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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Forcing Payment

Dear Wonderful HR Lady,

I accepted a great job about 2.5 months ago. I've been working for nearly two months now, but I'm started to get a little frustrated over something I was promised.

As part of my offer, I was given $1,000 in relocation assistance. I signed a formal offer letter that said I would be eligible for it. Since I started, I've had to sign two forms because the HR lady said I signed the old form. In order for me to get the relocation assistance, she has to send it to the corporate office.

Originally I was supposed to wait 30 days to get it, although I'm now far past that deadline. I was counting on this money to pay my relocation expenses, which are sitting on my credit card, waiting to be paid. If I wasn't offered relocation, I would have made a larger counteroffer on my salary.

After 1.5 weeks of waiting on my check after the HR lady said it was coming, I approached her again. She sent off yet another e-mail to corporate.

Is there anything else I can do? I really need this money to pay my expenses. It took them 1.5 months to pay me back for my interview expenses, but they weren't as large.

New employee

Well, with a salutation like "Dear Wonderful HR Lady," how can I resist answering you? I'd like to give you some magic words that will make them pay up, but alas, I don't have anything.

Since the company has a corporate office, that you don't work at, I'm guessing the function of paying promised relocation benefits isn't done by the HR lady writing a check.

Companies are generally big, nasty, bureaucracies. I don't know your company, but here's a good guess: HR fills out a form, sends it to payroll. Payroll has a payment cycle and payments such as these are probably processed on specific days, once or twice a month. Payroll requires the request be received 7 days prior to the payment run. Your request got denied the first time because it was on the old form. (Payroll blamed their inability to pay it on Sarbanes-Oxley because that makes everyone shake in their boots.) Then your second form arrived 6 days prior to the payment run, so now you have to wait for another cycle to come to an end.

My point? You can beg and you can plead, but nothing speeds up a bureaucracy. Sure, if you get desperate you can go to small claims court, but that will make you persona non-grata around the office.

Ask for a specific date. If the HR Lady can't give it to you, ask who you need to contact in payroll. If that doesn't work, ask your boss to look into it. If that doesn't work, threaten (politely) the HR Lady by saying, "I really need this payment and I'm starting to feel like my only option is to take this to small claims court."

I don't think it will amount to that, though. These things just take time. And it's not as important to anyone else as it is to you.


pawnking said...

EHRL, I would add that if you or a friend of yours knows someone in the Corporate HR department, they might be able to confirm the status of your check. A corporation is made up of people, not positions, and if you can learn who to reach out to you can learn a lot more than going through the bureaucracy.

The same point can be applied to all areas of business. I spend a lot of my time learning who to ask questions of in every department. Sometimes it is the boss, sometimes a secretary, an associate, a manager, a consultant. There is always one person who can get things done. Find that person and make a friend of him, or at least a friend of a friend, and you have the keys to learn what you need to know and do what you need to do.

Florinda said...

Coming from the payroll/accounting side of things, I just wanted to note that your description of the processing cycle is pretty accurate, although the times may vary in different organizations. The letter-writer probably is part of a big, nasty bureaucracy, though; in the smaller ones where I've worked, personal begging and ranting would have gotten that check cut well before this. (Then again, they wouldn't be paying relocation in the first place.)

Wally Bock said...

Years ago I was privileged to work with Daphne Markham who was the Ombudsperson for the Oakland, CA Police Department. Daphne was so good at dealing with recalcitrant city bureaucracies that she developed a short phrase to sum up her approach and taught it to groups of people out in the neighborhoods. The phrase was "polite persistence." Whether it is a government bureaucracy or one hiding in a distant corporate office, polite persistence is almost always the best strategy.

Ask a Manager said...

I would also add that you might have some luck by telling your contact that the delay is putting you into dire financial straits. Weird as it sounds, it might not have occurred to them that having to wait longer is impacting you financially.

Mike Doughty said...

You might ask your local HR person if there's a way for the local organization (plant or office) to advance you the money. When the corporate check comes, you could then repay. We used to do exactly that at one plant I worked at.

Sara said...

I am a relocation coordinator in the HR department of a large bank, and I have had this problem happen a couple of times. Like EHRL states, the HR person is only one of many who handles your relocation money. Our payroll deadline is the Wednesday the week before we get paid. It is not just writing it on a form and sending it in; I, for example, have to get two other signatures for approval before I send it in. Depending on schedules, this can take a few days.

I have sent in temporary allowance forms that have been sent back to me because Payroll created a new form (which I never was made aware of). This means that I have to redo it on the new form, get the approvals again, then interoffice it. If I miss the deadline, I have to wait for the next pay period. It is especially hard because we do high dollar relocations, so I analyze settlement sheets on purchase and sale of homes, which can be tricky because they are not all the same. I may send it in and get a note from Payroll that we do not cover something.

To give you an idea, I had a relo close on a home the end of September. He just got his closing costs Friday.

Anonymous said...

Depending on how much it costs in your area, you could also have an attorney write a letter on your behalf. Around here, it's not all that tough to find a brand new lawyer that will dig out the right form letter, fill in the blanks, and send it off for $25-$50. He could also include the interest costs you're incurring, and his fee in the amount demanded.
If it looks like you're willing to sue if they make it necessary, but you're trying to give them every opportunity to avoid it, they're more likely to pay up before it gets really expensive.