Human Resources News & Insights

‘You’re laid off — and you owe us money’


Imagine this: A company tells some of its former employees, “We put too much in your severance check. Please give the extra amount back.”

It really happened. And it wasn’t just any employer — it was Microsoft.

The software giant attempted to recoup some severance money from 25 recently fired workers it mistakenly overpaid.

The employees received a letter which said, “This letter is to inform you that an inadvertent administrative error occurred that resulted in an overpayment in severance pay by Microsoft. We ask that you repay the overpayment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience to you.”

There’s no word on the amount of the overpayments.

On second thought …

A scanned copy of such a letter first appeared on the Web site TechCrunch. After that — well, you know how things spread on the Web.

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft announced it had made a mistake.

“We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner,” an e-mailed statement said. Microsoft “will not seek any payment from those individuals.”

Microsoft had laid off a total of 1,400 employees, the first of 5,000 planned layoffs.

As usual with these types of stories, Microsoft has refused to give any more details — so that’s all there is.

But, we’ll pose some questions anyway: Was it correct for Microsoft to ask for the overpayments back in the first place? Would it matter if the amounts were $10, $100 or $1,000? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  1. Lantz Devere says:

    If the error in the severance checks had been the other way (less than expected) I doubt that the recently departed employees would have said “don’t worry about it”. The company would have been expected to pony-up the balance instantly amid much screaming and shouting. So….. I can’t see why the ex-ees would not be expected to do likewise. Certainly bad PR either way. I guess the moral is “check the checks” .

  2. The person responsible for the mistake has some explaining to do. The overpayment never should have happened.

  3. Rickey Fondren says:

    We pay people current so on their last week some employees were paid more than they worked. We attempted to recoup the overpayment from their vacation check which was paid two week later. The problem with this is Texas law requires written authorization from employees to make such deductions. We have to pay back the money.

  4. Paul Kirill says:

    On a purely technical basis, sure- Microsoft was well within their rights to ask for the money back and laid off workers would be obligated to return the funds. (All based on the specifics of their sevrence agreements, of course.) None the less, it is truly poor taste to handle the matter via a form letter. If it was such a big deal that MS “had” to have the money back, ex-workers should have been addressed “in-person” – a phone call, group meeting… To re-coup the loss, the execs that let the error slip by and then thought a form letter was a good idea should be included in the layoff.

  5. When the error is made by the company and it clearly their fault and depending on the amount – less than $500 say – it would be wise to admit an error was made and let them keep it. When we make an error that is the fault of the company (meaning another employee) we do not make employee pay it back. The person processing payroll knows this and is very careful about making these types of payments. It is checked and double checked before the check is run.
    So if they overpaid people who did they underpay? Obviously they are not checking things closely and I would guess it went both ways.

  6. The sevrence agreement should be explicitly clear about the amount of the sevrence payment and that any errors are expeted to be rectified regardless of whose favor they fall in. This should be signed by the employees.

  7. It appears that the ex-employer made a mistake. However, in situations such as this, what is a few more dollars. Put yourself in their shoes. They no longer have an income and will have to depend on their severance to get by until they find a new job! Loosings a job is never a happy time for either the employer or the employee. Let them keep their dignity and write it up as a lesson learned!

  8. If the severance agreement (which is signed by the company and the soon-to-be ex-employee) stated $1000 and the amount paid was $1000, then the issue should be considered settled. If the employer makes a mistake by listing the incorrect amount on the Severance Agreement, it is their fault for not verifying their information before presenting it to the employee. If this was the case and the amount in the example above should have been $800 instead of $1000, then too bad for Microsoft.

    Now a different senario: if the amount on the Severance Agreement (again, which is signed by both parties involved) was listed as $800 and the payment was mistakenly made for $1000, then the recipient should be legally obligated to return the overpayment of $200. They signed an agreement for $800 and no more.

  9. My HR friends seem to be a bit harsh regarding the overpayment. Agreements, contracts, severance policies should fall by the wayside in this situation. The company screwed up, they have $35 billion in cash and should never have asked for the money back. It is reprehensible that Microsoft would have done this. Lighten up HR people!

