my boss wants to personally reimburse me for a payroll error

A reader writes:

Early this summer, my workplace switched to a new time tracking system. Sometime in the first few pay periods that it was in use, my paycheck came up 8 hours short. I brought it to the attention of my manager the next week; he said he would check with payroll to find out what happened. It’s not clear from the time tracking system where the error originated: I may have made an error when I entered my time, my manager may have made an error when he approved my time, or the system itself may have introduced the error.

I followed up with my manager several times, though in retrospect I probably wasn’t doing so as often or as aggressively as I should have.

My manager came to me the other day, and told me that he’d goofed. He waited too long to talk to payroll about the error, and by the time he did, they told him it was too late to correct that paycheck. And because I’m salaried exempt, there isn’t any mechanism for them to just add 8 hours to an upcoming check. My manager’s solution: he’s going to reimburse me out of his own pocket for the error. He just needs for me to tell him what my hourly rate was for that paycheck.

I’m not sure how I should respond. It’s great that my manager wants to make sure I get payed at his own expense, and maybe that’s fair since apparently it’s his procrastination that prevented it from being corrected through payroll. On the other hand, I’m not particularly comfortable taking money from him personally, when we don’t know who’s ultimately at fault for the original error. And finally, despite any procrastination, I feel that this needs to be addressed at the corporate level, by payroll. If their system is capable of preventing a salaried, exempt employee from receiving additional pay, shouldn’t it be equally impossible for it to short that pay within a single week or pay period?

What do you suggest? Should I just accept the money and be happy I got it? Should I push back on corporate taking responsibility (are they responsible by wage regulations?)

It makes no sense that they claim they’re unable to fix it now. First, if they’re able to dock pay from an exempt employee (something that shouldn’t generally be happening except in very rare and limited circumstances), of course they’re able to add it back in. Even aside from that, of course they’re able to add it back in — in the same way they’d do any other pay adjustments, like a one-time bonus. So you’re right to call BS on that.

Second, it doesn’t matter how easy or difficult their system makes this. The law requires employers to pay employees correctly, period. So they need to find a way to pay you the money owed. They can’t arbitrarily decide that it’s been too long; the law obligates them to pay you correctly.

I’d say this to your boss: “I really appreciate you wanting to make this right at personal expense to yourself, but I really think it needs to be corrected by the company so that my payroll records and tax reporting are correct. Also, the law is really clear on companies being obligated to pay employees all money due, even if it’s from a mistake discovered a few months later, and I don’t want us to get into legally problematic territory. Is there someone we can escalate this to so that it’s handled correctly through payroll?”

{ 129 comments… read them below }

    1. sally*

      Yeah, no taxes involved if done under the table. Someone is lying. Either the manager or payroll is too lazy to fix the issue.

      1. Jamie*

        Yep. Based on nothing but my spidey sense this feels like a manager who is too embarrassed to go to payroll so it throwing them under the lazy bus and trying to make this go away.

        Of course they can pay it – although I’m dying to know how you could be shorted if exempt. As Alison mentioned that’s a pretty rare occurrence where it would be legal.

        And if payroll doesn’t know about it and this drags into next year they will be SUPER pissed to have employee pay crossing tax years – that would take this from being annoying to wanting to strangle someone for making them deal with accountants/payroll companies for hours on end getting this sorted out.

        1. KarenT*

          Me too. I wonder if the manager was able to tell that the mistake was actually his and doesn’t want to get in trouble.

          1. Jamie*

            Even if it wasn’t originally the error is his now because he sat on it.

            When I had to deal with payroll stuff I reacted to errors like I was stung by a thousand bees – nothing matters more. So payroll will be mad regardless that he’s known about it for months and didn’t bother.

            1. KarenT*

              So much this. I understand falling behind on a few things when you’re swamped, but falling behind on anything regarding compensation (especially for hours already worked!) is pretty heinous.

  1. Adam*

    I have never worked in payroll have no idea how the system works, but something about Payroll’s response just screams “lazy” to me.

    1. BRR*

      That was my thought as well. I have a hunch the person the manager spoke with doesn’t know it’s probably illegal and I’m sure someone higher up might have something different to say about fixing the situation.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        The way I read this, the manager is attempting to “fix” his mistake by paying out of pocket so he doesn’t have to own up to anything with his superiors and/or wrangle with payroll.

        1. LoFlo*

          I agree that the manager doesn’t want his mistake pointed out. I have worked in payroll for many years, and these type of errors are common and easy to fix. I would feel bad about an employee waiting this long for a simple correction.

          One thing that struck me as odd as the way the manager said the paycheck couldn’t be fixed. Yes that is true, you can’t easily un-do a paycheck and re-issue, but you can make an adjustment to a future paycheck. A lot of times employees and managers think that if you don’t “fix” the original check, that they are not getting paid correctly. I discovered this mindset a while back when my old company installed a new timekeeping system and we had to make adjustments to future checks.

          OP can you approach your manager by saying something like: You must be super busy, do you mind if I follow up with Payroll and ask them what is going on?

