other tax deductions made sense

              2. Jules

                Me!

                But then I’m one of those nerds who always picks up the payslips as soon as they’re available, obsessively checks every number, and then files them neatly away and stores them for years and years and years.

                On the other hand, because I have online banking, my paper bank statements often sit unopened for months (found one behind the sofa the other day from 2009…still in it’s virgin, unopened envelope!), so clearly YMMV!

            2. Green

              Online calculators only really work if you’re salaried and readjust after every bonus/award, etc. And assumes you keep track of your other deductions (PAC membership, life & disability insurance, health insurances, 401k, charitable donations deducted by payroll).

            1. Anon the Great and Powerful

              Or commission. Some employers try to make their commission structures as convoluted as possible, so good luck figuring out what you’re supposed to be paid.

        3. Ad Astra

          I’m curious, too. I wonder if maybe the OP is paid on commission, which would explain why inconsistent paychecks didn’t seem like cause for concern. It’s also possible that OP mistakenly believed that he’s not required to repay the amount if it was his employer’s mistake, so he spent it.

        4. TootsNYC

          well, at certain economic “price points,” things can be VERY tight.

          Even a clawback of $20 can really hurt when you lose it for some people.

          And remember that even if they claw back $20 per paycheck, she’s not going to be losing $20 from her previous cash-flow pattern; she’s going to lose $40. She’ll bring home checks that are $40 less per paycheck.

          It’s not just that she’s going to be paying money back; her take-home check amount is going to drop as well.

          Also, they want to take this back over 5 months–which to me indicates a pretty big amount!
          So how long as it been going on?

          OP, please find an employment lawyer. Almost all lawyers will do a first consultation for free, and then they may even suggest sources for ongoing help if their own rates are too high for you.

      3. Ezri

        We also don’t know how long OP has been getting overpaid. If the paycheck was wrong by a smaller amount for an extended period, it would be harder to realize unless you scrutinize your paychecks. We all know you *should* verify your paychecks, but realistically most of us don’t unless something seems wildly off. At least I don’t. :P

      4. AnotherFed

        I agree that was a little blunt, but it is absolutely an employee’s responsibility to review their timecards and paychecks and make sure they are accurate and consistent. Yes, the company should get it right in the first place, but hte employee should definitely verify. That’s even more true if the employee is hourly, works inconsistent hours from week to week, is sometimes eligible for overtime but not always, or anything else that could cause variation.

        I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but I do have an inconsistent work schedule so every payday, I check that the hours and amounts are what I expect them to be so that if there’s an error it can get fixed ASAP.

        1. TootsNYC

          I don’t know that, with my salaried position, I could be accurate in figuring out exactly, to the $40, what my weekly salary should be. I get a raise in the middle of the year, and it gets divided funny. So I can’t just do a simple division.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s surprisingly common for people to not pay much attention to their pay stubs and assume they’re being paid the correct amount (which isn’t a crazy assumption to make). And a lot of people make their spending decisions by how much is in their checking account, and wouldn’t necessarily have “blown through” a “windfall,” but rather just spent money that they assumed was theirs.

      1. Cassandra

        I inadvertently caused headaches for our new HR/payroll person by letting myself be underpaid without noticing. After a stressful half-year of taking on a lot of semi-random extra work that I was to be paid for… I just didn’t notice when I wasn’t paid for some of it.

        Our new HR/payroll person is wonderful and worked ceaselessly to fix the error… but yes, I completely concur that Not Watching the Paycheck Closely Enough is a thing.

        1. mander

          I never really bother to check, either, so long as I have an approximately correct amount. In my current new job I was bumped up from trainee to “regular” after the first month, but because we worked overtime on that first project I was expecting my paychecks to decrease even though I got a raise. It took me about six weeks to realise they were still paying me the trainee rate and get it fixed. Honestly, I’ve been unemployed for so long that having any money in my account at all is still a novelty, so I didn’t really examine it all that closely.

      2. Green

        With online systems you have to log in to a separate system to look at a paystub. I usually look at my first one at a job and then anything really unusual and leave it at that.

        1. Mpls

          I’d suggest looking at it again anytime benefits change (if you have them) to be sure deductions are happening correctly.

      3. Us, Too

        Our bonus structure is pretty much impossible for any normal human being to figure out the payout amount for. I tried it once and despite having my boss, HR and the person responsible for the bonus program in the same conversation, it took WEEKS of back and forth to get an answer on how $x ended up in my checking account on payout day.

        Given how hard it was the first time, I now assume the amount is correct each quarter provided it’s within a few hundred bucks of the anticipated amount I “guess” in my head.

        It’s entirely possible that this amount has been off by thousands of dollars over the years. And I’d have no way of knowing. Really!

        1. steve g

          I urge you to be more scrupulous in checking #s. I’ve done commissions at three companies (I’m in sales ops) and there were system errors that always caused a few percent of sales to not appear on reports. For example, at one place, reps did multiple sales at a site but had to make seperate sale entries for each on that was just a date and one sentence. They sometimes combined sales in one entry because in other systems, you can see that there were multiple sales – but – commission reports were tied to system #1. So credit for the second sale was frequently getting missed.

          Also, employees sometimes created new accounts for various reason, and their I’D would thus get tied to the new account – not the sales reps – and the sales reps code/credit would get deleted from commission reports.

          And….then there were times when accounts were cancelled then resold, but “cancelled” was still the status being pulled…..etc etc

          Keep asking for details! It’s not your fault they can’t give you a simple breakdown in an excel. And if you discover an error, it probably impacts everyone and you’d be the savior for pointing it out

      4. FiveByFive

        Just to be clear, I used “windfall” as the opposite of the OP’s word “hardship”, given that the overpayment and repayment are the same amounts. But of course we don’t have any more details on the amounts involved or the duration of the overpayment.

        1. LBK

          They might be the same overall amount but if they’re trying to recoup it over a shorter period than the amount of time the overpayment was occurring, that could certainly be more of a hardship than the “windfall” she was receiving, especially if this has been going on for years.

        2. steve g

          I agree it’s not harsh as people say, but it’s not logical that you don’t notice the extra money, but it is so much that it causes such hardship when deducted. Sounds like having it both ways, and this impacts the tone of the conversation they’d have with boss

          but as per lbk’s and others saying it could have been going on for years – does anyone know if there is a statute of limitations on such true ups? It seems unfair to go back to another tax year since the books got closed, unless it was a gross mistake (like when past co processed payroll twice and we all got two checks!!)

          1. Anon the Great and Powerful

            If OP has been getting a small overpayment for a long time, like an extra $0.25 an hour for the last couple of years, the extra money could have had no difference on OP’s quality of life but add up to a lot of money now.

          2. LBK

            It could also easily be a hardship if the OP is paycheck-to-paycheck. An extra $25 per check isn’t enough to go out on wild vacations, but it could be enough to force you to choose if you’re paying for electricity or gas this month.

        3. TootsNYC

          also remember–the difficulty is going to be heightened because not only will she be paying it back, she’ll ALSO be bringing in less pay.

          Let’s say she was paid $200 extra per paycheck, and they decide to take it back out at the same rate.
          Her next paycheck is not going to be $200 lower.
          It’s going to be $400 lower.

