A lunchroom employee in Alabama is being ordered to repay back after the school mistakenly paid her more than she should have received. Now, the hardworking employee is coming to the media for help after she was accused of cashing her checks.
Christie Payne, child nutrition manager at a high school in Chilton County, Alabama, has been ordered to repay over $23,000 after a payroll mistake went unnoticed for six years.
Payne says she was unaware that there was any issue with her pay until she received a letter in the mail from the superintendent.
The letter, signed by Superintendent Jason Griffin, said that the overpayment totals $23,465.40 and began during the 2016-2017 school year.
In 2016, when she was promoted to a managerial position, they made an error. They want her to repay the $23,465.40 because she was paid a “wrong salary” each pay period.
“The employee went from assistant manager to manager,” the letter said. “The employee should have started at step 0 or the manager schedule but was given years of experience as an assistant.”
Payne said that she had no clue she was even being overpaid after moving from assistant lunchroom manager to manager at her school, according to a representative with the Alabama Educator’s Association.
The letter outlines three options for repaying the money. Payne can pay $325.91 monthly for 72 months, $3,910.90 annually for the next six years, or pay in one lump sum.
The letter said that if Payne objects to the overpayment or wants to propose another repayment schedule, she must do so in seven days upon receipt of the letter, which was dated April 12 but was mailed to Payne’s home address.
The Chilton County Board of Education website said under the law, board officials are required to recoup any over-payments.
But legal experts said the school workers might not have to return the money, especially given how long it’s been.
“You can run into problems with federal wage law for taking away money that’s been paid to them,” said Heather Leonard, a labor and employment attorney. “The longer it’s been paid, the more likely it is these employees are going to have a stronger argument that they’re entitled to keep the money.”