          1. OP*

            That was just my own guess as to why it’s “too difficult” for payroll to fix the issue. A guess that oddly enough was confirmed by recent memos from payroll. (Confirmed in the sense that payroll apparently thinks it’s too difficult to make the correction, not that it actually is.)

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. Are they saying they will never, ever be able to make a payroll correction for any error? Then I think someone swindled them on a payroll system.
      This situation will come up at another time. They need to know how to make historical payroll corrections. Better now than when it is the VPs paycheck that has an error.

    3. Lisa*

      I agree, but OP needs to decide if 8 hours of money is worth the aggravation of escalating it and making enemies with payroll/hr for being annoying (op may be due the money, but you can’t ignore the underlying consequences of hurting work relationships for pushing this) or worse making their manager look bad. Why not get your manager to give you a day off, but report it in the system as a day working? Comp day without reporting it?

      This would seem like an easier solution if OP is ok with it.

      1. sally*

        Its more than worth it! Just the principle alone… Imagine if they did this on purpose to 3-4 employees a year and all those employees decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

      2. Observer*

        8 hours is fairly significant for most people – it’s 20% of a week’s salary. I don’t know about you, but I know very few people for whom that would not be a real issue. Not so bad as to get the lights shut off necessarily, but still an issue.

      3. Adam*

        Honestly the alternatives seem like it might just complicate things more, particularly when there are possible legal ramifications for this as many have already noted.

        I’m not sure whose mistake it really was although a cursory reading suggest most of the fault was on the manager, so I think it’s on him to push it forward and get it fixed. It’d probably be his job anyways. And if payroll wants to get snippy about doing their jobs it may be time to bring those above them in on the situation.

      4. LoFlo*

        The OP is also missing out on recognition of pension earnings and possible bonus earnings, so yes the correction should happen by payroll. The pay period hours might also drive PTO accurals.

        With automated time and attendance systems, many times the manager is the only one who can make corrections to closed pay periods. I’m guessing the manager might be confused by the correction process. When the corrections are processed most systems will post them automatically to the employee’s paycheck.

      5. Stargazer*

        Wait a minute. OP is just supposed to let it go and accept being shorted a day’s pay because it might “annoy” accounting/HR or make his/her manager “look bad”? Any decent company would understand that of course an entire missed day of earned pay is rightly going to be aggressively sought. Hell, an hour’s worth of missed pay should be corrected. People don’t work for free.

        1. Lisa*

          It sucks, but I’ve been on the receiving end of being that person asking for things that are normal business things (everywhere else, but the jobs I’ve worked at) that are even within the confines of company policy, but then labeled annoying for asking once – then labeled a troublemaker for asking more than once, when my questions were never answered. But, OP has a good manager that wants to make it right – so I shouldn’t let my own bias of bad jobs / horrible managers skew my comments. But if the manager didn’t go to HR at all like some commenters are suggesting, then it could be a delicate situation.

          Yes, OP has every right to get the money through payroll, but as its been months since OP brought it up then it suggests that OP didn’t need the money immediately and had already let it go by not continuously asking. Based on my own experiences with jobs/managers, I just don’t have any faith anymore – so I suggested an option for if OP can’t get payroll to budge and still didn’t want the boss to pay out of pocket.

          1. LQ*

            Getting paid seems pretty fundamental. If I’m not getting paid I’m not working. It’s a very simple equation.

            I actually had to talk to a board once and point out that they didn’t have enough money to pay me and they’d have lay me off, it made them very unhappy but they weren’t going to be able to pay me. This is a hill to die on as the expression is. This is a battle worth fighting. Not getting paid is never acceptable.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree – there are some gray areas in life and work but this isn’t one of them.

              And I’m sure the OP doesn’t need a lecture from me, but if there are ever payroll errors nothing wrong with cc’ing the people in payroll when dealing with your manager getting it worked out. And if the correction isn’t on the next check stand in their office until it’s dealt with.

              Honestly – short my paycheck and I’ll be a piece of glass in your shoe until you make it right, properly. Even if I made a million dollars – it’s the principle of the thing.

      6. Episkey*

        It’s Payroll’s job to fix it. It’s not being annoying. My mom has worked in payroll for years at a large hospital — she has to deal with nurses constantly questioning their paycheck, but she explains everything patiently to them whenever they have a question because it’s her JOB.

      7. OP*

        I don’t have any concern about annoying payroll or HR. I work for a large corporation, and I’m rarely even in the same city where payroll and HR are located.

        I’m also quite sure that my manager isn’t worried about annoying anyone at corporate.

      8. Tinker*

        Personally, I think I’m going to be concerned about hurting people’s feelings by asking to be paid as agreed for my work at about the same time the power company gets concerned about hurting my feelings for sending me a bill. Which is to say, haha no. I realize that caution about being perceived as uppity at work is a thing, but there are limits.

