Overpayment of severance pay

I was laid-off in February of 2002 (via Fedex) after working for a company 4 years. The severance package was for two weeks of pay. Since I am over 40, I was given six weeks to sign it. However, before I could sign it, I was sent another severance agreement stating 5 weeks of severance pay. I was also faxed another severance agreement stating 5 weeks of severance pay with slight modifications. I didn't immediately sign it and took about three to four weeks before I signed and returned it. Apparently during this time and a little beyond, the company was still depositing pay into my bank account. Several months later (almost six) the company contacted me saying they erroneously overpayed me and want me to pay them back. To date, there has been no suit filed. The severance agreement that I signed indicates that any disputes be handled through mediation. I have not contacted the company in any way. I feel that I stalled on signing the severance agreement and got some extra pay from it. This is a tactic I have read about in several books on the subject. Do I owe them the money?

1 answer  |  asked Sep 3, 2002 7:37 PM [EST]  |  applies to Texas

Answers (1)

Margaret A. Harris
Overpaid by Employer

I fear you may indeed owe the employer a "refund" of monies that it overpaid you. We cannot be certain of that, however, without looking at the documents you signed. The words of a contract control the outcome of a dispute like this. Like, were these just extra pay checks, or is there some dispute as to whether you should have received only two rather than five weeks of pay, and the confusion came from the employer offering different severance packages? You may need a lawyer to look at those documents for you and advise you on some strategy.

Take a look at the mediation section of your papers too. Perhaps it is at no cost to you. Mediation can be a great opportunity to resolve a dispute without the expense of going to court -- usually the outcome of a mediation is that both parties make concessions, so no one is entirely happy -- no one is the "winner" but then again no one is the "loser."

posted by Margaret A. Harris  |  Sep 4, 2002 1:47 PM [EST]

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