WWYD: The Paycheck Debacle

In this installment of “What Would You Do?,” a mixup at work involving paychecks.

We normally get paid every other Wednesday, and last week was a pay week. I checked my bank account on Thursday and saw I hadn’t been paid, so I started asking around at work to see if other people had been paid. Some had, some hadn’t, and one guy had been paid for one week but not two. We’ve had a lot of changes at work recently, with everybody officially working for the same company on Jan. 1, and they bungled the first paycheck of the year for a bunch of people, but not me, so I’m not sure how they resolved that.

This time, they figured out the problem on Friday (we send our timesheets to a branch in another state, and the person there apparently didn’t scroll down to see all the timesheets attached, nor did she think it was weird that they had timesheets for only a small fraction of the people at the company, but whatever). They then told us that people who weren’t paid on the 23rd would receive that payment in their Feb. 6 check. Should I raise a stink about this? Now, I’m not currently living paycheck-to-paycheck, but they don’t necessarily know that, nor do I know about anyone else’s situation. But even if all of us can stand to wait another couple of weeks, isn’t this kind of a weird way to do things? — K.

My question is: What would your company do if an employee said she needed the money from her Jan. 23 paycheck to pay her Feb. 1 rent? You’re right—they don’t know the situation you or your fellow coworkers are in, and your company shouldn’t have to put anyone in a position to have to explain. Hopefully this is a one-time mixup and it’s all sorted out and everyone is paid regularly and on time for now on.

Once upon a time, I got hired as a full-time contractor for a company, and they left out one very important bit of information about how I would get paid, which was: It’d take at least 90 days to process invoices after I filed them. This meant that even though I was working full-time for the company, I wouldn’t see a dollar for at least three months, and that I’d have to rely on whatever savings I had to get me by until then. Sure, I had that money in savings to help me do that, but what if I didn’t?

I didn’t say anything during the first few months. I guess this is just how it is, I thought. As a contractor, I wasn’t officially part of the company, but I showed up every day and made friends with everyone I worked with. The first time I whispered about the long, strange wait to get paid to a friend in the finance department, she said, “Yeah, sorry about that. The company considers you a ‘vendor’ rather than an employee, and it takes longer to get checks processed for vendors.”

My paychecks seemed to appear in my mailbox out of the blue. During one strange, hazy and long period of not getting paid, I mentioned to another friend I made—the company’s project manager—that boy was it hard not knowing when the next paycheck would turn up.

“Wait, that’s how we pay you?” she asked. “This is unacceptable.”

And, well, to make a complicated story sound less complicated, this project manager eventually made changes in the company so that all contractors would wait a maximum of 14 days to get paid after filing an invoice rather than the crazy 90-day waiting period.

It’s okay to make a stink about things like this if the stink is justified. I recall the project manager’s main argument was: “If you were in Mike Dang’s shoes, would you be okay with waiting months to get paid?” She basically gave them a WWYD to consider, and their answer was, “We’d make a stink about it too!”

 

Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.

 

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13 Comments / Post A Comment

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

I’d politely raise a stink. My employer messes payroll up a lot, but it’s more of the “we forgot to pay you for 2 of 10 days so we’ll add that next time” or “we accidentally overpaid you so we’ll take it off the next cheque” – but it’s unacceptable to just miss a pay period altogether.

Though seeing as it says the problem would be fixed on Feb 6 and it’s now Feb 5 this may be a moot point.

sbizzle (#3,196)

Oh my god absolutely bring it up to payroll or HR. They probably know they messed up (and are freaking out and crying about it if they are me in my office) but if they don’t they need to know, like, three minutes ago. Plus it makes things harder to reconcile when you have a bunch of ins and outs correcting payrolls. So definitely, if you are supposed to be getting paid on a scheduled basis, bring it up to someone who can do something about it.

guenna77 (#856)

it’s not okay for the company to do this, and depending on the state, if you’re an “exempt” employee (aka, full-time, salaried) then it may be illegal.

I can understand a reluctance to say something. My fiancé was in a situation like this – I still believe that the company was secretly having a cash flow problem behind it all – but they blamed it on him not filling out his timesheet quickly enough (which, even if it were true, IS illegal in that state). When he went to them about the missing and light paychecks and asked for his money, one of the owners fired him. and I know that’s everyone’s worst nightmare.

BUT. within a week, another owner of the company hired him back, and not only paid all the back pay, but gave him a raise as well. The guy who’d tried to get rid of my fiancé for demanding the money he was rightfully owed? gone a year later, bought out by the other owners. My guy? still there, now at the top of his dept.