      9. RobM*

        I think you have this backwards. The OP is just asking for what is rightfully theirs. If someone in payroll or HR would consider this an “aggravation” and would consider adding someone who queried it to their list of enemies then that’s either a dysfunctional individual at best or a dysfunctional organisation at worse. “Normal” staff at a “normal” employer know that mistakes happen and those mistakes need to be corrected and that life goes on afterwards as normal without it being a problem.

        If the OP works for an organisation where this isn’t the case then better they know now and move on soon as possible. If you’re basing this observations from your own interactions with payroll/HR somewhere then I hope you’ve managed to move on for your own sake. Querying your pay isn’t something you should be afraid to do.

    4. Just me, Vee*

      I’m a payroll administrator, and of course they can and should fix it! It’s the same tax year, for pete’s sake. I think Adam is right, either their payroll dept is lazy, or worse, inept.

  2. Alter_ego*

    Yeah, I’m definitely calling BS on this. About a year ago at my job, I took a day of vacation time, and, for whatever reason, the system payed me my full salary for the pay period, plus another 8 hours worth of time for the vacation day. When I called the payroll person, they said sorry for the mistake, and paid me 9/10ths of my normal pay the following pay period, to compensate for it. I’m salaried, with no overtime. I don’t get paid an “hourly” rate. But they’re definitely still capable of figuring out what one day’s worth of pay means, and either adding it or removing it from my paycheck.

    1. Natalie*

      Yep, I had the opposite thing with vacation once (I wasn’t paid for 3 days of vacation) and they just added it next check. A

      few years later I ended up not getting paid for some time worked because of bad design in our system. If you didn’t punch out for lunch it would automatically deduct 30 minutes for lunch, but this wasn’t made obvious on the time card (e.g. it would say 8:00 in, 5:00 out, 8.5 hours total). I was underpaid for two weeks, and it ended up pushing me into OT. Again, it was super simple for them to just add it to my next check.

  3. Tara B.*

    Sounds like “It would be a hassle and a half to fix the error and I don’t feel like doing it, so I’ll just tell them it’s too late.”

    1. Ted Mosby*

      My thoughts exactly. There is NO way this is impossible. No one would ever design or buy HR software that made fixing a paycheck impossible, because then THIS WOULD HAPPEN.

  4. BRR*

    I’m confused why you’re tracking hours if you’re exempt (possibly that the OP needs to bill their hours to client but even then it shouldn’t go through the payroll dept). Regardless it’s BS and you’ve hit one of the rare times where it’s not legal.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s hugely uncommon–my employer requires it–and we also have a theoretical hourly workweek against which our PTO is measured in hourly terms.

      1. BRR*

        Interesting. I’m a relatively recent grad so I’m not that experienced with different employers but I had just assumed you wouldn’t need to.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        Me too. It’s very common in advertising — clients are billed by the hour for our time, so we are required to track how many hours are spent on which projects each week even though most of us are exempt. PTO is listed as 8 hours per day.

    2. Judy*

      I’ve worked as an exempt employee in two situations.

      One where there was a system you logged into that handled payroll and you only needed to log in if you were using sick or vacation time. Those companies usually had a separate time tracking system for us to log our time to various projects. (In engineering, having data like that allows better estimates of the next project.)

      Other companies have one system, and you have a separate project number for vacation and sick time. I’d assume the payroll department runs a report on that system to generate the vacation and sick time debits for the paychecks. (I’ve certainly logged in more than 40, and never been given any overtime, so I think it’s probably only loosely tied to the payroll system.)

      1. Matthew Soffen*

        There is also a “project” aspect to things. You may need to account for your time on a project for budgetary reasons.

    3. Mike C.*

      Lots of exempt people have to track hours. I’m exempt and I still get paid normal time for hours over 40.

    4. AVP*

      Same, I’m exempt but need to turn in a timecard every week with hours on it. For me it’s because we have an outsourced payroll company and it gets confusing for them if we don’t do this regularly. Since I’m exempt though I just have a pdf with perfect hours that work out to 40 exactly and print it out every week with new dates.

      I used to be the person who dealt with payroll for my company, and I have to say, some of those paymasters can be really lazy and make it very hard to correct past mistakes or input one-time-only payments. Others are great. OP’s company can do this, it just needs to escalate to the right proactive person who will find a way to make it work.

      1. soitgoes*

        The thing that’s strikes me as extra icky is that, if the OP’s company is using one of those outsourced payroll services, that means that the company has paid payroll the money that’s supposed to be dispersed. The payroll service has simply decided to keep that money.

        1. Observer*

          Not necessarily. In many cases, the money never goes into the payroll companies account – the checks are written against the employer’s account (usually a payroll account.) And also, the employer would have issued the entire payroll amount based on the incorrect data.

    5. LBK*

      I can understand why she might be tracking hours but I don’t understand why it would affect her paycheck. If she’s exempt she doesn’t get overtime, unless the company just pays it voluntarily and that’s what’s missing here?

      1. soitgoes*

        8 hours = one day of pay, or 10% of a biweekly paycheck. Conceptually that makes it easy to see how a goof might have happened, but it still needs to be fixed asap.