  10. HR Coordinator says:

    In our situation at our Company, I feel it would be the Company’s fault. We have every check, checked and then doubled check by either the Accounting Manager and/or the President himself. Besides you fired those employees, how do you expect to receive any kind of payment back from them? It was handled badly and was just down right tacky,

  11. All legalities aside, and kicking people for “How it should have happened”. No amount of money is worth the bad press and the lasting impression.

  12. If some were paid more than others based on a forumla, those that received less could come back and claim all sorts of things, discrimination, or whatever reason they could find. They would at a minimum have to acknowledge the error, asking for repayment would be a different issue. A phone call would have been the proper way to ask for a return of the overpayment, work out a payment plan or whatever could be done. Still, I would document it in writing as well.

  13. Douglas Emery says:

    I’m going for the receipent of the funds. It was your error and especially if I had not been told previously what the amount would be. Also I’m sorry that the company made a mistake but that extra dollares will keep me a float a little while longer until I can get another position. You are in control of all of the imputs to the severance pay and all I could do is accept it. Lets put the shoe on the other foot they shorted me on the severance pay then the employer should complete the payment asap.

  14. Mistakes happen. This one isn’t so much about the money, but I agree with Paul. This was just poorly handled by MS. There were only 25 employees who were affected. How hard is it to have an HR Professional(because obviously the Executive Staff is not professional enough) pick up the phone and explain the situation and ask for them to return the money. MS has a right to request the overpayment be returned, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. MS made the wrong choice. I also agree with CKC, I don’t think MS should have been so quick to agree to let this one slide. If one of the other 1,375 people laid off hear about the overpayment (and let’s be honest…they will) it’s not a long jump to think that this was just a trick by MS to pay out more to those 25 and try to sue to receive additional payment. Now I understand, we don’t know anything about the 25 people nor the amount owed so it’s a pretty big stretch, but I’m just saying…someone is always looking for the next big lawsuit that will provide them instant financial freedom.

    One thing about the world of HR…there’s never a dull minute!

  15. When I resigned my middle-school teaching job in May 2000, the school system paid me for the remainder of the “year”, i.e. June, July & August. Later that fall, I received a letter from them saying they were behind in their book-keeping (90 days?) and needed me to pay back August’s money which they had direct-deposited in my bank account. I did not comply, and never heard another word until 2008 when I started substitue teaching. When no paycheck arrived by mail, I discovered that the 8-year-old “debt” was still on the books, and I would have to teach for 30 days before I received any additional payment. Obviously I chose to stop substitute teaching.

  16. What about the payroll taxes that were paid on the additional severance? If the employees simply write a check back, how does their w-2 get adjusted?

  17. Julie –

    Are you going tom buy a Mac now simply based on the fact that Microsoft had an admin error that opverpaid some sevrence checks?

    I doubt that. This is not bad press –

  18. Richard: HR people aren’t the bad guys. We have to protect our employers from legal issues (usually deferring to legal counsel). If someone can find a reason to sue we have to assume that is could happen. It is our job to point out the risks. Emotions really can’t be a part of HR decisions, however, that shouldn’t mislead people into thinking that we don’t care about or understand human emotions they just can’t cloud our decision.

  19. I agree with the ‘if the shoe was on the other foot’ idea that if MS had shorted the ex ee’s, the ee’s would be jumping up and down and demanding their full sev package. AND MS was within their right to demand the money back, but could have done so in a more tactful manner. Ultimately, I think part of the reason MS DID even ask for the money back at all was to stave off any ‘presidence setting’ issues for future layoffs. “well, so-in-so got their sev package AND they got $$$ too, I want mine too!” Things like this happen more commonly than the public realizes, it only got the media’s attention because of who the employer was. If it were Joe’s Mechanic Garage laying off a few folks, I doubt it would have made even the opinion column in the Podunk Smalltown Gazette newspaper. This probably is just something that’ll end up on VH1’s 2009 year in review tv show.

