Previous employer asking to reimburse overtime already paid. What to do?

Dear all, I would like the opinion of the forum. Here is the scenario my friend is experiencing.

Employment ended in company A (multinational with billions) in great terms. Friend had accrued overtime. Overtime hours got paid in last paycheck. After contract ends, company emails my friend explaining that they, company A, made a mistake in their calculations and that because of some Swiss labour law (see below for details), my friend should have been paid less hours. Company A is asking my friend to pay back those overtime hours (thousands of francs).

My take on this:

Rationale/option/action #1: Do not even answer the emails from the previous employee or write a final one explaining that this was company A mistake.

Reasoning/Action #2: Try to justify and complain by email that the whole labor law that they cite cannot be identified/founf by my friend as the company cannot even refer my friend to where that law is. Also, certainly this rule/law was never communicated to employees.

Reasoning/Action #3: Find some legal advice on this topic.Better do it now before things escalate.

Reasoning/Action #4: Pay back those thousands of francs of hours of work that actually happened.

Company A mentions a Swiss labour law indicating that: if one uses any amount of overtime in a certain week, but on that same week overtime is accrued, the overtime accrued is considered 0 given that compensated time has been used in that same week? This applies even if the compensated time is just 30 mins. Example: Employee puts 6 hours overtime in a week where they take 30 mins under compensated time. Total overtime for the week = 0. Company A never mentioned this law during the employment, which sounds very convenient for the company but not so much for my friend, as hours would have been recorded differently otherwise, for example, not noting compensated time when overtime is being accrued at the same time.
Has anybody heard of such law/rule?

All guidance is welcomed before the obvious reaching out to legal experts.

PS.: This topic may belong somewhere else in the forum. Move as necessary. Thank you in advance for sharing your experience/opinion/knowledge on the above.

I don’t know it for a fact, but I am sure this is bullshit.

For the rest, there is a general right to claim back erroneously overpaid salary just as you would be entitled to request full salary in case they paid you too little. I think it would be wise to ask for a detailed explanation. Don’t sit on it; usually nothing gets better once formal debt collection starts.

That sounds like blush it to me too.

Your friend needs to ask them formally for a link to this law and clarification of the situation.
At the very least this should have been communicated to the employees in advance.

I would also recommend they contact their legal insurance if they have one.

In the scenario you give nobody would work 6 hours over time and claim back 30 minutes in owed time if they knew the overtime would then count for zero.

So what the company is claiming is that if during one week you have 6 hours of overtime but one day you worked 30 mins less, instead of having for that week 5.5 hrs of overtime, you would have zero? Is this the claim?

I have never heard this “rule” and sounds really stupid - wonder if it’s a misunderstanding or some HR person misunderstood something.

In every company I worked where we have recorded time, it’s the net time that counts and if this company has some weird regulation about it, then I doubt it would stand.

There is also a difference between “überstunden” and “uberzeit” but essentially treated similar.

Info here: Extra hours and overtime in Switzerland

If this communication was done by email, I would probably either ignore it until it’s more formal or write back saying that it’s not how you understand the law and that you don’t consider that you owe anything.

Indeed, communication by email for legal stuff is a bit weird. It might even be a fraud, someone on the internet may have gained access to a few emails and just telling “make a deposit to this account because Swiss law”.

The example is BS, at the least 5.5 hours overtime remain (in practice, and subject to the details, the overtime “penalties” might still be due on the entire 6 hours, though of course the 100%-weighted hours get reduced to 5.5hr).

Anyway, forward the mail to the canton’s (employer location) Amt für Arbeit or equivalent and ask for their assessment. Plus, ideally, a stern reply to the employer (will probably need an explicit request due to data protection regulations). Their word carries far more weight than yours.

Thank you so much for all your opinions and advice. This has been a great sanity check. Let’s see how this evolves and I may report back if anything interesting happens.

Does the big multinational have a Swiss branch or did you work via 3rd payroll, ANOBAG, etc? If not, that’s classic :stuck_out_tongue:

PS. I’m working in such setup and the admin staff from London is trying to handle the Swiss law by google translate (I’m just making this up, but you know that very few Swiss admin pages provide official EN version). The employer has no admin employees from Switzerland so the poor souls in London just try to handle this as asked by higher management

PS2. just reply firmly that you (your friend) don’t buy this story unless they provide you a solid explanation. Remember it’s on them to prove not on you.