Wouldn't Even Be an Issue in the Private Sector...
So I guess somebody made a little slip-up in the payroll department down in Houston the other day, and a bunch of teachers got overpaid on their checks: The school district that runs the nation's largest merit pay program gave oversized bonuses to nearly 100 teachers and is asking them to give it back... ...A total of almost $75,000 was overpaid because a computer program mistakenly calculated the bonuses of part-time personnel as if they were full-time employees, according to the Houston Independent School District. Less than 1 percent of teachers were affected, the district said.
Now if this happened in the private sector (i.e. at my job) then a) It probably wouldn't have happened in the first place, and b) The appropriate amount of money would be almost certainly be repaid or else deducted from future paychecks.
But that course of action is discouraged by the head of the teachers' union: Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the district can't force the 99 teachers to sign forms authorizing it to deduct the money from their paychecks, and promised legal action if it attempts to do so. "If it's the district's error, then the district should bear the loss," she said.
Now mind you, the teachers impacted wouldn't lose anything they were entitled to. They are only being asked to cooperate with having that which was mistakenly disbursed to them be reimbursed to their employer. To me, it is exceedingly unlikely that this would even be a debate anywhere other than in taxpayer-funded (and unionized) jobs.
Once in high school, we had a teacher who was handing back some tests. He was quickly found to have made an error in grading them that pushed several students up to an undeserved "A" and knocked a couple of students down to an undeserved "B." When the error was called to his attention, he promptly regraded the tests and all students got the grades they deserved. This caused some consternation among those who at first thought they would be getting grades higher than those they actually deserved, leading to crying about "It's not fair..." etc. These protests were met with stern resolve by the teacher, who, by his actions, ensured that fairness triumphed, grade-wise. Such a scenario would prove awkward at best for any of the above teachers who try to keep their un-merited bonuses.