  20. THis exact thing happend to a colleague of mine last fall. She was the HR Manager of the small company that laid off a number of employees. One of the employees laid off was the Payroll Manager. So, the mistake in the final checks was inevitable! The amount overpaid was considerable and she called each person on the phone explaining the situation and asked for pay back. A number of people were upset and others just said “That figues!”, but all but one of them paid it back. Not a pleasant experience, I’m sure. I think the amount of money overpaid and the way it is communicated make a big difference in whether or not a company asks for the money back, or decides to eat it. If the amount is big enough to make a real dent in the already hightened financial struggles of the company, then it is definitely an obligation of the HR or payroll person to attempt to get payment back. But, to do it in a much more ‘human’ way that a form letter would reap much better results.

  21. Morally, Microsoft should not have asked for the “overpayment” back. They may have had a right to ask for it but they should have been smart enough to know that asking for it back is like pouring salt on an open wound. “Okay, we are laying you off. We’re giving you a severence. Although, you will not be getting the regular income that you are accustomed to, we hope the severence helps you out. Oh, guess what? We gave you too much money. Give it back, please.”

    Seems that this was an internal process error. Microsoft should’ve identified the error in the process, correct it, and took the overpayment as a loss.

    What a slap in the face this is!

  22. I agree with Ed. If the severance agreement was written correctly, these 25 employees knew what amount was due to them. And, again, if the severance was handled correctly, each employee signed an agreement that stated this amount before the payment was released. I think Microsoft was justified in asking for the money back. As a person who is expecting my very own department (and position) to be eliminated in the upcoming weeks, I would expect my company to recoup an overpayment if it’s made, and I agreed to the amount. Then again, I certainly wouldn’t hunt my manager down to tell him about the error, and if he didn’t catch it, or didn’t feel the need to recoup, then that’s fine too! 🙂 Bottom line…Microsoft was justified, but handled the request for repayment incorrectly.

  23. Barb –

    The form is called W2-C

  24. Ed,

    I have always used a Mac. In fact some of the Mac’s I have used are antiques.
    The company I work for is a large international company in a very small town. Even though we are “the Man” in the town, we are pretty sensitive about bad press and and bad impressions. We just had to lay off a portion of our workforce due to some regional shipping problems. I want those people back, they are good, trained hard workers.
    Had I made the error, and similar issues have happened here, we would have eaten it and gone on.
    In this world of mass instant communication, a form letter is so 60’s.

  25. Julie –

    Fine – reverse the situation if Mac had made this error – would you change to MS?

  26. There are two things to consider here. The first is legally, what is expected from the former employee and company. As others have mentioned, on the severance agreement, there should be an ammount listed on the agreement. If the check they recieve is more then what was listed and they just keep it, that’s stealing. Just like taking extra change that was accidentally given to you by a cashier. It is well within the right of the company to request that money back. Likewise, it is the former employee’s responsibility to rectify the balance because otherwise, technically, they are stilling from the company.
    The second thing to consider here is outside of legalities, what should the company do, considering publicity, the x-employee’s new financial situation…and what would just morally be right. None of us can make that determination. That’s on the company and they have to live with the impression they leave on the general public’s mind.

  27. If you owed vacation later it can be recouped at that time if you have a Direct Deposit form that the employees sign that reads as most standard forms now do “In the event the employer deposits funds erroneously into my account, I authorize the Employer, either directly of through its payroll service provider, to debit my account for an amount not to exceed the original amount of the erroneous credit. Most companies don’t even realize that they are having thier employees give this permission up front. Check your direct deposit slips. it sure saves notification time in the event of an error.

  28. What about equipment? If a laid off employee still has a laptop at home, a Blackberry in their car, don’t you ask for that back? Employees should know what they can keep and what has to be turned back in. If they received a letter stating their severance amount, anything more that that is owed back.

  29. A couple years ago, we had a situation where two employees were paid about $500 more than they were supposed to have earned, due to an error in calculating their new salary. After discovering the error, we contacted both employees by phone and explained what had happened. We decided after going over our options to send a letter to both employees letting them know they can keep the money, since it was our error and we didn’t want to create a hardship for them. We felt it was the right thing to do!