    3. MK

      If the amount was small, it’s not crazy that the OP didn’t notice; many wouldn’t notice, say, 50 euros more each month. And that is a sum that is easy to spend without realising it, but can accumulate over time.

      What I find odd is that the company won’t disclose the sum. This should have been the first point of the conversation “Over the past year, we have overpaid you by X amount of money. Can you repay it immediately? If not, what repayment method can we work out?”. And the reasonable way would be to either have the money deducted from future paychecks or for the OP to pay the money in installments to the c0mpany; I see no sane reason for the company to have access to the OP’s bank account to withdraw money at will (what might have been reasonable would be to have the OP give an order to his bank to transfer Z amount each month to a company account for a period of time). Frankly, I am not sure all banks will accept such a “contract”.

      1. Violetta

        The bank definitely would not be on board with this scheme. The situation as described does not meet any normal criteria for a third party mandate and to avoid risk/disputes afterwards (i.e. when the company takes out an amount you are not OK with), they’d refuse to do it. They’d probably ask you why you can’t work out a payment plan and to be honest, it’s very fishy to me that the company would not go with a logical option such as that but rather come up with this weird ‘contract’.

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        +1

        I see no sane reason for the company to have access to the OP’s bank account to withdraw money at will

      3. I'm a Little Teapot

        Ooh, good catch. Yeah, the company refusing to tell you how much you owe and asking for access to your bank account? I think they’re scamming you, just as much as OP1’s “employer” is.

        1. MK

          I think it’s unlikely that they are scamming the OP to get money. I do wonder, though, if maybe this is part of some convuluted way to cover up the mistake from the higher-ups.

          1. RMRIC0

            That’s how I read the situation, someone on their end messed up and now they’re trying to cover their butts (rather than thinking it through).

        2. LBK

          I highly doubt it’s a scam, but I think they’re scrambling to CTA and are trying to think of as many ways to recoup the money as fast as possible.

          There is also “finance fatigue” where people who work with money all the time start to lose touch with its concrete meaning, so someone could just be running numbers in a spreadsheet and deciding what the right payment plan is without thinking about the fact that, y’know, OP has bills to pay.

    4. BritCred

      Mostly these kind of things are “we were paying you $2 an hour too much” “we paid you overtime you didn’t work three months in a row” and not “We paid you double your normal salary one month” or “we paid you your bonus twice”. Its more likely that OP was receiving a bit more each month for a while than received a lump sum that should have stood out severely.

      As others have said they usually need your agreement on the repayments and how much it is per month so make them lay out all the figures in writing OP! (Including how/what the error they made was).

    5. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Anymore, it would be easy to be overpaid at our place, and never notice.

      1) we only do direct deposit
      2) we eliminated paper statements and only have online payroll statements

      If you don’t proactively check your bank account and payroll statement online, every payday, and compare that to what you believe you should be getting, how easy would it be to miss your “windfall”? Especially if it was an extra $25 or $50 a pay period over a number of months.

      My husband watches our bank account but I never, ever pull up my payroll statement. They could overpay me for awhile and I’d not catch on (unless mad cash). If they underpaid me and I suddenly couldn’t make the electric bill, I’d dig deeper.

      1. RMRIC0

        Also, if the hours you’re clocking vary (like you only occasionally do overtime) it can make it hard to notice over/under at a glance – especially with payroll deductions.

        1. AVP

          Particularly when companies have convoluted pay periods – I pick up occasional shifts for extra money at a local place, and even with plenty of notice I can never remember whether a shift I worked fell into one two-week period or a different one when I look at the pay stub. It would be easy to get overpaid by a little bit each month and not notice.

    6. Colette

      I suspect many people know their gross pay but very few people independently figure out what their net pay should be. I know I rely on my employer to figure that out. If I normally get paid $x but I start getting paid $y, I will look to see what changed, but if $x was wrong to start, I won’t notice.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        Yep there’s a whole list of deductions from gross pay that will affect your take home pay, and I never look at mine to closely I know roughly what my pay should be but not down to the penny.

        1. Merry and Bright

          Especially as (in the UK at least) the NI and tax deductions can very slightly each month depending how the calculation works out.

      2. LBK

        I don’t know what my deductions should be, per se, but I know what the net amount I usually get is, so it would be pretty obvious if I suddenly got a different amount. If they’ve been overpaying the OP all along, though, I don’t know how you would catch that.

        1. Kyrielle

          That, and if OP’s pay varies based on hours worked per pay period, OP may not even have a “usual amount” to expect – as long as it’s in the ballpark of what seems reasonable, it’d pass inspection. (And I’ll be honest: I don’t even glance at what goes in for months at a time, sometimes.)

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        Agreed. I had an employer that forgot to pay city tax– and I didn’t realize it until that hefty tax bill showed up. Was it my fault for not checking? Sure, but it was something that never would have occurred to me to look into.

      4. BRR

        I had something like that happen. Apparently in my state after you pay a certain amount of one type of tax it lowers (or something like that). I called payroll to ask why my net pay was different and it looks like something with X tax. They said they would have to check and get back to me. Out of the thousands of university employees, I feel like I was the only one to call and ask why my net pay was different as the payroll person who was in charge of the phone didn’t know.

    7. Bend & Snap

      That’s pretty harsh. My paychecks are all over the place with bonuses, monetary awards, random perks and reimbursements and changes to my benefits, so I may not have any idea if it happened to me.

      I don’t think anyone who knew they were overpaid is going to go on a spending spree.

      1. FiveByFive

        Oh, I know people who would absolutely do that. Not saying the OP did, but plenty of people would do that.

    8. MashaKasha

      I was going to say something like that, except without the blaming the OP part. I think it might’ve been an honest oversight.

      Happened to me at OldJob three years ago. But the difference was that, since my divorce, money was significantly tighter than when we were a two-income family, so for the last five years, I’ve been watching every penny going in and out of my bank account. Checking my bank and cc accounts almost daily, keeping a spreadsheet, etc.

      Three years ago, all of a sudden I see a random paycheck in my account. It’s not my payday, I was paid a week ago. I called HR/accounting right away. They told me it was “an off-cycle paycheck”. I asked them what that was and why I had received one; they got angry and told me to talk to my supervisor. My supervisor knew nothing of any off-cycle checks.

      You know what I did? I moved that money to a separate account and I did not touch it, because I knew they’d come back for it. I also knew that, with my expenses being what they are, if I didn’t hold on to that money, I’d have nothing to give them when they’d turn up to ask for it back.

      They took it back when I left. They gave me my last pay plus the pay for unused vacation, MINUS the extra check. I was not in the least surprised. I knew I’d have to give that money back sooner or later.

      Not to blame OP in the least, just want to reiterate the importance of constant vigilance when it comes to money. There’s no way an employer will give us extra money for free. If you get any, that’s not yours and they will come back for it, even if they claim they won’t (like mine did.)

      1. MashaKasha

        Oh, and I would NOT give them access to my bank account. Like others said above, they screwed up once, who’s to say they won’t screw up again and take more out than OP owes them.

          1. MashaKasha

            Totally – I somehow hadn’t thought of it before, but now that so many people mention it, yes the tax part absolutely needs to be taken care of.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

              You can file an amended return if it becomes a tax issue.