      2. AVP*

        The way my company does it, our salaries are weekly and work out to be 1/52 of the annual salary, and we have to submit timecards each week attesting to the fact that we worked all week. Of course, even if you miss a day or do your hours for less than 40/week, being exempt you should be paid your weekly salary.

        But I could see how an inexperienced payroll person might read a timecard wrong, see that the OP didn’t fill in a date, forget that they’re exempt, and just not pay them for one particular day, resulting in this error.

        1. LBK*

          Ah, okay, so for the sake of paying salaried and hourly people via the same system, you just manually enter a 40 hour week at a fake “hourly” rate for salaried people? That makes more sense.

          1. AVP*

            Yup. Not sure how many other companies do this but it’s pretty standard in my industry (where we have a lot of freelance, non-exempt, and exempt people all getting paid at the same time through the same system).

            1. Anonsie*

              This is how it is where I am, too. Exempt positions’ timecards just have 8 hours a day automatically entered in without them having to clock in and out, but the employees are still supposed to keep an eye on their hours.

    6. Alter_ego*

      We track time at my company. We are billing that time to clients, but it’s all one system. There’s just a program that you log on to, and you type in how much time you spend on each of your jobs, whether you’re taking any PTO, and fill out any expense reports, both those being paid by the company, and those being billed to the client. I’m not sure why they’d need to be two separate systems.

      1. Dulcinea*

        At my company we have to do timekeeping in two separate systems because it is a small org and a certain administrator has somehow been excused from having to learn any new software since 2000…. I look forward to having the seniority and clout that I can inconvenience 50 people to spare myself some frustration!

    7. soitgoes*

      I’m exempt, but we are paid as if we work a 40-hour workweek. Somewhere along the line my company decided that it was easiest to manage payroll in terms of an hourly wage x 40. I can completely see how OP’s paycheck might have been shorted the equivalent of one day’s pay if his or her company processes things in a similar way.

      1. Natalie*

        My company does the same. The exempt employees are paid some odd number ($47.835638 or whatever) that works out to their salary / 2,080 hours. As far as I know they do this because then they only need one system to process paychecks and handle vacation and sick time.

    8. Indy*

      I am exempt. Our hours are tracked in 3 systems.

      System A is always 40 hours. The only time we log time into it is if we are taking PTO or vacation, so that our pay comes out of the right bucket.

      System B reflects actual hours, broken down by billable party. This is so we can charge accounts based on who ordered the teapot.

      System C is always 40 hours. We log into this one weekly to make some person screaming in bright red emails happy. It breaks things down by how many hours we spent actually making teapots or teapot related duties, and things that aren’t teapot related, like email or filling out 3 different timesheets.

      1. Indy*

        However, may I clarify – system 3 never goes over 40 hours, so we log all teapot making hours first, and only log admin related hours if we don’t go over 40 teapot hours.


        1. RishaBree*

          Good for your company! There’s little more annoying than having to spend 30 to 45 minutes a week entering your time into multiple systems, but not having anywhere to charge those minutes to.

          (In practice, I think most people roll that time to whichever project they’re charging to, but that’s not always that easy when you worked on 25 different project codes that week, and this project is out of hours, etc.)

    9. Stephanie*

      Super common in government contracting or professional services where you have to bill hourly (or by the project).

    10. Karowen*

      It could be the company’s way of trying to determine staffing levels, too. Like if there are 5 people in a given department and they’re all working 50 hour weeks, it’s time to hire a 6th person.

    11. LoFlo*

      Some state laws require that all employees submit a report of hours every pay period, regardless of FLSA status. Also many many other legal reasons for employers to have exempt employees submit a time sheet, is FMLA, Workers Comp,

    12. OP*

      The company adores tracking every sort of metric they can get their hands on. This is just another one.

      Fun bonus fact: we actually enter our time into two systems. One that tracks the actual number of hours we worked for various projects, and the one that allows a maximum of 8 hours a day / 40 hours a week and drives payroll. I’m honestly not sure what joy some number cruncher is getting out of the second one. The only good thing about it is that in a typical pay period there’s no reason to even log in and change the default values.

      1. Observer*

        Whoever implemented this is an idiot. You can’t – legally – limit payments to 40 hours a week / 8 hours a day. As Allison has noted more than once, you can fire someone for working too many hours, but you have to pay them.

        After Sandy, Kespan / National Grid wound up with a huge black eye. Many of their field techs were work 60-80 hour weeks (some guys were sleeping in their cars as it didn’t pay to go back home, or because they had come in from other cities and it took days for the bosses to get beds set up) but their payroll system wouldn’t allow more than 40 hours per week, and no one had the brains to try to figure out how to work around it. It turns out that there were other issues as well. It took them a couple of months to straighten it all out – and they wound up having to pay out an additional $5m in compensation to workers.

        The claim I heard at the time was that because payroll laws are different in the UK, where the owner of the company is incorporated, they thought they could do this.

        1. OP*

          Oops, I should have said that as far as I know it’s only exempt employees who are limited to 40 hours a week. I certainly hope the non-exempt people are able to enter additional hours!

