Q: My payroll dept failed to deduct my health insurance premiums from my pay for seven years. When I learned about it I
brought it to their attention. They now want to collect nearly $20,000 from me. Can they do that?
A: I guess you never heard of, or properly appreciated, the old saws, "Let sleeping dogs lie" and "Don't poke the bear." Let's unpack this a bit from the legal perspective: are you entitled to keep a benefit you know you are supposed to pay for, but by mistake, it isn't paid for as agreed? Answer: No. You owe the money. Doesn't matter whose mistake it was. BUT, the law also says that a claim for money owed is barred if a lawsuit is not filed within 3 years of the date the payment (or in this case, each paycheck deduction) became due. So, your employer can only legally sue you for the health insurance premiums for the past 3 years. Any amounts that were due more than 3 years ago are beyond the statute of limitations. However, in all likelihood you are an at-will employee. What that means is, your emloyer can terminate your emloyment at any time for (almost) any reason. So, you need to decide how badly you want to keep this job and maintain good relations with your employer (including the likelihood of future promotions and raises, etc.). This may impact how you negotiate this debt with your employer. This answer is valid for the law in the state of Maryland, which is where you posted this question, but you list your location as North Carolina; therefore, if that is where you are employed, the law may be different there.
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