              If the amount you inadvertently received is taxed at a higher bracket, you might be able to file amended returns… not sure….

              Just note that sometimes tax issues come out in the wash, so to speak — and sometimes THEY DON’T. We had a long discussion about this in another thread – where an employee got a retroactive raise in a lump sum — and because it was on the top of her/his income, that lump sum was taxed at a higher rate, and it doesn’t “come out in the wash”.

      2. SherryD

        Ugh. I have a similar story. When My office was bought out by a new company, all the commission employees (who always have variable income) received too-big-to-be-real pay cheques. They complained. Management and payroll denied it. Finally, weeks later, payroll recognized the error and started deductions to correct it. The whole process was stressful for the overpaid employees.

        Three cheers for payroll personnel (and management) who get things right!

    9. oh noes

      this happened to me while I was working an hourly job. I had two different positions that paid two different amounts and I worked different hours each week. Apparently, the hourly rate got switched or miscalculated. I thought I was shorted one week, and contacted HR. I was then told that I had been overpaid by like $800. I was in law school and living pay check to pay check. So this was a huge surprise to me. after multiple calculations by me, my boss and HR, the total amount of overpayment was actually $500– not as high as they originally said. I think that it’s completely possible that OP did not know that he/she was overpaid and there are a number of reasons or scenarios how that could happen.

      1. MashaKasha

        Good point, OP’s boss, HR, and accounting need to do the multiple calculations too to verify the amount owed (that they also should disclose, wth is it with not telling OP what it is?!) They were off once, they could be off again! Five months’ worth of pay is a ton of money, no matter how low your income is. I wouldn’t take their word for it.

    10. Jubilance

      Wow, you assumed a lot. It could be that the person was coded into the payroll system at the wrong pay rate, and thus has been overpaid over the course of the year. Just a small difference in pay rate can add up over time, and it doesnt show up as a “windfall”.

    11. KellyK

      A lot of people have already pointed out ways it would be easy to miss this. Another is that some companies do payroll twice a month, rather than every two weeks or every week. This means that the hours you work varies a fair bit. When I had a job that did this, a pay period could be anywhere from 72 hours to 96 hours, which meant that I got used to having varying amounts in my pay. I’d notice a huge difference, but when your hours can vary by 20-30%, it would take a large overpayment to really register.

      1. FiveByFive

        Sure, things like that can happen. But the cynic in me knows that if the reverse happens and people are shortchanged in their paycheck, the immediate reaction is that the employer is a lying thieving jerk who has violated the law and should be brought to justice. But a mistake the other way garners a shrug and a meh and a “who looks at their paycheck anyway?”

        Certainly not accusing the OP of this. Just an observation. But like I said, I guess I’m just a cynic.

        1. CMT

          Because there’s a very obvious power dynamic. It’s not wrong to give an individual employee more benefit of the doubt than a company that should have systems in place to issue payroll correctly.

          1. FiveByFive

            But not every company is Wal-Mart. A whole lot of small businesses are struggling just like a whole lot of workers are struggling. Anyone can make a mistake.

            1. Zillah

              Sure, but just because your company isn’t Wal-Mart doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a power dynamic that pretty much always favors the employer, small business or no – and no matter how small your business is, it’s your responsibility to issue payroll correctly. There are laws that heavily penalize employers for not doing so for a reason.

        2. TootsNYC

          It’s not just the power dynamic. It’s that the employer INITIATES the transaction.

          The person who starts the thing has a greater responsibility to get it right.

          Not to mention, they have people whose job it is to do it right. It’s a core part of their work assignment.

          And plenty of people say of companies, “it was a mistake.” Our OP, indeed, is doing that very thing!

    12. YouHaveBeenWarned

      This happened to a coworker at my workplace. He was promoted, and his pay went from salary paid twice a month to mostly salary with a small profit-sharing component paid once a month. Someone put in the wrong code for his job description, and he wound up being overpaid for about six months…..by six thousand dollars a month! He didn’t notice the error because of the profit-sharing component and the crazy change in taxes. So it is possible, even with a bonkers amount of money.

  6. Chocolate Teapot

    5. I had to repay a sum of money to my previous employer and under local law here, there is a maximum percentage which can be deducted per month. It was discussed with HR and I had a month’s grace before the deductions started.

    1. TootsNYC

      #5: talk to a lawyer! Lawyers will often give you the first consultation free.

      Or, call the Labor Department for your state. There is help there as well.

  7. Apollo Warbucks

    #1 This really does sound like a scam either you’ll be conned or robbed I wouldn’t even consider showing up it I were you.

    1. CrazyCatLady

      +1 I honestly wouldn’t even go, sounds super sketchy, especially if you can’t even find record of them existing.

  8. Shell

    OP#1, I think the only compelling reason to go to that “interview” with that much cash is if you inform the police beforehand and they set up a sting to catch the would-be robbers or con artists.

    Since the above scenario is unrealistic, ditch the interview and don’t look back.

    1. mander

      I think I’d notify the police anyway. They might be very interested in catching people running scams like this, though I might wait a bit if the scammer has your personal details and is likely to link you to the report.

  9. UKAnon

    #5 – if money is really a problem for you, and you don’t think they’ll be amenable to reasonable pay back options, could you explain that you simply don’t have the ability to repay in hard cash and instead negotiate a different sort of payback? You’ll give up X many hours of holiday or pay X amount more on your insurance premiums next year or forgo some other benefit equivalent to the amount owed? As somebody above noted, you’ll also want to check out the tax implications of all of this; you’ll already have paid tax on the income, so as it was their mistake you may want to see if in the final form of agreement they need to take slightly less than the amount owed to cover taxes paid. And don’t let them go into your account, all kinds of things could go wrong.

  10. The Small Assassin

    #5: Don’t sign that contract that gives them access to your bank account! Not unless your lawyer tells you to.

    Don’t let them intimidate you. They’re the ones who screwed up and have caused you a big hassle. Speaking of which, you may want to ask them what kind of assistance they will offer in straightening out your taxes. And – this being a money-thing, they should be willing and able document every bit of it down to the penny. Make ’em do their jobs.

    1. neverjaunty

      This. Also, OP #5, you should make darn sure they DID actually overpay you. As opposed to, say, somebody in accounting playing games with payroll.

  11. Patty

    Re overpayment, I would suggest pay deductions that would take 2 to 3 times as long to repay as they took to figure out (and stop) the overpayment. This began as their error, not yours.

    1. MK

      It’s possible that the OP is more interested in getting out of debt to their employer (which is what this is) than making a point. Because it was the employer’s mistake, any arrangement should have a time frame that wouldn’t cause the OP discomfort (within reason).

  12. Apollo Warbucks

    #5 I’m a bit confused from your letter you say:

    I cannot have all my checks for five months straight to be taken away

    Have your company really really suggested taking your entire cheque every month for the next 5 months without leaving you anything to live on, or are they suggesting that the payback period is 5 months and if you’ve been over paid 5 months wages WTF have the payroll department been doing?

    They can not take your entire cheque that is not reasonable at all and I hope that isn’t the case.

    As for what you can do, speak to someone senior in HR / payroll if you have only been dealing with the person who processes payroll they might be putting more pressure on you to repay the amount to hide their error, also get your boss involved so they are aware of the situation.

