5 Things You Should Know About Your Paycheck

You go to work and get a paycheck, that much is clear. But what goes on or what should go on behind the scenes can be a bit of a mystery. Here are 5 things you should know about your paycheck.

1.Salaried? You may still be eligible for overtime. You're only ineligible for overtime if you meet the strict exemptions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If you're not doing high level independent work, managing other people or programs, or rolling in the big bucks, you're probably eligible for overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours a week. (Or 8 hours in a day in some states.) Overtime eligibility is determined by what type of work you do, not by how you are paid.

2.Some deductions are set in stone and some are flexible. If you always get a large tax refund each April, you can go to your payroll department and ask to change your deductions. You can actually change it so that instead of getting a large deduction, you can get that money throughout the year. On the other hand, if you have court ordered child support, alimony or a lien that is automatically deducted from your pay, no amount of crying to payroll will change it. They are required by law to deduct it no matter what you say.

3.If you're exempt, your boss can't dock your pay. Let's say you like long lunches and take off for two hours every day. If you are ineligible for overtime (exempt), your boss cannot dock your pay for partial days missed from work. He can, however, fire you, discipline you, demote you, or charge your vacation bank for the time.

4.You cannot work for free. As long as you're working for a “for profit” business (for instance, it's not a charity, think tank or other non-profit), it doesn't matter how much you believe in it, or how far behind you are on a project, if you're eligible for overtime, you have to be paid for every minute you work. Even if you spent all day working on a project that disappeared when the computer crashed, and it's your fault because you didn't save it, you must be paid for the extra time you stayed to re-do the work. And, if that pushes you over 40 hours, you must be paid overtime. Your boss can, of course, fire you, but first he has to pay you.

5.Bonus check looks smaller than it should? Blame the government. Your boss says, “Hey, great job this year! You're getting a $5000 bonus!” Cha-ching, right? And then you get the check and it's nowhere near $5000. Where did that money go? Many  companies use a “flat rate” deduction for bonuses. In most states that's 25 percent. They want to make sure you don't get a surprise tax bill in April. When you file your income taxes, though, a bonus counts like any other paycheck and if the tax withholding was too high, you'll receive a refund. 

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. To find out more about WGU’s online degree programs, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers

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