  30. I had a friend who worked for a company, not Microsoft with the same problem. They calculated incorrectly, and had the incorrect amount in the severance agreement. The employee thought he was paid correctly. He received a certified letter saying to pay it back. When he said he couldn’t, it was gone, they offered him a payment plan.

    Some mistakes are more costly than others, so I think the employer should have taken a big-boy pill and ate the cost. It was not a lot of money per person, I think, but multiplying it by the number of terminated employees it effected, I think it probably was a bit more significant.

    I felt the employer was trying to show a good-faith effort was made to correct the problem for future auditors. I don’t know that, but it’s my guess.

  31. Interesting conversation on this topic.

    We haven’t had this happen to us (yet), but in case it ever does, I was interested in knowing the “legal” response to what can be done. According to the CA Labor Comissioner’s office, if you’ve already done the requests directly to the past employee, your only avenue to recoup is through small claims court since the “employee/employer” relationship is over.

  32. Speaking as a separated employee with which this happened ( not to hurt anybody’s feelings) my response was: “F%*@# Y*@” !!!!” SUE ME>>Because it will cost you more to get it back than you “over paid me” (The company had refused to pay my accrued 3 weeks of vacation pay- after ten years of 50 to 60 hour weeks). That was their Tuff —– .

  33. A close relative of mine was terminated from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, one of the big four accounting firms. A while after she received her last pay deposit she received a letter telling her that PwC had made an error and she had to pay them back. She disagreed with their calculation. She eventually got a letter demanding that she pay them back a smaller amount of money. She was not employed and it was still a large amount. They were going to send her account to collection if she did not pay. She wrote them a check. I am amazed that a big four accounting firm could not get it right. PwC is a company that markets itself as very employee oriented.

  34. Jackie –

    Samll claims court would have been pretty cheap and would have worked out well.

    If they owed you three weeks of accrued vacation pay – you could have sued them for it.

  35. Don’t you find it interesting that there is no mention of any of the 25 employees calling MS and asking why they received more than they should have? Maybe they were hoping no one would notice. As a matter of principle, MS has the right to request repayment, however maybe a phone call then a follow up letter would have been more prudent.

  36. I have heard many comments on “if the amount was stated”, but with this large of an error and no one mentioning it, to me it makes sense that this was not the case. If they said one month’s salary, for example, most employees would not know the exact amount expected with withholding adjustments, etc. and would assume it was the correct amount. In this case, it would seem harsh to request an overpayment be repaid when the company is well aware that this person has no job.

  37. I think the biggest issue from my perspective is what it says about Microsoft to the rest of their employees. These are not ordinary times. If one person was fired, or part of a layoff, it might not play so badly. People being let go right now are going into very uncertain times. I read somewhere else that the average overpayment was approximately $4000/person. It really makes the firm look insensitive and non-caring, even though legally they had every right to go for the money.

  38. Replying back to “Jackie:… If you work in CA, you definitely have a claim to take to the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Accrued leave is a “must pay” on last day of employment. I’d be pissed off too – and you can be assured the Labor Commissioner would assess penalties on top of getting you paid back. If you don’t work in CA, I’d still call your Labor Commissioner’s office. That is just wrong!

  39. If the amount really was approximately $4,000 per person, then that’s approx. $100,000. That could be another person’s salary. Why wouldn’t MS attempt to recollect some of that error? If it were me, I’d feel guilty keeping my share of $100,000 if it meant cutting someone else’s job down the road. Unfortunately, the days of being the nice guy are over. Sure, MS is a large company with a huge bank account, but all companies are being forced to cut back, and are probably cutting back in areas they normally wouldn’t, including recouping errors from their past employees.