        2. Jamie*

          You can’t for non-exempt, but what she’s describing is not uncommon or illegal for exempt people.

          The 40 hours is for payroll. For exempt people it’s the standard to process a 40 hour week – it’s how hourly wage is broken out for companies who pay out PTO, it’s how PTO is accrued. Because you are earning your salary irrespective of the hours worked. Just like when we take a day off they take 8 hours of PTO off the books – not the 9, 10, 15+ someone normally works and might’ve worked that day.

          Then tracking the actual hours is really helpful for staffing purposes. If you see your AR admin is routinely putting in 55+ hour weeks and you know they don’t have time management issues even though you aren’t paying OT it’s a flag to see if you need to boost staff. Ditto jobs where they bill by the hour or hours are added into job costing. If we have a production engineer clocked into a job for 10 hours one day that is what needs to go into the job costing…even though his payroll was processed as 8.

          1. Observer*

            I know it’s not illegal for exempt people. But, I was under the impression that both exempt and non-exempt are using the same system. If they have it configured differently for exempt and non-exempt that should take care of that, though.

      2. SJPufendork*

        Ha! I wonder if you work where I used to. they had the same system (which was evil). As the person stuck being the number cruncher, I can attest there was no joy in that and I cursed every week when I had to analyze it all.
        In fact when I quit, when my manager asked why I was leaving, I replied that I found the whole experience “soul-sucking”.

    13. Nerdling*

      Ours is used to determine staffing levels, in simplest terms. We have rough targets for each area. If we consistently don’t meet the target hours in one area and consistently go over in another, then we know that our focus has shifted and we need to move staffing around.

  5. Ted Mosby*

    It’s nice that your boss is trying to make things right! It’s a silver lining that he obviously cares about fairness and your happiness in the job.

    1. Elizabeth*

      The real dark cloud, though, is that he is so clueless as to let it get to this point and not to push back. Part of the responsibility of being a manager is to make sure your employees are paid accurately for their worked hours.

      Payroll departments deal with this stuff All. The. Time. It’s a constant hassle and a part of payroll. It’s may be more difficult given that it is several months out and at year end, but they can fix it.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        This. Your manager is being intimidated and lied to by payroll and isn’t standing up for you, and to make it “easier” on himself he’d rather dig into his own pocket. This says potentially bad things about your manager and your payroll department.

  6. Mimmy*

    I vaguely remember a previous employer admitting to a payroll error and sending me a letter about it after I’d left the company! I don’t remember the specifics or whether I was given too much or too little, but it was corrected and addressed. This was nearly 10 years ago, so I would think by now payroll systems can adjust errors even several months later. I’d definitely push back.

    (Side note: This is why I love this site – I always forget that there are laws with regard to these things!)

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      I knew somebody who received a large sum (just over $25,000) 6 months after leaving a company. Apparently it was owed overtime and some danger pay that he had never received. So I would think that, as you say, systems are built to handle human errors and can be adjusted even months or possibly years later.

    2. Jamie*

      Yes – because payroll errors for money owed is a liability on their balance sheets until it’s resolved whether you are still there or not.

  7. Apollo Warbucks*

    There are income tax implication too, I assume your income would be understated to the IRS, which is not something you want! In the UK there would implication for welfare and retirement income bot of which are linked to tax contributions (as a one off the impact would be negligible, but still)

    I’d be shocked if the system developers / support team can’t do something to correct the hours on a prior period. It might be outside the technical expertise of the payroll team but that’s what the support team are for.

    Your boss has made a nice gesture but it’s not a personal expense he should be made to cover, and in some states it’s illegal to have an employee cover a business expense.

    1. Malissa*

      Social security withholding, medicare tax, and any 401K match would all be affected by this issue. Really simple to fix by adding it as additional pay on the next check.

  8. Frances*

    I have a feeling that, in an attempt to encourage people to monitor their paychecks so that errors get discovered and fixed quickly, they do have some kind of policy that says all errors must be brought to their attention within X business days. I bet whoever instituted that policy either didn’t know the law or didn’t think through the implications. (This is *exactly* the kind of thing one of my old employers would have done.)

  9. Malissa*

    This makes me mad. This correction should be a simple entry. Maybe 15 minutes of time to look up your pay history.
    This really shouldn’t even be that much of an issue. Payroll mistakes like this are very common. Yeah, I’d take it to HR. They should be able to intervene with payroll.

    1. LBK*

      Seriously – I can look up my own pay history in about 15 seconds, I can’t imagine it’s harder for payroll to do it.

  10. LBK*

    Here’s my thought: I wonder if he didn’t actually go to payroll about this, is embarrassed by how long it took for him to address it, and is now trying to pay out of pocket to minimize the visibility of his continued neglect. I refuse to believe there’s a payroll system out there that doesn’t allow for manual check adjustments – having dealt with a similar issue before, it took our payroll department all of 30 minutes to verify the error, correct it and cut me a new paycheck.

    1. oleander*

      Yes. This was exactly my thought as well.
      He doesn’t want to go up the chain because he’ll have to admit that he screwed up in how long he procrastinated.

