Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Help Me Howard: Overpaid
When you get a pay raise it can be nice, but how would you feel if a year after the raise your boss said, 'Oops, we made a mistake, you have to pay that raise back?' Is that legal? Let's bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser to find out.
Clevia Spikes: "And children. I love kids."
So as Clevia got older, it wasn't hard to see where she was headed.
Clevia Spikes: "I come from a family of educators where everyone is a teacher, a principal, or something."
In 2000, Clevia got a job as an assistant at North-Dade Middle School. The pay? Ouch!
Clevia Spikes: "I started out at full-time position, $12,500."
Then she got promoted, and became the school treasurer.
Clevia Spikes: "And I thought that was a great opportunity for me, you know, to move on up, which it was. Yeah, I enjoyed it."
Clevia was never told what her new salary would be, and when her first paycheck came, she got a nice surprise.
Clevia Spikes: "I was like, 'Wow,' and I saw it was $28,000 and some other change and I was like, 'Wow.'"
From $12,500 to $28,000. For a while, Clevia was happy. Then, a year after she got the raise, she got a phone call from the school district.
Clevia Spikes: "They gave me too much money. I was overpaid."
The official said they made a mistake in calculating her salary as a treasurer, so she was going to be cut from $28,000 to $21,000. That was the bad news.
Clevia Spikes: "No. I'm a single mom. That's, like, money I'm taking away from my family."
Then the bad news got worse.
Clevia Spikes: "They're saying I owe $7,000 and something."
Clevia says she understands lowering her salary, but not the demand to pay the school district back.
Clevia Spikes: "Why am I paying for their mistake?"
Clevia complained, but was told sorry.
Clevia Spikes: "And she was like, 'Honey, there is nothing we can do about it. That's the government, and they're going to want their money."
The school district then lowered her salary and started deducting the $7,000 from her paychecks. Eventually Clevia quit the job, but the district told her she still had to repay what she owed.
Clevia Spikes: "For the school system to tell me, 'You're accountable for this money we paid and overpaid you,' it does not make sense."
Well, Howard, the school apparently made a mistake and overpaid you. Do you have to repay that, even if you leave the job?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes, you do. The law calls this unjust enrichment, which simply means you cannot keep something that does not belong to you. Even if they made a mistake, if you didn't earn it, you cannot keep it."
The key in this case: The raise was a clerical error. A school district spokesman wrote that Clevia was placed at a Step 10 pay level instead of a Step 2, where she should have been.
John Schuster said that Clevia got an extra $7,681 over the course of 22 paychecks. If she does not repay the money, she will be turned over to a collection agency, and that's not the only option the district has to get the money back.
Howard Finkelstein: "Now that Clevia has quit, obviously the school district cannot deduct it from her paycheck, but if they choose to go to court and get a judgment, they could garnish any future wages."
That's not the news Clevia wanted to hear.
Cleavia Spikes: "If that's the situation, then I'm just going to have to bite the bullet, but the type of person I am, I just roll with it, because I know I'm going to be blessed some other kind of way."
If you are watching you might be thinking, wait a minute, tomorrow can my boss say, 'Oops, I paid you too much, you need to repay some money? No. Clevia has to repay because the school district made a clerical error. If your boss tries to take money back, too bad. It was his or her judgment to pay you that salary, and they have to live with that decision. Of course, they can lower your salary from that day forward or just fire you.
Getting schooled in ways you don't treasure? Ready to be educated on the law? Contact us. You don't have to repay us. Just give us an "A" for effort.
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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