  40. No, I work(ed) in Central Florida – right-to-work State. They claimed the accrued vacation is on for employees of the company – even though I got severance (which half of this they asked for back- approx 1k)…I wasn’t an employee with the company anymore, and thus, not entitled to vacation compensation… because I hadn’t “put-in” for my vacation ???? ……(B.S.)…. It wasn’t just me, – 10 others as well (various pay grades) – I’m sorry to still be -hurt -I understand the economy; but there is nothing I can do about it but collect my unemployment, search for another job – and tell them to kiss MY A@!@!@! – If they do sue ( F@%#$ ‘EM) They will only be a blemish on my credit record…

  41. Right to work has nothing to do with accrued vacation time. I think you need to go to your State’s department of labor website and check it out.

  42. REALLY? Ed, I will do that…Thank you.

  43. And Jacquie, THANK YOU…Lay off for me happened in October…I sympathize with the others in my situation…Stuff’s Tough…There’s A LOT of us out there (hurt) – good employees – good workers–just good people – and many more hitting the same rank every week…It’s tough for HR, especially in a close-nit company not just MS; I actually do sympathize with the employer, cut-backs hurt- EVERYBODY – but, man, if your payroll screws up – especially with severance – bite the bullet -fix it so it doesn’t happen in the future – and LET IT GO… Sorry you’re gonna have to cancel your TEE Time – (Still haven’t let go, I guess) But, thank you.

  44. Matter of Degree says:

    What if the mistake was $10,000 per person? or $50,000? Where do you draw the line of when they should or shouldn’t look for repayment of the mistake.

    I think the employees should pay it back. If Microsoft chooses to gift it for PR’s sake, that’s their perogative; however, in no way do the employees deserve this money in principal, even if they are in the unenviable position of having just been laid off.

    Companies…check your severance checks!

  45. REALLY, Okay MD,Her’s the scenario: Everything you have done for the company you work for – diligently, over your period of employment says to you – Damn, sorry, gotta let ya go here is $$$$ -Sorry about your luck- now go away- Honestly ARE YOU gonna give a Rat’s butt if the company “overpays” YOU? Glad you got a job (currently) what if you found yourself – – – – not having any income???? Bills gotta be paid, kids gotta be fed…ANYBODY who gets severance of 10 or 50k- is making more money per quarter than most of the work force makes in a year – how much do you make?????

  46. Jackie,
    I had the same problem here in florida, after a layoff, they did not want to pay me my vacation time. I threatened them with charges and a lawsuit…..they paid promptly…..I am sure there is a law that they owe you accrued vacation pay. After all, you already earned it.

  47. To Douglas Emery: Seems like you’d like to have it both ways. If the company overpaid you, they should absorb it, but if they underpaid you, they should correct that immediately. Jackie, I know in CA an employer cannot refuse to pay accumulated vacation hours. I, too, think you should check with your state labor dept. Also, I agree with HR Dude – it’s pretty simple, really – if you take something that is not yours, it is stealing. Microsoft handled this with all the grace of a cow on roller skates, so there’s also something to be said for personal calls to the laid off people – far more sensitive. If the overpayment amount was insignificant, that might alter their position. They don’t really NEED to collect a small amount, but are still entitled to. I sympathize with anyone who loses his/her job, especially in this economy. I wish all of you the best in finding another position. I think, as HR people, it is pretty hard to separate emotion from our decision-making when we know how difficult it is to lose a job.

  48. HR Coordinator says:

    Jackie, I really like you and I’m not blowing smoke up your you know what! You are looking at it from the point of view of a person who no longer has a job, why? Because your in that position. These other people who make 100K a year plus just don’t get it until you start messing with their pay! We had to do a pay cut here;across the board on Salary personel. This ranges anywhere from 30K to 160K, you guessed it! The highest paid low life made it an even 5% cut across the board when we (HR) wanted to start at 5% for the highest paid and go down from there in percentage because 5% really hurts the lowest paid salary person. But the guy is only out for himself and could give a rat’s a$$ about the rest of us and Oh, by the way he also has 2 company cars that we pay for and the gas that goes in it, do the rest of us get free gas with new cars????? He didn’t think about turning those back in! I really hope I’m not standing at the pearly gates when he passes on! Explain yourself then! In the mean time I will do away with comfortable items for my kids, like less food and lower heating in the house, no Birthdays these year kids. Scumbag!
    Jackie, if we ever had an extra position here in our HR department, I’d hire you in a second! 🙂