    2. Ezri*

      I didn’t even consider that! It’s possible that this situation could look bad on the manager if he goes to payroll with it, and he’s trying to shirk responsibility by paying OP himself. Has OP talked to payroll herself, or just taken her manager’s word for it?

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I was wondering this as well. Alternately, I work at a place that closes their fiscal year at June 30th, and we got pushback from lower level employees that they coul0.dn’t make corrections to charges that happened before that time. But after pushing it, the truth was that the lower level employee didn’t have permission within the software to make the correction – but she could push it up to her boss, who did have the proper access rights to do that. The lower level employee just didn’t know to ask, because she’d always been told no – she didn’t know it was possible and allowed in cases like this one from the OP.

        Possibly they “close the books” each quarter? But even still, someone, even if it has to go all the way to the CFO, should be able to fix it.

        1. Natalie*

          It shouldn’t even be that hard. Most (all?) accounting ledgers can handle prior period expenses. We post “prior year” income and expenses all the time.

    3. Andrea*

      That’s the first thing I suspected as well! I cannot imagine that anyone working in payroll would have actually said that it was too late to take care of it. I’m pretty sure the boss lied.

      1. Observer*

        Well, I can easily imagine it. I’ve heard some real doozies. Thank goodness, never where I work, though.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      This was the vibe I got too. The supervisor’s offer to pay out of pocket sounds like he’s trying to cover for something—not necessarily even something serious, but something he’d rather not deal with.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this. Add me to the chorus that was wondering if the boss was just trying to make the issue go away without going through payroll.

    5. long time reader first time poster*

      This is totally what happened. The manager screwed up and doesn’t want to cop to it. He’s trying to solve the problem off the books so that he won’t look bad to his boss.

  11. jhhj*

    I’ve made mistakes — sometimes the company’s error, sometimes the employee’s — and it isn’t hard to fix. Any out of the box payroll software can fix it easily, and if the company rolled their own, it isn’t the employee’s problem to deal with. Thank your boss nicely, but kick it back to HR/payroll.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      Payroll ain’t my thang, but it’s part of my responsibility. When I make mistakes I insist that they are fixed, and I don’t take crap off the payroll department about it. It’s not the employee’s issue. It’s mine, I’ll take my lumps with my manager, but I’ll make the employee whole.

  12. some1*

    If nothing else, there’s no reason payroll shouldn’t be able to cut you a separate check for these hours.

  13. HR Pro*

    For future reference (or for anyone else who finds a payroll mistake), I’d recommend going straight to the payroll department for stuff like this (not to your manager). In every place I’ve worked in, managers weren’t responsible for fixing/addressing things like this, and that might be part of why your manager took so long to address this.

    Like AAM said, ask who can help you with this situation, and don’t take no for an answer. Or just tell your manager that you’re going to go to payroll to handle it “and get it off of his plate” rather than asking for his help with it.

    1. MaryMary*

      I have to disagree, who you work through to correct a payroll error depends on the organization. At my current company, I would go to payroll myself. I could grow old waiting for my manager to remember to do it. At OldJob, payroll corrections had to route through a manager and sometimes the manager’s manager as well. There was a formal correction procedure. Going directly to payroll would have been seen as kind of shady.

    2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      This is very company-specific. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, we would only deal with team leaders/management for missing hours type queries. We can’t add hours to someone’s pay without manager approval anyway, so why go through all the double handling?

  14. Azalea*

    This happened at my job. There was a week where I knew I had clocked in 5-10 minutes early every day. I checked my paycheck and it had docked me a significant amount of time.

    My boss went back through my hours and found that it had come out to almost 12 hours I had been docked.

    HR/payroll was fairly non-responsive initially, and he was willing to just let it slide – all the while making excuses why. (“The normal HR person is on vacation!” was a popular one.) I kept hounding him and finally had to threaten to call HR myself.

    I had my money within a week.

    My guess is your manager doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of dealing with HR, and is taking what he percieves as the easy way out.

    1. Swarley*

      It could also be Payroll not understanding the primary functions/obligations of their job. As an HR person, I’ve seen some pretty incompetent acts by Payroll folks. At this point I would advise the OP to go to Payroll directly and let them know that it needs to resolved, and that there is no cut off date for receiving retro pay.

  15. Darcy*

    My guess due to the time of year is that payroll may have already processed the final period for the year and making this correction will require an additional run. However, that’s life in payroll, and I’ve never seen a place where there hasn’t had to be at least 1 additional run at year-end. So yes, I’d agree this is BS and just someone being lazy.

  16. Artemesia*

    It is also quite possible the boss isn’t being ‘nice’ but that he is just being lazy and expecting the OP to refuse his offer. She is hesitant to accept; he is counting on that. And if she does accept it puts her in a position of peonage in the office.

    This is one to press on up the line. No way the company ‘can’t rectify this error.’ It is of course also likely that the boss doesn’t want higher ups to be aware that he procrastinated and so he is trying to save himself effort but also a hit to his reputation.