    The next thing that you should think about is a budget so you can see how much you can easily commit to repaying the overpayment stand firm and do not over extent yourself stand firm and only agree to what you can manage without undue hardship to yourself.

    1. Myrin

      I’m confused about this, as well.

      On the one hand, it sounds like the company really doesn’t want to leave anything for the OP for five months – the part you quoted as well as <i"but looks like they want to cut all of my checks for five months straight" -, on the other hand, it sounds like they will deduct just x amount/x% from the paycheck – “they did not mention how much they will deduct from my paychecks” – with the last one obviously being the normal and reasonable approach because I honestly can’t imagine a company seriously suggesting someone goes with zero money for five months. (Granted, this could be a language problem with me misunderstanding but being very clear for a native speaker.) If that is the case, though, a second thing I have to wonder is how long this has been going on – that’s a lot of money that would have accumulated to reach the actual amount of what you earn in five months, another reason I feel like I must be misunderstanding somehow.

      1. Alter_ego

        My only thought is that because the company hasn’t told them how much they owe, they may have just said “we’re going to take enough out of your bank account every month to reduce your balance owed to us to 0 in 5 months”. So not even the lw knows if it’s going to be their entire paycheck every month, or just a percentage, or what.

    2. BRR

      Yeah that was what stuck out to me the most. Who would reasonably think an employee could go 5 months without pay? If I was the LW I would specifically let the company know they do NOT have permission to go into my account. Make them repeat it after you if you have to. You might also consider going to change your account number at the bank if the company does direct deposit and getting paper checks, 5 months of salary is nothing to fool around with and I would consider ensuring my company does not have my bank information just to be safe

      The OP should go back through their pay stubs and see what happened, ask for what amount the company came up with, and suggest a reasonable payback schedule via deductions from their pre-tax income, which might need to be semi aggressive because you still owe money (aka not 5 dollars a month), and ask for it in writing with penalties if they mess up how much they take out.

    3. fposte

      I wondered if the OP meant five months of checks having money taken away from them, rather than five months of checks just gone.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        That seems more likely, than withholding all the OPs pay for several months, I just wondered from the wording if that what was being suggested my the company.

    4. Erin

      I think she was exaggerating or didn’t mean it literally when she said “I cannot have all my checks for five months straight to be taken away.” I think she meant “I cannot have all my checks *in the amount they usually are* for five months straight to be taken away.” She otherwise specified that the amount is unknown/undisclosed.

      If I’m wrong, good God that’s outrageous.

      1. anonymouse

        Cynical me is wondering if this employee is paid under the table. That might explain the over-the-top imbalance of power/illegitimate demands from the employer.

  13. Three Thousand

    #1 From the link provided, the $350 is likely part of a scam to get money from desperate unemployed people by getting them to take a bogus security course they don’t need. I really don’t know how some people sleep at night.

      1. Windchime

        True. I have a relative who is a criminal, and he truly doesn’t see anything wrong with the criminal things he does. His viewpoint is that he needs the X more than the people who he is stealing it from; besides, they have money and can just buy a new X. He honestly doesn’t seem to think there is anything wrong with what he does. He only thinks about the benefit to himself.

  14. NickelandDime

    #1: This is why I quit posting my resume on those online job boards. I never got calls for anything legitimate – it was always some crap. Unless it’s a job board for a specific industry – and even then you may get a few bad apples – I don’t see where it’s worth the trouble. How many LEGITIMATE companies, not asking for money, have contacted you, OP#1?

    1. xarcady

      When I was on unemployment, I was required to post a resume on the state’s job board. I was contacted twice–both times it was a scam, trying to get personal info out of the recipient–passwords, account numbers, that sort of thing.

      Fortunately, all the emails were clearly fake. Really, you sent an email at 2 am and there is someone named Susan Blake waiting *right now* to Skype with me and offer me a job? With no clue what the job might be? And have my Facebook user name and password and my bank account and routing numbers handy?

      Um, nope.

      1. NickelandDime

        Ugh, thank God I didn’t have to do that in my state. Unemployment offices give such awful advice anyway – call 30 times a day to let them know you’re interested, knock on doors and hand people resumes, etc., – I wouldn’t trust any type of job board they would provide. I also ignored their resume writing advice.

        I think I might have pointed out no real employers are going to their crummy job board, but plenty of scammers are.

    2. Sunflower

      Indeed is a pretty legit site although I do see scammy type postings on there from time to time. It’s fine to apply to postings but really is crucial to not post your resume for everyone to see. When I first graduated I thought ‘of course I want to do this! This way anyone can find ME for a job instead of the other way around.’ Of course I got nothing but scams or commission only jobs which I was not interested in so I took it down.

      The biggest giveaways that they are scams are 1. Seems to good to be true(fake marketing jobs post a lot of ‘sports marketing/event planning/public relations’ entry level, training, no experience required) and 2. They contact me very quickly and/or follow up a ton and claim they need to hire someone ASAP. If someone gets back to you right away, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a scam but I did apply to one job and they followed up at least once a day for a week and told me they need to fill the spot ASAP and I’ll miss out if I don’t interview now. Real jobs will email you and forget you exist if you don’t respond.

      1. Three Thousand

        Those sales jobs disguised as “entry-level marketing” or “business development” or “management training” are pure evil. I went on one of those fake interviews right out of college and literally went door to door shadowing a guy trying to sell office supplies. This was before I knew how to speak up and tell someone it wasn’t going to work and not to waste our time.

        1. Smilingswan

          I did this too. I quit halfway through the day and sat in a local pub waiting for them to drive me back to the main office at the end of the day (it was an hour away).

      2. Ad Astra

        I made the mistake of listing my resume publicly and had the same experience. At one point, a woman called me for a phone screen and gave a long, scripted speech about an entry-level job selling insurance. It had nothing to do with my skills, interests, or experience, but she ended her spiel with “Doesn’t that sound like an opportunity where you’d excel?” She had woken me up from a nap, so the best answer I could come up with was “Uh, honestly, not really.”

  15. xarcady

    #5. Don’t give them access to your bank account. There is no reason they need that.

    Another thing to consider in all this, along with the useful advice others have posted, is that we are coming up on the Traditional End Of Year Holiday Season. And that usually comes with extra expenses for food and gifts, if nothing else.

    If you have children you need to buy Christmas or Hanukkah gifts for, if you traditionally host 25 extended family members for Thanksgiving dinner every year, you may need every penny of your usual paycheck. You might try bargaining for lower repayments in October, November and December, so that you can accommodate your usual holiday expenses. It’s certainly not a time when many people could afford a paycheck that won’t even pay their monthly bills.

    And why 5 months? Is that the end of the company’s fiscal year? Because you could also try stretching out the number of months it takes to repay the overage, with smaller payments every month.

    I wouldn’t agree to anything until they showed me how much extra I was paid, and explained how that happened and how they will prevent that from happening in the future, and how much they want to deduct from each paycheck.

    1. Purple Jello

      >>I wouldn’t agree to anything until they showed me how much extra I was paid, and explained how that happened and how they will prevent that from happening in the future, and how much they want to deduct from each paycheck.<<

      This. It should come through Payroll, and check your paystub to ensure they're deducting pre-tax funds since you already paid taxes on it.