  49. The thing that isn’t being mentioned is that severance is OPTIONAL! Companies do not have to offer severance to displaced workers in every situation. And, the policies surrounding amount of severance are up to the employer. If YOU accidentally wrote a check to your friend with an extra zero on it, would you expect them to pay it back, or would you just shrug it off and say “my bad” and walk away. As much as it inconveniences the people who are asked to pay that back, anyone who paid attention to the severance agreement would know they were cashing a check that didn’t belong to them. I wouldn’t like to be in the situation, but I really can’t see that I’d have any right to argue. Mistakes happen….MS should improve their processes so it doesn’t happen again. But, those employees shouldn’t be surprised when they’re asked to pay back money that didn’t belong to them. I know losing your job sucks, and being unemployed and struggling with bills sucks. I’ve been laid off and in the same situation. But, that doesn’t mean I am entitled to any more than what I agreed to accept when I signed my severance agreement. As an employee, I was paid wages, benefits, and retirement while I was working. I don’t expect any of those things to continue if/when I’m laid off….especially due to an error. Unless the MS employees did not know what the correct amount was supposed to be, then there’s no reason they would be entitled to the extra money.

  50. Brad Nailer says:

    From a practical standpoint, I would ask those overpaid say $100 or more, to return the overpayment. If the party or parties failed to pay, however, The Company should just accept the loss. The cost of collection, if not the bad PR, would render a recovery effort ill-advised.

    This is another good reason to spread severance payments out over several weeks or months, and preserve the opportunity to make adjustments for errors or breach of contract.

    I would like to hear from someone on the legalities involved. I know it probably varies by state. Could you enforce collection on the overpayment? Something tells me that such overpayments would be considered a gift from the employer.

  51. Elizabeth,

    Touche, nicely stated.

  52. I think whether MS asks for the money back should definately depend on how much the overpayment was and how quickly they asked for it back. If is was within days of the payment being made and it was a significant amount, there is no reason the former employees shouldn’t pay it back as the money probably hasn’t been spent yet. On the other hand, if it was a small amount it would be best to leave it alone and YES, ED it is bad press for MS. I doubt many people quit buying but it sure makes them look like they don’t know what they are doing!

  53. I actually had a friend who was overpaid on his final check after a layoff. The company sent him a letter requesting repayment headed in bold caps as DEMAND LETTER, and threatened legal action if it was not received within 10 days. He sent a letter back telling him he would be glad to pay it if they would pay him for supply tickets that he had submitted for reimbursement but never received and asked for reimbursement for the stamp to mail it to the check.

  54. to HR: THANKS too bad you aren’t in Central Florida ! I really believe that is what P.O.’ed me. Our VP got company car and $130,000 office renovation – -THEN WE did cutbacks— too – – across the board salary & hourly…OHHHH the pain! I can’t make this up, man… I was Hr & OM & AA AND….I wrote the Company policy!!! (HA _HA_HA) (Except for the vacation pay thing)

    I had to lay off some of my subordinates – IT DID SUCK! But I did something I haven’t seen anyone else Anywhere do….Letters of reference, and at least three leads: #’s to new job leads or other different opportunities. ( Yes, this p.o.’ed the CEO & owner – for wasting my time) I care(d) about My employees & their livelihood… and I guess that makes me a bad “Company person” ….Not saying anyone else should do what I did – at all. That is just the way I work… and Damned If I am going to leave anybody who committed their sweat and efforts to make “us” successful out in the cold. Then it happened to me…. (smile) oh well…life goes on. Had I been there, there wouldn’t be any asking for the $ back because the mistake would not have been made in the !st place. – just my .02.

