Double-Check your Pay Raise! (& Other Automation & Payroll Errors)

As a unionized nurse, Mrs. 20SF has the benefit of receiving scheduled pay raises with each year of additional service. This is especially wonderful in years when inflation and wage increases are stagnant – she keeps moving forward while those that work for employers who aren’t under a union contract may be stuck in quicksand in the name of fiscal responsibility (enhancing their employers bottom line at the employees expense). But employer greed is a another story for another day.

Last year, while excitedly checking her first post-raise payroll statement, Mrs. 20SF was quickly deflated when she found that instead of seeing her hourly wage increase $1/hr., it actually decreased $0.15!

WTF (is what I said). What is a pay raise good for when… it’s a decrease?

pay raise payroll errorMrs. 20SF reached out to her payroll department with news of the error and they apologetically corrected the error, including back pay.

OK, OK. Payroll errors do happen, she caught it, it was corrected, no harm, no foul, let’s move on.

And then it happened AGAIN.

Identical repeat situation this year. Instead of +$1/hr., she found -$0.15 again.

OK, one time was an aberration, but 2 years in a row? This is something bigger and should be reported to the union, not just payroll. If it happened to her twice in 2 years, how many other among tens of thousands of unsuspecting employees (it’s a big hospital system) have had the same thing happen to them, but were unlucky enough to not check for or notice the error?

Separately, she has also occasionally noticed entire 12-hour shifts missing from her pay and had to submit for correction.

Mrs. 20SF is not alone. A few years ago, I had noticed that a massively incorrect deferred compensation payment from my employer that was missing many thousands of dollars. It was later corrected, but had I not seen the numbers on my paycheck, I would have never known.

Taking an even broader look, 82 million Americans (over half the workforce) have reported paycheck or payroll errors in their career!

And this brings me to the lesson I want to share with you all: often times, intentional or not, payroll gets it wrong (although they never seem to get it wrong in your favor, do they?).

We now live in a financially automatized society. We expect the software and algorithms to always get it right. They mostly do, but it’s easy to forget that imperfect humans still code the software and algorithms. And they do occasionally error and not catch it.

So do yourself a favor and diligently check each payroll statement to make sure that deposits, deductions, hours logged, pay rate, and raises are as they should be. To this day I still opt to receive paper payroll statements for that very reason, despite my company’s push to ween everyone off of them.

Don’t assume that you’ll always automatically be honestly paid for an honest days work. Seems overly simple and unlikely in this day and age, but it’s apparently not.

Have a payroll/pay raise/paycheck error story to share? Please add in the comments.

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