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The payroll dept at the company I work for constantly estimates payroll (3 out of the last 4 weeks and innumerable times before that). This last pay period my check was overestimated by almost 9 hrs  so next week I will be held accountable for that. I was scheduled a short week by no fault of my own (I even offered
to work extra hrs this week bc I needed more )and now will owe all this extra time/money due to managements estimation of last weeks hrs. My question is, is it legal to constantly overestimate time and expect the employee to have to pay those hrs back? I'm positive it's immoral AND bad business but I would like to know the legality of it all. I barely make minimum wage by North Carolina laws and to have to "pay back" 9 hrs from a possibly 20-25 hr check is rediculous (especially when it's no fault of my own). Thank you, in advance, to any legal advice you can possibly give to me.

Answer
Crystal:

What your employer is doing amounts to a deduction from your wages based on an "overpayment" in a prior week.  North Carolina state law requires that an employee consent in writing and in advance to any such deduction from wages, and that you be given written notice of each such deduction in advance of when it actually occurs.  Here is an excerpt from the website of the North Carolina Department of Labor touching on this issue:

3) N.C.G.S. 95-25.8(a)(3) - If the amount of a proposed deduction is NOT known in advance, the employer must have written authorization from the employee that is signed before the payday from which the deduction is to be made and that states the reason for the deduction. Prior to actually making a deduction, the employer is required to provide the employee with a WRITTEN NOTICE of the actual amount to be withheld and the employee must be informed in writing of his right to withdraw the authorization. The employee must inform the employer in WRITING if they want to withdraw their written authorization.

The URL for the page where I copied the above paragraph is:

http://www.nclabor.com/wh/fact%20sheets/deductions_from_wages.htm

If you did not give written consent to these deductions and are not getting the notice described above, then your employer would seem to be in violation of state law.  In addition, under both state and Federal law you are entitled to be paid overtime for any hours actually worked in any work week in excess of 40.  You didn't mention that in your question, but given the "estimating" practice you described, it seems possible that there may be occasions when you would not be paid properly for earned overtime.  Overtime must be paid at the rate of 1.5 times your regular hourly rate.  An employer is not permitted to "average" your hours over multiple work weeks to avoid paying overtime--if you work more than forty hours in any work week, you must be paid overtime for those hours over forty.

If you believe you have not been paid properly, or if you did not consent to the wage deductions or get proper notice of them as described above, then you should file a wage claim with the NC DOL.  Here is a link to instructions on how to do that:

http://www.nclabor.com/wh/fact%20sheets/Wage_Complaint_How_to_File.pdf

I hope this is helpful to you.  

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Frank C. Magill

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I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.

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30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

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Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

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J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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