  55. Matter of Degree says:


    You seem to have not really understood my point. The point is not whether or not they deserve severance (and yes, severance is optional), but whether or not they get to keep the mistake that was made. Microsoft was not asking them to pay back everything, just the overpayment. A lot of people seemed to think that Microsoft should just let it go…their mistake, lesson learned, etc. And ultimately that’s what happened (again, for PR’s sake). My question was…at what point does it become unreasonable for a company to let it go? There’s nothing about how much the mistake was…was it $100? $1,000? $10,0000?

    Yes, I’m very grateful to be employed and in no way was I trying to suggest that it would be a good thing to screw an unemployed person out of their severance.

    Again, my advice, companies…check your checks!

  56. I got your point – I’m asking YOU – Would YOU – laid off —no income – -bills to be paid—CARE? As an HR for the company, and saving “Company” Face — I think it becomes a moral issue. And As I stated – A lesson learned – OOPS! Correct it ASAP! Business are going under,… around here..Daily. The Unemployment insurance takes up the slack of an accounting/payroll “Error” plus, it is written-off as “Cost of Labor” – An EXPENSE on the ITR….just like the Executive’s car and gas and Martini lunches. An Accounting error is one thing – Sorry, We stuck in an additional “0” on your check: Even a Dumb bunny would expect that to be returned- totally different from a Severance – we PAID you too much –now give it back – OPPS. -The fact is, Most employees are paid 30 – 60% WELL BELOW their rate of income for the Company (obviously to make up for the ones that are Well over paid) …I was one – as proof…paid $XX.XX ph and billed out at $XXX.XX ph. That is 3 times what I was paid to do my job. The point Stops when it is a Clerical Error and should be addressed as such. Our/My employees got Severance of 1 week for every 2 years – on an accrual/annual review (less time missed, performance, yada yada ) basis. It kept our turnover down and our rates down as well… we had employees making less than $10ph on the “floor” that’s a big Dam difference between them and Mr/Ms $230.00 suits.

  57. By the way, I really enjoy this forum…Thank you for “listening” to me VENT – some thing just rub my fur the wrong way —guess this was one of them

  58. Some things –Dam I need to spell ck b4 hitting enter!

  59. Jackie,
    Here’s one for ya…I was laid off by a company and they forgot that I was on a critical project. Oops! So I made them pay me high consulting rates “in advance” before I would come back to work on the project. They did it too!

    Remember folks, what you know is valuable, do not help your ex-employer without being paid to do so.
    And make damn sure you are paid well too!

  60. L O L !!!! CONGRATULATIONS to You, AL ! Congrat u F%$#^$ing–Lations! When a Company makes bad decisions, they should have to live with it, just like an individual Adult would. I DO NOT Feel Sorry FOR STUPIDITY! GOOD FOR YOU!

  61. Of course MS has every legal right to recoup their overpayment. I’m certain they have a policy about overpayment in their employee handbook regarding your paycheck? Why would this be any different? The fact that MS is a multimillion dollar corporation is not the issue, OR if this was a small mom and pop company, what are the facts? The facts are the employees have received an overpayment and they need to return a portion? Sorry, but they’re are no free rides in life….

  62. BTW- that F%$#^$ing = “Fricking” – just FYI

  63. Paige –

    I guess you are perfect – have NEVER made an error on your job. Right?

  64. A number of the responses on here are the very reason the world is in this major recession.

    Too many people have this sense of entitlement – the world owes it to them.

    Earn your way through life –

    You do not deserve anything that you have not earned!

    me me me me me me me me me – Shut up – work hard and be happy!

  65. After reading all the comments: it appears that if an ex-employee is in possession of money or equipment that belongs to the company, the only way to get it back is to ask or take to court and hope for a judgement. And if a judgement is issued, hope that the individual will be able to pay (they are unemployed now).

    I find it interesting how many find that the company management should “forgive” these errors when they are found. I guess it is because the harm to the company seems much less than the harm to the individual. However, this money is not a manager’s to give or take. It belongs to the company which has an obligation to its shareholders/investors. Sometimes to avoid a lawsuit or to avoid negative PR a company may “forgive” such errors. The same goes for the CEO or other executive who spends an ellaborate amount on office decorations or a party. If the return on this investment cannot be justified, it shouldn’t be happening. When I see the current economic crisis, I see so many people hurt by losses in their retirement accounts (investments) due to a bunch of managers who did not manage their companies to make a profit. Well, I suppose a few managed their companies so THEY would make a profit, but I meant the company’s bottom line.