  17. Juli G.*

    We might have the worst payroll system ever and the worst vendor team assisting. Correcting things is a freaking nightmare and sometimes, asking for a correction makes things worse.

    Regardless, no one would ever EVER say, “Sorry, no money for you.” That’s just insanity. Even when I have a $10 an hour intern get shorted an hour of time, we go through the horrible maze and make it right. I seriously question any company that doesn’t.

    1. LoFlo*

      +1 Payroll is getting some serious bashing here today.

      Payroll systems are very complex so corrections aren’t as easy as some people think, but most people working in Payroll would not just say screw you to an employee who’s check was wrong. It can seem that Payroll is putting up barriers to efficiency, but the company’s business rules for pay approvals and the system functionality drives a lot of how Payroll operates.

    2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Yeah, even in really terrible payroll systems, there’s a way to add missing money. Sometimes you have to do it in an interesting way (e.g. add 1 hour and override the rate so the total gross comes out right, because for whatever reason adding in the actual hours brings back the wrong number) but it can always, ALWAYS be done.

  18. Joey*

    tell your manager if payroll doesn’t resolve it you’re going to ask his boss for help getting payroll to do the right thing. I suspect your boss is trying to make it go away because he screwed up or isn’t pushing payroll hard enough.

  19. Crow*

    This boss is either lazy-minded and gullible or easily intimidated. Given his concern about doing right by the employee, I’m guessing he’s a conscientious person who’s simply afraid of conflict or afraid to push for what he needs. It’s ridiculous to think a company could get away with not paying its employees because of administrative errors, and once you get to be a boss you can’t be naive or inexperienced enough to believe that.

  20. OP*

    So, just a few updates:

    – A few days after I sent the email, payroll sent out the annual warning that over the holidays, any timesheet error that results in an inaccurate paycheck will not be corrected. Unless (in small print) the correction is required by state law.

    To me that pretty much verifies what my manager told me: payroll apparently likes to pretend that inaccurate paychecks can’t be corrected if it’s even slightly inconvenient for them.

    – The small print about the state law reminded me that Alison has said that if a salaried-exempt person is paid for any portion of a week they must be paid for the entire week. I googled the state law that confirmed that, and wrote my boss a new email stating (in proper corporate-ese) that surely payroll would appreciate a head’s-up so they can get back into compliance with the law.

    – The correction is supposed to be on my next paycheck. I’m inclined to believe it when I see it, but I expect it’ll be in this check or the one after.

    1. EG*

      Trying to think of a reason a paycheck would be inaccurate and the correction wouldn’t be required by state law, and I can’t think of anything. I agree, it sounds like the payroll department is too lazy or doesn’t care about accuracy. Wonder what an auditor would say?

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I’m also confused by this.

        So much so, that at first, as an attempt to understand how a payroll department could possibly operate this way, I was wondering if the warning is about timing rather than accuracy — meaning that they won’t be able to correct any errors during the holidays (perhaps due to limited resources with people being out, etc.) unless the immediacy is required by law.

        I guess that could be plausible, but I’m still having trouble coming up with a rational explanation. It really sounds like the payroll department is just being purposely obstructive and lazy.

        In any event, OP, I’m happy to hear that you may have gotten this resolved. Hopefully the correction will be in your next paycheck!

        1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          I know that our payroll department won’t do any “out of cycle” runs unless an employee’s standard pay is affected. So if you’re missing contracted hours we’ll run a pay to fix it, but if you’re missing overtime or a reimbursement it will need to wait until the first week back on deck. Short weeks + skeleton staff = a much harder line on extra payments than normal.

    2. Natalie*

      “A few days after I sent the email, payroll sent out the annual warning that over the holidays, any timesheet error that results in an inaccurate paycheck will not be corrected. Unless (in small print) the correction is required by state law.”

      IANAL but this pings my bullshit meter. What timesheet errors would not legally need to be corrected? How much do you want to bet that they would correct a timesheet error if you were overpaid, rather than underpaid? Why are they dumb enough to put this in writing?

      1. Observer*

        Lots of payroll people don’t know the law. And many more think that the people who are getting these memos don’t know the law, and assume that no one who they mess up will ever figure it out and get some help.

        Notice that they did have the itty bitty notice, which someone probably thought would cover their rears.

      2. Anonsie*

        I don’t know, like if you forget to clock in PTO hours so you accidentally take the hours unpaid? Or if the company gives a non-legally-required premium for some shifts or coverages (especially around the holidays).

        1. Payroll Lady*

          Anonsie.. if the employee is suppose to get the premium pay per company policy, it has now become legally required pay and any short pay needs to be corrected. The holidays are an extremely busy time for Payroll, however, our first priority is making sure the employees are paid correctly, and corrections made in a timely fashion!

          1. Anonsie*

            Is that so? I had no idea. I suppose it counts as retroactively docking pay, since they were promised one rate and paid another?

            1. Payroll Lady*

              Correct. You can not change an employee’s rate on a whim without notifying the employee, and you can not decrease the rate retroactively. I have worked with HR departments that have not been able to understand this (Sorry to the HR people who know what they are doing!!) and still try to push payroll to make the change.

