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Gwinnett County, GA Wants Its Money Back

Gwinnett County, Georgia paid a round of employee bonuses in 1994.

Now it's asking the employees to give the money back, saying the county overpaid them due to a "payroll anomaly." The county is telling the employees they can either return the money in cash or have it deducted from their vacation time.

The county is still seeking $39,690.46 in employee reimbursements. From an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story:

The payroll anomaly dates back to Sept. 30, 1994, when the county adjusted employee pay cycles. The adjustment resulted in shortening one pay period from a 14 days to 12 days. Under normal circumstances, employees who worked the shortened pay cycle would have received less pay, but to avoid financial hardship, paychecks were increased to counteract any shortfall.

In all, Gwinnett County overpaid 509 people a total of $114,876.55 that week.

Since then, the county has collected the overpayment from employee paychecks at retirement. So far, it has recovered $75,186.09 from 329 employees.

So the county was helping employees avoid a gap in pay in 1994, but now it wants them to reimburse the difference in 2010. In between, Princess Diana passed away, President Clinton was impeached, the dot-com era came and went, 9/11 happened, the Iraq War started, President Obama was elected and Justin Bieber drove tween girls insane on Oprah. Let's just say some time has passed since these paychecks were handed out.

Gwinnett County CFO Aaron Bovos says it's an effort to "clean up receivables and to eliminate outstanding obligations." I call it "another way to stress employees out in a recession."

Can you imagine being notified that you need to reimburse your employer (or former employer) for a payment made 16 years ago, and in tough economic times to boot? If my math is correct the reimbursement works out to about $220 per worker, which isn't a huge amount of money but it isn't chump change, either. Most likely it means losing a few days of vacation time but I wonder why the county waited so long to deal with it.

Why am I suddenly thinking of Howard Beale's "mad as hell" speech from the movie Network? Plaid jackets and Marcia Brady hairdos aside, it's eerie how much this clip from 1976 still resonates today. Take it away, Howard.

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