When Your Company is Breaking the Law

Last Updated Jul 5, 2011 2:43 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Currently I'm quite frustrated with how my boss is handling payroll. Understand, this is a small business consisting of only eight other employees and the issue may be victim to this fact. The pay schedule is set on the first and fifteenth, however, the total hours paid are determined by the previous time period. To explain further:
For the paycheck on July 1, 2011 I will be paid the hours worked from June 1,2011 through June 15, 2011.
Hours worked June 1 - June 15, paid July 1
Hours worked June 15 - June 30, paid July 15

California labor law clearly states that first and fifteenth pay schedules are to be paid no later than the 26th of the month for hours worked through the 1st and 15th and hours to be paid no later than the 11th of the following month for hours worked from the 16th to the following period.
This had not been discussed at any time during the hiring process and nowhere in my training. I'm typically an understanding person when it comes to issues of these sorts but having just gotten back to work after being laid off in January, I am in need of these hours to be paid in order for me to start paying off my past due bills. I'm looking for advice on how to approach this issue with my boss.
This is one of those situations where you have to ask yourself, "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be employed?" You're right (to the best of my knowledge), but this is one of those things that doesn't really make a difference, once you've received the first paycheck. The next one will be in 15 days, and the one after that in 15 more days, and so on and so forth. Yes, it would be great if you'd gotten that first paycheck on June 26th, but you didn't.

California's Whistleblower protection laws would, most likely, protect your job if you complained. However, while the job may be protected, the relationship isn't. That's the sad truth about complaining--there are consequences to the complainer, even if you are 100% right.

Now, chances are, your employer (being a small business) doesn't have any clue that what they are doing is illegal. They are paying their employees on a set schedule. They are (presumably) paying people fairly, according to agreed upon salaries, and providing overtime pay where required. If you can bring this issue to their attention without sounding like a whiner, it may get fixed without damaging your relationship. The key here is to pretend like you don't care.

I know you do care, and you have tons of bills which need to get paid. But, employers hate to take into consideration your financial status when they make decisions regarding paychecks. It makes everyone uncomfortable. It's kind of like the idea that your 3rd grade teacher lived in the closet at the back of the class room, so you're shocked to run into her at the grocery store. They don't want to think about your mortgage or car payments or anything else. (This is also why employers don't like to hire people who appear desperate--as if not being independently wealthy is a character flaw.)

You should, however, bring it up, because you don't want your business to get in legal trouble. Companies facing legal problems don't have the money to pay their employees. Getting no paycheck is worse than getting paid 4 days late every month. Try this type of dialogue:
You: Hey, I don't know if you're aware, but California law allows no more than 11 days after the end of a pay period for paychecks to be issued. I'd hate for your business to get in trouble for something so silly.
Then you let it drop. You've done your duty by bringing it to the owner's attention. You haven't made it seem like it's a big deal to you. You haven't started getting emotional because your bills are late. If they fix it, great. If not, you will be getting a paycheck twice a month, for the correct amount of money.

You're right, but being right is not always the great blessing it's cracked up to be. Sometimes you need to let things go.

For further reading:
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your question to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.
Photo by Sebastian Anthony, Flickr cc 2.0

Comments

Market Data

Market News

Stock Watchlist