  16. kdizzle

    If nothing else comes from #5, Please please please use this as an opportunity to check your stub or DD and raise all discrepancy in pay issues immediately.

    I inherited a situation when I started a new job where a woman was overpaid $10,000 per check for 5 checks (2.5 months worth; and her salary was only $50k per year to begin with). Guess what…she spent the money and waited for someone else to notice the mistake. She said that she didn’t ever check her DD and hadn’t noticed.

    Well, it took her 5 years to pay it back (with her kicking and screaming all the way) and her reputation was basically ruined because no one believed that she didn’t notice the error. I’m so glad I got out of that job…talk about cray cray land.

      1. kdizzle

        Well, first it was, “I never check my account”

        Then it became, “We were moving around a lot of money because we were about to buy a house, so I never noticed.”

        Based on the other behavior I witnessed from this lady in my time there…she noticed the increase. She absolutely noticed.

        1. kdizzle

          Though I must admit, I have no idea what her end game was. She’s not going to go on getting an extra $10k per check forever…someone WILL notice eventually. And then what? Just say, “Oops! Our bad….go ahead and keep the money.”

          1. BRR

            With her salary vs the extra, yeah right. I make around $50K a year and I’m not sure how I would not notice $10K in my bi-weekly paycheck.

          2. Three Thousand

            She might have fantasized/hoped she had gotten a raise and no one had told her, and didn’t want to verify that in case it did turn out to be a mistake. She probably made herself believe it after a while.

    1. JGray

      I agree with you that everyone needs to check the stub or DD to make sure there aren’t errors. I can understand if you only have electronic statements now checking them every time but I would as often as I could. You have a wonderful example of how some people will just take advantage of an overage whereas other times its just a mistake is so slight no one realizes that it is happening or you realize its happening and try to get it corrected but no one will help you with it.

  17. Not Karen

    Can I be honest I’m getting a little tired of these “but I have bills!” excuses for refusing to payback money/asking for a raise/negotiating for a higher salary. Everybody has bills. It is not your employer’s fault how much those bills are. And most of them are probably wants, not needs.

    1. J.B.

      The OP does have bills and can’t have an entire paycheck taken away (or an unknown amount of money without being able to plan for it.) Generally when people write to this column they are processing their needs and trying to find a good way to present to coworkers/managers. While you wouldn’t tell your manager “give me a raise because I have bills to pay” it is absolutely part of your planning, and continually accepting being underpaid doesn’t get you anywhere in the long run.

    2. Jubilance

      Wow, that’s an assumption. How are you to know that’s someone’s bills aren’t necessary? Did you become the arbiter of bill worthiness? People have bills, and people work to have money, not just for the joy of working.

    3. Kathlynn

      So, do you think cost of living raises are a bad idea. What about raising minimum wage. Do you think people deserve to make a living wage? And are you aware of how high it is, and how much it fluctuates, depending on where you live, and social expectations. Are you aware of tuition costs, and the large loans many students take to get a degree. And how large the monthly payments can be? A person could easily have $2000 I’m bills, just from rent/morgage payments and student loans. Even easier when you add in car payments, insurance, and house bill, phone bills. Easily, very easily.

      1. MsChanandlerBong

        I need to make almost $4,000 this month just to cover the things we HAVE to pay. Our ONLY extra expense is $8.00 per month for Netflix. The rest is rent, student loans, medical bills, groceries, gas for the car, gas and electric bills, water, sewer, car insurance, car payment, renter’s insurance, trash, toiletries/household items (toilet paper and such), and debt repayment for the debt I accumulated when my kidneys were failing and I was unable to work for more than a month. Aside from Netflix, not one of these things is a want.

    4. Erin

      I think you’re missing the point. She’s not refusing to pay back the erroneous amount; in fact, she literally stated, “I do understand it’s an error and I’m willing to pay it back.”

      The issue is the OP is looking at having an *undisclosed* amount withdrawn from either paychecks or bank account for five months. Not knowing how much is being withdrawn is absolutely cause for concern when it comes to bill-paying, and reasonable people would understand that.

      1. Sunflower

        This, plus the undisclosed amount is a MAJOR red flag. I can’t understand why the company won’t/can’t tell OP how much needs to be given back. That is incredibly unfair and I’d sooner quit a job and let them try to take me to court before I gave them authority to take an undsiclosed amount of money back from me

    5. LBK

      This comment seems to completely miss the point – if the OP can’t pay their bills due to their employer’s error, that is absolutely the employer’s fault.

    6. Ann O'Nemity

      I agree with you on the salary negotiation part. But not on OP #5’s situation, especially since it was the company’s mistake and the OP didn’t notice.

    7. Ad Astra

      But it is your employer’s fault that they overpaid you. Being inflexible about the terms of repayment is a really bad way to treat an employee that you value even just a little bit, and I’m a tiny bit surprised there are no laws protecting OP from unreasonable deductions. “Please don’t dock half my pay for 5 months because I have bills to pay” is an extremely reasonable request.

    8. Amber Rose

      That is both incredibly ignorant and entirely inappropriate for this situation.

      I make enough money to pay my bills (all of which are needs). I wouldn’t if they started docking my pay, and it IS the LW employer’s fault for screwing up in the first place.

      Maybe go find someone else to take that chip in your shoulder out on. :|

    9. Pictogram

      Wow. You are making a lot of assumptions here, and coming off as very entitled.

      most of them are probably wants, not needs
      This is something I hear tossed about a lot to describe the poor, the young, and increasingly the middle class. As wages have stagnated and rent, food, gas, and transportation has risen. The victims of the economic downfall are increasingly being blamed for their situations.

      What those bills really are
      Rent alone is 40% of my income. 40%! And I’m not living in a luxury apartment in LA or NYC. I’m living in the cheapest most run down apartments of a small mid-west town. Most affordability calculators don’t want you to spend more than 30% on rent.

      I’m also incredibly lucky to be making $50,000 a year in salary. I worked hard in college, brushed up my STEM skills and i got one of the good jobs. But this “good” job isn’t enough to get ahead in life.

      Rent, food, transportation and student loan pay back amounts to 70% of my income.
      Add electricity, internet, a (non-smart) cell phone, medical debt paydown, and laundry and you’ve got 90% of my income gone each month.

      I spend less than 2% on entertainment and I set the other 8% aside for emergencies. Newsflash, that 8% set aside has only added up to $200 in my savings because flat tires, vehicle registration, and other as needed/unexpected expenses crop up.

      1. Erin

        Yeah. Just one of many, many possible scenarios for the OP.

        Assuming she’s spending the majority of her income on wants over needs is preposterous unless it’s in the sense of, I *want* to have a roof over my head.

    10. Not Karen

      Wow guys. When did I ever say people don’t deserve a living wage? I said everybody has bills. Living wage should be enough to cover necessary bills. If you say YOU deserve more because YOU have bills, you are assuming everyone else doesn’t have bills. They do. What makes you so extra deserving?

      I’d read nearly every piece of financial literature I can find. They all agree that overspending and lifestyle inflation are rampant. This isn’t something I’m just making up.

