Your paycheck is the single most important thing about working for your employer. After all, if you didn’t get paid to work then you’d be on a beach somewhere sipping fruity drinks or, more realistically, out there looking for a job that pays in money. So when something goes wrong with your paycheck, naturally you’re going to be a little bothered.

But before you go storming into your boss’ office to demand the money for your missing hours, it’s important to consider the best possible way to approach this problem. To maintain a good relationship with your employer, you’ll want to go about checking and correcting this paycheck discrepancy with care and decorum. 

Today, we’re here to offer a step-by-step guide to correcting your paycheck problems for the best possible result.

Assume It’s an Accident

First, don’t assume that your employer is trying to cheat you. This is often our first gut reaction to being underpaid. Your employer has effectively stolen your time, but most of the time paycheck problems are an accident. Maybe hours weren’t recorded right, maybe someone forgot to punch your latest raise into the system. Maybe the admin doing payroll this week is new and just made a mistake.

Give your employer the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will be eager to fix the mistake once you point it out. This will help you maintain a positive attitude and be polite to everyone who might be able to help you fix the problem.

Double-Check Your Most Recent Employment Contract and Employee Handbook

Next, check what you have in writing. Check your most recent employment contract to see how it defines your wages, hours, and compensation. If you are salaried and/or exempt, check the rate at which you should be paid weekly and monthly. If you are an hourly employee, confirm the amount you should be paid per hour.

Then check the employee handbook. This may also have pay protocols written down and may define incremental raises.

If you have been given a verbal raise without paperwork and that raise has not appeared on your paycheck, you may need to get that raise in writing before you can legally insist on it.

Check California Law

Reference your recorded pay agreement with California law. Remember that it is required for your employer to pay you time and a half for overtime and they can’t give you comp-time instead. Remember that employers must legally pay you for all time they demand of you, including on-call time where you cannot schedule that time for your own uses.

Do The Math for Yourself

Now do your own math. Compare the hours you’ve worked, been on-call, and worked over-time with the rate of pay that you can confirm in written records. Write it out in a clear math problem so that there’s no confusion. Then compare it to your paycheck to confirm that the amount is light for the defined pay period. Remember to check the dates on the pay period in case you’re thinking of the most recent week when the paycheck is for the week before.

Check With Your Manager if You’re Reasonably Certain

If your math shows that the paycheck is light, and you’re close to 100% certain you remember your hours correctly, take the problem politely to your manager. Show them your math and the pay stub and the difference between and ask if you could correct the mistake. Remember not to be angry or accusatory. Chances are that your manager isn’t even in charge of payroll and this was a problem above their head or even made by a computer.

If your manager is understanding, they will send your question up the chain and have your paycheck checked or corrected if there is clearly a mistake. However, if your manager is resistant or hostile or says there’s nothing they can do, you’ll need to take the next steps into your own hands.

Track Your Hours Closely

In the next pay period, track your hours closely for your own records, no matter what hours-tracking system your work has. Keep a journal and we suggest you snap cellphone pictures of your clock-in and clock-out times so there’s proof of your records.

Schedule a Polite Meeting with HR

Take it up the chain to HR. Schedule a meeting and, again, be polite with the assumption that the person you’re talking to is not responsible but they can help you. Ideally, your HR rep or department will be eager to help you sort out the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Contact an Employment Lawyer and Start Looking for a More Reliable Employer

 Finally, if all else fails (or you find yourself facing hostility), it’s time to contact an employment rights lawyer who can help you force your employer to pay you for time worked and services rendered. In addition, you likely want to start looking for a new job with an employer who can handle the basic functions of hour tracking and compensatory pay.

Aiman Smith and Marcy is dedicated to defending the rights of employees from unfair treatment. For more information about how to get your rightful pay and stand up for your employment rights, contact us today!

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