So I say that you give it one more chance if you’re reluctant or the company culture is… unfriendly, but definitely say something after that. otherwise, they are getting your hard work for free.

jr (#3,151)

this happened quite a bit at my old job. the company started struggling financially, with clients taking forever to pay and the economy tanking, and would delay paychecks. Usually it was a day or two but it once or twice it got to a week late. I didn’t really mind because I am young and have a pretty good financial footing but it was frustrating that they would wait until Thursday night to send out an email saying Friday we wouldn’t be getting paid. The only reason I stayed at the job was because the environment was awesome. I had a ton of freedom and my boss was pretty cool. Had I actually needed the money that day I would probably have had a different view of things.

julebsorry (#1,572)

Wow, the writers and many commenter are way more financially stable than I am! I’m not strictly paycheck-to-paycheck, but my rent checks definitely come out of my paychecks (landlord won’t take credit cards, after all…)

Companies cannot be cavalier about your payroll dates – people RELY on them. Nearly 32% of America is paycheck to paycheck (and that figure is likely actually higher). My husband flips out if his pay is late, and I don’t blame him. After all, as Mike says, imagine your company’s response if you asked for your Feb. 1 paycheck on Jan. 23rd? Think they’d be cavalier about floating you the money? Then it’s ridiculous that we’re expected to stay sanguine when they don’t hold up their end of the bargain.

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@julebsorry This.

I do the payroll for my smallish company (around 160 employees). It’s a pain in the ass, as it’s mostly hourly employees, which make for more work in payroll, but you can guarantee I make my deadlines to ensure everyone gets paid on time. I don’t know anyone’s life, and if we say our pay dates are the 5th and the 20th, you will get paid on the 5th or 20th (or before).

@aeroaeroaero Yeah, during Snowpocalypse I was working in payroll for a construction company that issued weekly paychecks. You best believe I made it to work, 2 feet of snow be damned. (Luckily I lived on a snow emergency route and the way to work was mostly clear.)

selenana (#673)

@julebsorry Fourthed. I have worked for my share of shitty shady employers that made mysterious “mistakes” with my check that always seemed to be in their favor. I have called the labor board on people, and if it happens more than once or twice, I would look for a new job AND report them. If they’re doing it to you they’re doing it to others and others might not have the ability/backbone to stand up to them. Some employers I’ve had messed up my checks and I complained and got it fixed, but there were also people working there in more tenuous positions (i.e. immigrants) that didn’t dare complain.

Completely unacceptable. It doesn’t matter whether you *need* the money or not; they *need* to pay you per the terms set forth upon being hired. They can just run another payroll; it’s time-consuming for them, but serves them right as it was their fault in the first place. If they refuse, or there are issues in the future, you can file a formal complaint through your state’s labor board (retaliation would be illegal….but not unheard of). Ugh, HR is the worst (on both sides; I managed my company’s HR dept for a few teary years).

I would certainly bring it up. If they know people are upset, they might offer some kind of bonus or something to forestall legal action. Unless it really is a cash flow problem, which is what I suspect — our workplace can take a loooooong time to get payments out to people we work with, but you better believe any payroll issues are fixed post haste.

Ti:Sapph (#2,050)

Absolutely in no way is this OK. Like, refuse to do anything but sit in the HR office until they hand you a check for the missing amount not OK. You work so they pay you. You don’t get paid, you don’t work. Also start looking for another job. If the place you work now can’t figure out payroll then they’re not long for this world anyways.

jfruh (#161)

Once in 2000 when the dot-com I was working for was unraveling, we had an odd experience when a smattering of people in our office didn’t get direct deposit on payday, but our HR dept. sent an email to them right away and said it was a “glitch” and they got checks FedEx’d to the office the next day. Turns out these were people who were supposed to have been laid off earlier that week, but a snowstorm on the east coast meant that our HR VP hadn’t been able to fly out to pull the trigger in person as planned, so they got another week of employment (and payroll got a headache).

Also, as a contractor, I once had a paper check actually bounce! I was contracting for a very large and very solvent company but their contractor payments were fieled out to a third party that always seemed kind of fly by night to me. Their story, which I mostly believed, was that they have to actively give their bank a list of check numbers for checks to cash, and that they had not done so in this case. It was resolved fairly quickly, but my contact at the payment company actually got mad at me when I raised a stink with my contacts at the big company about it, which I found more flabbergasting still.

Go to HR immediately. Every or any time this happens. And also update your resume. In case of bankruptcy you are on the bottom of the list as an unsecured creditor. You can be sure there will have been no problems with the head honchos’ pay.

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