        2. Natalie*

          OP is exempt, though, so they have to be paid the same if they work at all in the week. The company can deduct from their PTO bank but can’t reduce their pay.

          I suppose the 2nd could happen. I wasn’t thinking in that vein given the phrase “timesheet errors”.

      3. Mimmy*

        I was thinking more along what AnonAnalyst said above – that the corrections can not be made during the holidays. Not that they won’t ever be corrected. Hopefully the correction is reflected in the next paycheck – please let us know, OP!

      4. Ed*

        I could see if they said “payroll errors will not be corrected until your next paycheck” (i.e. we’re not cutting a separate check) or something but you can’t legally not pay someone for time worked.

      5. fposte*

        This sounds like the BS HR email in the later post today–it’s people writing stupid made-up stuff in hope that it buffaloes people out of questioning anything.

    3. HR Manager*

      All well and good if the employee is overpaid, but if the employee is underpaid, it is not legal to not correct that and hand over the owed pay to the employee. This is either a payroll team and/or a company with its organizational head up its rear.

  21. Karen Peterson*

    It’s TOTAL BS that the company “can’t make it right” now. Years ago, I was doing payroll for a company and had to research back several YEARS to prove that someone had been paid correctly. A couple of months is probably inconvenient for someone, but it’s not impossible. I think the manager is making excuses to keep himself out of trouble for the mistake.

  22. Payroll Lady*

    ok WOW! I have read most of the comments, and ANY payroll or HR person who said it was too late, or too small to correct and would only correct if required by state law (which there is not one reason to NOT pay someone ANY time due them, even if it is 1 minute, that is not required by state/federal regs) would be fired immediately, especially if it was put in writing!!! Even a newbie in the field should know this. They may not know HOW to fix it correctly, but they should know it needs to be fixed, and fixed immediately, no matter how long it has been. (OK 5 years may be a hassle, but most states you have to go back atleast 2 years.

    Payroll/HR/Benefits has been my field for over 25 years and I have worked with many different systems. Some excellent and some not so good… but as a Payroll Professional, I have done my best to make any and all corrections in a timely fashion, even with a system that makes corrections difficult. I always make the employee whole and figure out how to get the entry into the system correctly.

    1. LoFlo*

      +1 I think the memo the OP got might be poorly worded. Maybe should have said corrections will be included on a following check, unless required to be paid immediately by law.

      BTW – I was always known as The Payroll Lady at my old company.

  23. Ed*

    A company wanted to do something similar to me once. The funds were coming from the company but a special fund and it would not have technically been a payroll check. I think they were going to write it up like they were reimbursing me for expenses or something. Either way, I said no way, I want an official payroll check with taxes taken out. Plus, that would be money not paid into social security, 401k, etc. They took care of me but I did contact my state labor board out of curiosity and I think they said that they will only get involved if it happened within the past two years.

    If they don’t want to screw up their records since they already closed that pay period, why not just pay extra in next week’s paycheck. If it ends up being time and a half, pay less hours so it equals 8 hours of straight time. I suppose it could affect your taxes by a few bucks by getting a larger check but I personally wouldn’t have an issue with it. Unless OP is a contractor paying quarterly taxes, I wouldn’t think it matters as long as it is within the same tax year.

  24. Alliej0516*

    Not to mention that if you accrue vacation time based on hours worked, LW just got ripped off of that time; even if the manager offered comp time, I prefer the traceability of having the system correct.

  25. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    “It makes no sense that they claim they’re unable to fix it now. First, if they’re able to dock pay from an exempt employee (something that shouldn’t generally be happening except in very rare and limited circumstances), of course they’re able to add it back in. Even aside from that, of course they’re able to add it back in — in the same way they’d do any other pay adjustments, like a one-time bonus. So you’re right to call BS on that”

    Any GOOD payroll software allows for retroactive corrections, retroactive raises, garnishments and attachments, and nearly any error remedies. And if it doesn’t, it can always allow for a one-time payment, an “I’m sorry” bonus, etc.

    This is either

    a) the boss doesn’t want to own up to a mistake with HR/payroll *or*
    b) a systematic procedure where they randomly “hit” a few employees a month and hope that they can get away with it on “goodwill”.

    I’ve worked in environments – even in large companies – where they pulled “stunts” on overtime pay that was due and expenses that were due. So b) is not beyond the realm of possibility, but I’d bet on a).

    Ed – in another thread we discussed an employee who was given a “retroactive promotion” with the pay – but – it hit the employee in a different tax year and so there were some serious tax ramifications. I specified what could happen in a “mock” tax return. I agree with you – it SHOULD be fixed in the same tax year.

  26. James*

    Sounds like too much of the companies time has been lost to this issue. Take the managers cash, he will expense it, move on. Your time is more valuable focused on the company, also that is more value to you as it will result in a better culture.

    Ask not what…. etc.

    So just fix, move on. Now solve some massive issue that will make you a Superstar, get you double the income and make this issue irrelevant.

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