San Francisco employment partner discusses how to resolve a pay dispute

In The Press 15 April 2022 Experience: Employment

“Pay disputes can escalate quickly and motivate employees to seek out an attorney,” says Withers employment partner, Ann Wicks, in a recent article published by HR Magazine. “Responding quickly, maintaining good communication and ensuring the employee is paid correctly can avoid that outcome.”

In the article, “How to Resolve a Pay Dispute,” Ann offers tips like the above for companies navigating a variety of disputes that can arise related to employee pay. Ann is based in San Francisco and advises both companies and executives in all aspects of employment law. “If it is a simple mathematical error or a failure to include a pay increase or hours worked, check the math and make the correction,” Ann said, “if the issue is more complex, additional investigation may be necessary.”

More complicated issues could include overtime disputes, situations where employees work through lunch or are asked to work outside of their normal hours, or situations where employees have failed to punch in or punch out appropriately.

“Those types of issues,” Ann explained, “will require you to talk to the employee, the manager and maybe some of the others in the department or work unit to determine how much time was worked.” Ann also illustrates the importance of having up-to-date systems in place to properly log employee working hours where human error may create disputes. “Electronic badges, cameras and equipment logs may reveal when the employee was onsite, when they logged in or out, and if they were active on the computer or other equipment,” she said. “While uncommon,” she added, “some managers will ask employees to work off the clock or through lunch and then deny they did so,” making communication imperative.

Sometimes employees may be wrong about their findings. “If it looks like the pay was correct, go back to the employee and explain your conclusion,” Ann said. If employees continue to disagree, she suggests, “ask if they may have made a mistake or if there is additional information that might alter your conclusion.” In cases where the facts still do not support the employee’s claim, Ann tells employers to “try to understand why that is and determine whether there’s a mutually satisfactory way to resolve the situation,” adding, “this is particularly important if the employee is saying they worked but the manager disagrees.” In some cases, a manager may have failed to realize an employee is working or simply made a mistake recording time spent on an assignment. “Either way,” Ann explained, “you need to get to the bottom of it and make sure that the employee is paid correctly.”

With regard to correcting pay, Ann says “the employer should immediately make sure the error is corrected and communicate the correction to the employee,” adding, “the paystub should also be corrected to ensure that the employee is provided with the corrected information and the business records are accurate.” If an extra pay stub needs to be issued and an employer’s third-party payroll company says this isn’t possible, Ann says, “you should question whether that is true and work to get a corrected or supplemental paystub issued.”

To read the full article, go to “How to resolve a pay dispute,” published by HR Magazine on March 15, 2022.