Some workers in Virginia have no idea how their salary is calculated. They don’t know if Social Security has been dedicated, and they don’t know if they are being paid what they are supposed to be paid.
As Michael Pope reports, that’s because employers are not required to give employees paystubs.
It’s almost lunchtime in suburban Richmond, and Tracey Holloway is on her way to the 7 Eleven where she used to work. She remembers being thrilled to get a raise and then deflated when she didn’t seem to be getting the money she was owed.
“Things just started not to make sense to me. The hours that I’m working is not showing up on my paychecks, and my husband is looking at me like you’re going to work and this is what you’re bringing home? Something ain’t right.”
As it turns out, something wasn’t right. She wasn’t getting the money she was owed. So she quit.
“I haven’t been back since I walked out. Nope.”
Pope: “So what’s going through your mind right now?”
“I just want my paperwork.”
The paperwork she wants is her paystubs — the paper trail of how much she was being paid from week to week and how much was being taken out for taxes and Social Security. She called legal services to help her out, and they introduced her to lawyer Paul Falabella with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
“And so I met with Tracey regarding her situation, which really all centers around her not getting paystubs not explaining her pay while she worked here.”
Like many employees in low-wage jobs, Tracey Holloway didn’t get paid with actual paychecks. She was given a debit card, and the money was electronically deposited on the card.
“I think the intent was probably to help folks who don’t have bank accounts avoid payday lenders. But Virginia law does not require any written statement of your wages when due, and that to me is a big problem.”
That’s not the only problem. Under existing law, employers are actually required to provide paystubs to employees. But only if they are requested in writing.
“That’s what the law says. But, of course, no normal employee knows that. A normal employee just knows I got my pay whether by debit card or check and there’s nothing that came with it.”
The fix for that is requiring all employers to provide paystubs without a written request, or electronic access to information that would be in paystubs — information that was not available to Tracey Holloway. Former Republican Delegate Greg Habeeb tried unsuccessfully to do that before retiring from the General Assembly.
“It’s normally an issue with lower-dollar workers. It’s oftentimes an issue with manual labor workers and it oftentimes goes hand in hand with employees who may be paid cash on the job, and it makes accounting very difficult. And it also makes proving a lost wages claim very difficult.”
So, for now, people like Tracey Holloway will have to hope that somehow — someday — they get access to how their salary was calculated.
“So I don’t know if I’ve been paid all my money or not. And I guarantee you I probably haven’t.”
After the lawyer got involved with the case, the manager at the convenience store acknowledged the mistake. And she got the money she was owed. But she still wants the paystubs from that time. And now she has a new job down the street at the Dollar General, a job that also pays her with a debit card.
Pope: “You have to take it upon yourself to go into the computer system and print out your paystubs, and you do this regularly?”
“Yeah, I just started. I only got two paychecks. But I did that. I got both of them. I’ve got sense now, you know, to keep up with my own stuff. I can’t depend on nobody else.”
Her lawyer, Paul Falabella, says this problem has an easy fix, one that wouldn’t cost taxpayers anything.
“If she had been given her pay stub every pay period, she would have realized she didn’t get the raise. And presumably the issue could have been straightened out then and there and not led to a situation where she no longer works here.”
In the upcoming General Assembly session, a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats plans to come back at this issue again, and force employers to provide employees with the details about how much money they’re making and whether they are receiving all of it.
I’m Michael Pope.