      1. LBK

        I’m confused how this is related to the actual letter, though. This post has nothing to do with raises or offer negotiations.

        1. Ad Astra

          Yeah, that’s my real issue with this. “I have bills to pay” is not a convincing argument for a raise, but that’s not what we’re talking about. The problem is that this company screwed up and is now trying to get its money back in a way that will cause the OP significant financial hardship. “I have bills to pay” is a pretty good argument against signing over 5 months of paychecks, and it’s a really good reason to ask for Alison’s advice.

      2. fposte

        Financial literature isn’t really a good place to get a sociological picture, for one thing, so the fact that your writers feel this doesn’t mean it’s true. It may be true among their clientele, who are a particular swath of workers (and even there their confirmation bias is likely to be an issue), but that’s not the same thing as universal.

        Additionally, what you’re saying about the living wage doesn’t really make sense. First, nobody’s guaranteed a living wage–they’re guaranteed, for most jobs, *minimum* wage, which isn’t the same thing and which doesn’t always cover necessary bills. And it sounds like you’re saying that having your paycheck reduced to minimum wage should be no hardship–which would mean you think it’s irresponsible to spend more than $15k a year no matter how many people you have to feed. And that’s just weird–it’s one thing to advocate for living below your means, but why should people eternally live on poverty expenses when they could buy fresh vegetables and get new shoes for their kids?

        1. Elizabeth West

          Yeah, really–minimum wage hasn’t been a living wage for a LOOOOOOOOOONG time now. See Mike C.’s comment below.

          P.S.–frozen veggies have more nutrients and are cheaper. :)

            1. LBK

              I didn’t mind it until I started using bagged raw spinach – live changing!

              Now, my realm qualm is with whoever bags frozen broccoli. I don’t want to eat the stalks!

      3. neverjaunty

        Actually, yeah, it is. Because your comment has nothing whatsoever to do with the LW’s letter; it’s just an excuse you’re using to rush in and bleat about how much you think other people are foolish and greedy.

      4. Mookie

        This isn’t something I’m just making up.

        Heritage Foundation newsletters don’t count as primary sources in the real world, thankfully.

    11. Mike C.

      Maybe if wages hadn’t remained stagnant for the past 40 years while companies hold on to record amounts of cash while screaming about all the taxes they don’t have to pay this would make some sense.

    12. CMT

      Didn’t your mother ever tell you if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? Your comment doesn’t add to the discussion *at all*.

    13. TootsNYC

      not to mention–in this situation, in terms of the cash flow she has adjusted to, her income is going to go down, AND she will also pay back the overage.

      So, let’s assume she was paid $200 extra every week for five months, $2,200 a month. They want to “claw back” $200 a week. So, her paycheck will be $2,000 a month once it’s “right-sized.” But she has to pay back $200 a month. That means she’ll be bringing home $1,800 instead of the $2,200 she thought was her rightful pay. A $400 difference, not a $200 difference, in terms of comparative cash flow.

      She thought that was her money.

  18. Anx

    I am not so much alarmed that you have to bring money to start a job, that’s fairly common. But there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough specific information about why you need it. I’ve brought money or money orders to buy my uniform, a security clearance, a license for my job, etc., but never that much money and never until after I’ve met the employers.

    I’d also be suspicious since there’s no information about the company out there.

    1. Florida

      If you needed money to start a job for a uniform or something similar, it would be after you were offered the job, not in the first interview.

      The general consensus, which I agree with, is that this is a scam. there is part of me that wants OP to go to the interview (without the cash) just so they can report back to us. For OP’s safety, though, I’m not going to recommend it. This is weird, and OP should not go to the interview.

    2. Zillah

      I am not so much alarmed that you have to bring money to start a job, that’s fairly common.

      What country/field are you in? I’ve heard of a reputable employer requiring it only very occasionally, and I’ve never experienced it – and it’s worth pointing out that this is the OP’s initial interview, not their first day, which makes this seem even more sketchy.

    3. Elizabeth West

      That may be common for certain types of jobs, but most of them don’t require this. And you wouldn’t have to do that until after you’re hired.

      You’re right to be suspicious–this has scam written all over it.

  19. la Contessa

    OP1, please report that “security” company to your state attorney general’s office. Like the link that Alison posted, that’s who protects consumers from scams like this. If they get reported, the AG can start looking into them and can protect the next person, who may not catch the red flags like you did.

    1. Florida

      This is a good idea to report it. If it turns out to be a legitimate company, no harm is done. But if it is a scam, which it most likely is, you might protect someone else.

  20. Christian Troy

    #3 – I was going to submit a similar question because I am running into the same issue. I had a situation where the interviewer called all my references before scheduling an interview and I was taken aback because I’ve been down that road enough to know that calling references =/= impending job offer. It’s definitely frustrating.

    1. Jeanne

      That seems terribly inefficient for the hiring manager. Done well, calling references takes real time. I would wonder what other illogical things the manager liked to do.

  21. Kathlynn

    Things like number 5 make me dislike the repayment laws. Not that they are completely bad, but there no time limit. My grandmother had her holiday pay reduced for more then one year because the company claims that they’d over paid her for holiday pay, and the overpayment had occurred at least three years before that. They didn’t even let her know before reducing her holiday pay. (this could be illegal in BC Canada, given our holiday pay laws, and pay stub laws (which weren’t being followed). But she chose not to dispute it.)

    There should be a time limit, I’d say no more than 2 years, unless there’s proof of financial misconduct by the employee that caused them to be over paid.

    Then again I also don’t understand why employees take the fall for this, not the employer. I mean, if it an extra check or something big and obvious it’s understandable. But when it’s not, the employer should have to take the fall. It was their mistake after all. Not the employee’s

    1. LBK

      I agree. I mean, on the one hand, if it’s not the employee’s money then it’s not their money. But I agree there should be a max time period for which they can recoup and/or a minimum amount that has to be overpaid before they can go after it – so if it’s, say, under $1000, the company just has to eat the loss for their mistake. It really shouldn’t be on the employee to ensure their employer is doing payroll correctly.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      I agree re: repayment time limits. What if it’s $50 twice a month for 10 years? A lot of people wouldn’t notice the extra $50 and would have trouble paying back the large accumulated sum.

    3. RG

      No, I don’t think the employer should have to suck this up and move on. The employee agrees to work for the employer in a particular position for a certain amount of money. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the employer to say, “Hey, we’ve been going above the agreed upon amount by accident, can we get that money back?” It sucks for the employee, sure, but it’s fair and reasonable. I mean, if this were the other way around, where the employee noticed that they were being underpaid, we’d expect the employer to cut them a check. This is a situation where what’s expected of a party shouldn’t change regardless of whether it’s the employer or the employee.

      1. Kathlynn

        But in both situations the employer is the one making the mistake. The employee in not the one underpaying themselves or overpaying themselves. The employer is. The employer is failing their duties not the employee. Especially since, if I got over paid 20-50/check, it would go straight to taxes, or most of it. I wouldn’t notice it. I’m also not provide with the percentage for all the deductions, just how much was deducted and how many hours I worked. Two hours off and I’m short/over by $21. Not something I’d notice. My hours worked fluctuate enough that it wouldn’t seem odd.