  66. A similar thing happened to me with a previous employer. I was overpaid $10,000 on my severance check. I contacted my former employer immediately and many times over the next 7 months before they finally reconciled it. Friends told me, “go ahead and keep it, it is their mistake”, “they’re a big company, they can afford it”, etc. Ethically, I could not have done it any other way, although I believe that if I had not repeatedly contacted them, they would never have caught it.

  67. You bet that everyone that got shorted would be jumping up and down!! MS at least contacted the people. If it had been the government that over paid, they would have just debited your bank account for the over payment. It happens with SS checks that are paid to people that pass away before the 3rd of the month, every month. I am not saying they should have used more thought, they should have

  68. I actually had this happen to me. Well… there were a few differences, 1st I am still employed with this company. It is a work at home type company. They have thousands of employees I am told. I have never talked to anyone in HR. My only communication is by email. When the overpayment occurred, we were told that the amounts would come out of the next few pay checks. As they did not consider the legal ramifications for the part time people, they still have not taken the overpayment and it is now 6 months later. The total amount is about $40 and change. I just received an email that explains that this is going to collections Since I have failed to repay the amount due. Personally I am at a loss. The over pay me, they don’t pull it back out of future wages, and now it goes to collections???

  69. SUE –

    Forward the e-mail they sent you about the overpayment to be taken from future checks right back to them and ask why this has not been done.

  70. Basically this whole thing is like a story I once read in the Times Tribune about sixish months ago. It goes like this: A man wakes up one morning, checks his ATM balance, and finds an extra ten thousand dollars in his checking account. He sees it as a gift from heaven in troubled times and spends it paying off his bills, buying creature comforts, or whatever. His bank, who made the mistake, wanted their money back and sued to get it back. They made a mistake, and he was at fault.

    Long story short they made a mistake and punished a questionably innocent man for it. Is it legal what they did? Yes. Is it also unethical as well? You guessed it baby it was very unethical. Basically if I hire someone to juggle bricks for five hundred dollars an hour and accidentaly pay them seven hundred dollars an hour, I have the right to my money back because of employer/employee agreement. Or in the case of the man and his bank contract of services and incessant fine print that gives everyone headaches.

    Alas I digress, the man himself was not necessarily innocent. His inability to check with the bank concerning his unearned and rather excessive funds caused him to be guilty by means of inaction. He could have avoided the whole situation and lived with his less than ten dollar account balance simply by calling his bank and reporting the whole deal. Arguably the employees are also guilty for not noticing the error in their severance pay.

    C’est la vie, people are greedy by nature. Long story short: you are responsible for keeping track of your finances and not spending money you didn’t earn just in case an employer/uncle sam/banks/the crazy creole beatnik chef/etc. overpays you.

  71. Nivek, that was a silly post. He was more than “not necessarily innocent” he was downright guilty! The bank didn’t mistakenly but $10.00 in his account – it was $10,000. Anyone in their right mind would know the mistake would be discovered eventually and would be crazy to spend the money. Also, any honest person would definately report it immediately. He should be put in jail for stealing even though the bank was at fault for depositing the $10,000. There was NO WAY the bank should even consider letting him keep the money. What idiot would think it was a gift from the Heavens?

  72. I agree with Paige. Human beings (in this case bank employees) do make mistakes. I don’t agree with Nivek that the bank did anything unethical in asking for the return of this money. You can bet your last dollar that if the situation were an exorbitant fee or bill (we’ve seen the stories of the $100 thousand plus utility bills) the recipient would have been on the phone in a New York minute to get that straightened out. This man allowed himself to succumb to temptation. Anyone should know (aside from the basic honesty issue) that the bank would catch that error pretty quickly.

  73. Well said Judy!

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