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Employment Law/Bridge Payroll Payback


Beginning in January 2010, our company changed payroll frequency from weekly to bi-weekly.  To "bridge the gap" employees received a 32 hour "bridge" payment to avoid having to wait three weeks for their first 2010 paycheck.  The company made it clear that this 32 hour bridge payment was to be paid back by the employee upon separation from the company, as stated in the employee handbook:

"2.4.8 If You Leave The Company
Team members hired prior to January 1, 2010, received a “Bridge” payment in their January 15, 2010 paycheck to cover the gap in pay resulting from the 2010 Payroll Changes. The Bridge payment (32 hours for full time team members and the pro-rated equivalent for part time team members) was reflected as “Bridge payment” on the January 15, 2010 pay voucher for hourly team members and included in the “Regular” hours for salaried team members.

The Bridge Payment will be collected from each team member upon his or her separation from the Company. Once the Company has been notified of the termination date, Payroll will determine on which pay period(s) the Bridge payment will be collected. In some cases, the Bridge payment will be processed over multiple pay periods while in other cases it will be collected from the final paycheck. In all cases, the Bridge payment will be collected through an automatic payroll deduction."

Is this payback policy legal, specifically in the state of TN?


Thie idea of an employer making a payment to employees but stating it will take the money back when you leave the company is a new one for me.  I believe you will need to consult with a local attorney experienced in TN employment law.  

The state Department of Labor website states that under Tennessee law, an employer cannot deduct anything from an employee's paycheck without the employee's written consent.  See this link:

However, I read through the statutes concerning payment of wages and did not find anything specifically saying this.  I conclude therefore that it must be either an administrative regulation or case law which has established this rule in TN.  Whether that rule would apply to this unusual situation is not clear from the sources I have been able to find.  That's why I think you need to consult with an experienced employment lawyer practicing in Tennessee.  You can get a referral from your local city or county Bar Association by putting the name of the city or county and the words "attorney referral" into your search engine, which will provide you with the Bar Association web site address.

Sorry I can't be of more help, but I hope this at least gets you started toward getting a complete answer to your question.  

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Frank C. Magill


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.


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.

Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

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

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