      2. Zillah

        But on the flip side, employees have a reasonable expectation that their employers aren’t going to be cavalier with their paychecks. I’d agree with you about the expectation of each party being the same if they shared control of the situation, but they don’t – the employer has exclusive control over payroll, and all of the money involved is ultimately coming out of their pockets. Whether an employee is underpaid or overpaid, it will pretty much always be the employers fault that the mistake happened, because the employee simply doesn’t have that much power (actual crimes excepted, of course).

        It’s absolutely reasonable to ask the employee to pay the money back if it’s within a reasonable time frame, but once a decent amount of time has passed, it’s not acting in good faith to impose a significant hardship on someone because you made a mistake.

        1. Three Thousand

          Exactly. A decent employer might impose a fine on itself once the mistake had gone unnoticed for long enough and the amount was small enough not to be ridiculous, like hundreds of dollars over per paycheck. That should properly be written off as a cost of doing business. It’s not a random event that happens to land in the employee’s favor; it’s a mistake on the part of the company that they should be covering.

      3. LBK

        But employers are generally expected to shoulder the financial burden of writing off mistakes. We don’t expect employees to pay for equipment they break, and we certainly don’t expect someone else that relies on that equipment but has nothing to do with it getting broken to pay for it.

      1. LBK

        Assuming this would fall under garnishment law, there is actually a legal limit set by the CCPA. Per the DOL’s website:

        For ordinary garnishments (i.e., those not for support, bankruptcy, or any state or federal tax), the weekly amount may not exceed the lesser of two figures: 25 percent of the employee’s disposable earnings, or the amount by which an employee’s disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour).

        1. LBK

          …and now as I read that, I wonder if the OP actually does have some legal protection here. Again assuming the scenario outlined would be considered garnishment, they can’t take more than $217.50 out of the OP’s check.

            1. LBK

              My point was just that if they’re trying to take *more* than that amount, the OP actual has legal standing for why the payment plan would need to be adjusted.

    4. Jeanne

      I agree. It seems that no matter what they do wrong, the employer doesn’t have to take responsibility for it. We overpaid you? Pay it back. We took put your taxes wrong? You pay the penalty. We didn’t get your raise into the system for three months even though you followed up? Tough noogies. We underpaid you? Prove it or take your case to the labor board.

      There should be some limits and/or penalties. The companies have no incentive to act correctly.

      1. TootsNYC

        especially since they probably create some non-negotiable boiler-plate wording that gives them the right to supercede employment law, etc.

  22. skyline

    #2 The additional problem with this behavior is that this is at a public library, which is presumably funded by some sort of public dollars, and this behavior hardly seems like good stewardship of public funds. Also, in many libraries, staff would be trained not to do someone’s vacation research for them but to assist the person in doing their own research. (So instead of “Boss, these are the best vacation rentals” it would be “Boss, here are some websites where you can research vacation rentals, and these are the ways you can filter the search” or “Boss, we have five travel guides for X, and I can place requests on the most recent of them for you.”)

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      Excellent point. I know that some private sector managers routinely ask their staff to run their personal errands (book vacations, pick up dry cleaning, etc), but the public-sector is different. I mean, could you imagine if the librarian told a taxpayer, “I’m sorry for the delay in returning this reference. I was too busy researching Caribbean vacations for my boss.”

      1. TootsNYC

        even at private-sector places, this can be problematic. It could be regarded as compensation, which should be taxed.

    2. Florida

      Ooooh, good point. The public sector is a little different. In the public sector, this is the kind of thing that gets the Breaking News van to park in front of the library with a news reporter asking patrons if they think this is acceptable. (Your tax dollars are being spent to plan the family vacation of Head Librarian. Meanwhile, library patrons are waiting months for research requests to be filled because librarians are too busy working on head librarians personal projects. Join us at 6 for the full story…)

      If the boss is a library card holder (I hope he is!), he could submit his research requests the way every other library card holder does. But he would need to use the same process, and expect the same wait time as everyone else.

      1. Ad Astra

        I doubt this would be newsworthy in a market that had anything interesting at all happening. But I agree that public sector employees need to be more conscientious about how they’re using government time and resources, and asking subordinates to research things that have nothing to do with their jobs is a bad use of resources.

        Also, why can’t he do his own research? He’s a librarian, for goodness sake.

      2. Overbooked

        OP here. You’re right. He does submit these the regular way, and as a member of the public he has the same right to library services as the next person. We can’t refuse to serve him. This is what’s making us uncomfortable, because while there’s nothing technically wrong with what he’s doing, it still feels bad because 1) we really can’t treat his requests like Random Patron’s; they get answered quicker, with more scrupulous attention, and we feel our responses are evaluated differently, and 2) that stuff about his professional decisions undermining the service he’s requesting. It’s really a morale issue. And 3) while writing that, it occurred to me that maybe he’s using his questions as a way to check up on our work, which if true is even more demoralizing.

        1. Florida

          Is he getting bumped to the front of the line because he asks for that, or because someone in the office says, “Ooooh Boss put in a request, we better answer it first.” Neither way is good, but they are different problems and would require different approaches.

          If he is using them to check your work, it’s not going to work, so I would suspect that’s not what he’s doing. If he wanted to test you, he would need to use a secret shopper so it appears to be a random patron.

          I can relate to your problem. I used to be a prospect researcher at a nonprofit and the development director (my boss) would frequently ask me to research someone in her personal life. (This was way before Facebook.) It used to drive me crazy! In my case, I would find one useless tidbit about the person (he is 46 years old and his house is worth a million dollars), and tell her that’s all I could find. I knew she wasn’t going to research it, so that worked in my case. Anyway, I know how frustrating it is when boss’s abuse the system, so to speak.

        2. skyline

          Is he actually having you plan the vacation (make decisions/specific recommendations about things) as opposed to finding sources of good info? If so, that seems to cross a line that most library staff are trained not to cross. It’s the difference between helping a student find resources for their homework and doing their homework for them, or connecting a job seeker with information/training on how to write effective resumes and actually writing their resume for them.

  23. Sonya

    I got overpaid sick leave that should have been without pay, and my company set up a repayment arrangement over five pay periods. It sucked.

    Don’t be as giving and friendly as I was: they can get ten bucks a fortnight, like my mother did when her employer overpaid her. They won’t go bankrupt on the overpayment. Why should you suffer more for their snafu? Nah, I’m kidding, make arrangements that impact you as little as possible while still negotiating in good faith. It’s the ethical thing to do, eh?

    The only reason I was nice is because I was underpaid for a while (25 hours versus the 29 I actually work), and once it was confirmed, they hopped to it and paid me what was owing pretty sharpish.

    1. Jeanne

      I agree that your relationship with your employer could affect how you respond to this type of request. Mutual respect leads to easier agreements. I suspect in this case there is very little mutual respect.

  24. Sparty07

    My first paycheck out of college was sent to my house while my wife was still finding a new job in the new city. I got a phone call from her asking what I should be making a paycheck. She then proceeded to tell me that they sent me a check for $52,000. I called up our shared services center to report it, and I overheard the person on the phone proclaim to the rest of his team the value of the check they sent me. I still have a scan of the check (taken before I sent it back in) and they quickly issued me a new check for the correct amount.

  25. Poohbear McGriddles

    #5: Do not give them access to your account. Do you really want the same people who screwed up your pay checks deciding when they’ve taken enough from your bank account?

  26. AdAgencyChick

    OP4, don’t forget that hiring managers may read into your LinkedIn profile that you were fired or laid off if you have a bunch of recommendations clustered around the same time period. When they’re all bunched together like that, I as a hiring manager read the profile and think, “Those recommendations were solicited.” And quite often the reason for that is that the person was fired, needs to find a new job quickly, and tried to get help with that by asking all of her contacts to recommend her.

    I’m not saying people will write off your candidacy for that reason, but why risk it?

    1. Ad Astra

      Huh. That would never occur to me. If I even noticed the time frame of the recs, I would assume that person went on a LinkedIn kick at some point and requested a bunch of recommendations at once because LinkedIn told them to.

    2. Kyrielle

      If I see a cluster of recommendations around a time *other* than just after the end of employment, I read it as ‘something happened that this person decided was a breaking point, they ramped up their job search, and solicited recommendations’. If it’s right *after* end of employment, then yes, they probably were not expecting it…but if it’s before/while they’re still at the place, it was just the point at which they decided to get serious about jumping ship (or about using LI to do so).

      I did just that at one point, but then changed my mind about leaving, so the clustering is in the middle of my previous job. I know other people whose recommendation clusters tie in to periods when they lost faith in the company / got annoyed at their boss / worried about the financials / had a personal health crisis / etc.

      1. TootsNYC

        ” If it’s right *after* end of employment, then yes, they probably were not expecting it”

        But even then–a layoff is a FAR more likely explanation than a firing is.

    3. TootsNYC

      Why would I ding a candidate for getting laid off?????

      Or, why would I ding a candidate for saying, “Time to move on; I’d better get my LinkedIn up-to-date”?????

      If someone was fired, even then I might not really ding them for it. I know people who were fired for temporary drops in performance ability, or because the job description changed and they couldn’t keep up, or they got a new boss who didn’t like them.

  27. Johr

    Just a few notes on #5 from a payroll person. Usually if a person is overpaid, we will make sure the gross amount reported on the W-2 is adjusted by the amount repaid, which usually involves them sending us a check for the net of the overpaid check and we void the original and reissue a new one in the correct amount. If they are recouping the repayment by deducting an amount from your gross, they are already compensating for the overpaid taxes by reducing your gross and the amount you are paying. The truth is, even your payroll person is human and makes mistakes occasionally. Usually we notice pretty fast but there’s only so much we can do. If your manager put your raise in wrong, or didn’t, or you entered your taxes incorrectly on a W-4, we have no way of knowing. Also in response to authorizing your employer to access your bank account, usually a direct deposit form does this, sometimes we notice after sending the file that a deposit was done incorrectly in which case we can pull the direct deposit back and issue the employee a check for that payroll instead.

  28. CRA

    #5 Am I understanding that this person was overpaid by so much that they will not receive a paycheck for 5 months? I have re-read the question multiple times and this is what I am concluding. If that is the case, the employee had to know that they were being overpaid and should have set the money aside. The “I have bills to pay” reasoning does not fly with me.

    All that being said, the employer should use caution to ensure that the wages don’t fall below prevailing wage AND minimum wage. In addition, CA does not allow for deductions like these, even with the employee’s consent.

  29. blackcat

    A year and a half ago, I transitioned from Role X to Role Y. During the first pay period for Role Y, I got paid for both roles. I noticed *right* away, when the money was still pending in my account. I emailed my department admin right away (since I didn’t know who to email in payroll) to see if they could stop the payment. By the time payroll was notified, it was too late.

    When they talked about repayment, the first email they sent asked me to write them a check for the PRE TAX amount, rather than what I had already received. I objected, got transferred to someone else in payroll (who seemed more knowledgable), and a plan to deduct the pre-tax amount from the pre-tax amount of future paychecks was worked out. No one seemed bothered when I asked to confirm the $$ amounts again, offering my own calculations. I was specifically asked if having two subsequent paychecks be so low would be a problem (nope, because overpayment and lower paychecks would be within a span of 6 weeks). The department admin (who was actually to blame for the whole mishap), checked in several times to a) apologize for the hassle and b) make sure everything was properly resolved.

    It was a bit annoying, but everyone was transparent and helpful, other than the payroll employee who didn’t seem to understand taxes (though they get credit for realizing their mistake and sending me to someone more knowledgable right away). That’s the way something like this should be handled–when people make mistakes, they apologize and do their best to fix it. What OP#5 is experiencing is NOT this, and they have every right to object.

  30. DSA

    OP #3 – I recently interviewed a junior sales candidate who did just this, and it came across so, so bad. He outright refused to give us references until we made him an offer. He was a great candidate for a hard-to-fill role, so I had more patience with him initially than I normally would have. After explaining that pending his references, we were ready to make him an offer at x amount (which was competitive), he came back and told me that he was waiting on two other offers and would not provide his references until he heard from them (which he went on to say could be another two weeks). So, it essentially came off as – you guys are cool, but I’m not ready to commit to you, even if you do make me an offer – and I’m going to make you work on my schedule, not yours. Needless to say we told him it wasn’t going to work out and wished him the best of luck with his other offers.

  31. Storm

    Thanks for the advice. My want for a change in my career clouded my judgement. As suggested, I decided to bypass this “interview”. I’d rather be safe than sorry, there’s no telling what could have happened.

  32. Alison with one L

    I’m sorry that this is off-topic, but the video ads have been killing me today.

    I’ll scroll down a page and then the video ad will freeze my screen and then move my location in the window so that the ad is in view. It’s happened multiple times today on the home page and on individual post pages. I think in the past I’ve heard you say to click through the ad to get the link that pops up. I’ll post the link in the comments.

    Has anyone else been experiencing this?

  33. SunnyLibrarian

    #2 That’s what is sort of horrible and sort of good about libraries. In most systems I have worked in, you have to treat even your coworkers like any other patron, because they pay their taxes too. No putting Dating for Dummies on hold for them, some systems give out fines for the staff too.

    But asking you to research their vacation? Ugh, weird. I would send them to some crappy one star hotel or something.

    Also, I am with you on the paras doing our jobs. Since we have switched to an all in one desk, we could have a coffee and a long chat about that.

  34. gsa

    OP#1:

    socnet dot com is decent site for job advice and specifically your post. Employment and Training

    The search function works. Read the rules and sign in properly.

    all my best,

    S

    gsa

  35. ThuyJoie

    #5 – Talk to the HR department. If it’s a good HR department they are very understanding; it’s an error on their part after all. (I’m late to the party so someone probably already stated this.)
    This happened to me, except it was overpaid PTO. They sent me an official form, letterhead and all, stating how much was overpaid, minus the tax, and how much I actually owe. I called them up and they said since it was their mistake, I can take as long as I need to pay it back. Just make sure I photocopied the payment letter/slip and include one each time I pay, doesn’t matter the dollar amount or frequency. My DD kept coming in full, with no deductions taken.

  36. Lauren

    This may have been mentioned in a comment already, but by law the employer can only go back 90 days. This may be a sneaky reason the employer is reticent to clarify the amount.

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