Now that’s an expensive ‘Oops!’

I’m amused to read of an accounting mixup that’s headed to court.

The University of Notre Dame mistakenly gave a $29,000 gratuity check to a catering employee. Now it’s suing to get its money back.

The South Bend Tribune reports that on April 17, the university made a mistake and sent Sara Gaspar a check for $29,387 when it should have been in the amount of $29.87. The lawsuit alleges that instead of notifying the university about the wrong check, Gaspar spent the big pay day on bills and a new car.

Gaspar said she left messages for university officials, and when her call wasn’t returned, she assumed it wasn’t a mistake. She adds that she was even told by her supervisors that the check wasn’t a mistake and that they would pass on the message to the human resources department.

“I guess because it was there and I was in a bad situation, I went out and spent it,” Gaspar told the Tribune. “I was so excited … I thought, I could pay some of these bills.”

The university hasn’t issued a statement, but Gaspar’s attorney said that because the money was under “gratuity” and not “wages,” Gaspar was in the clear.

Her attorney may have a point. If she did, indeed, attempt to contact the university, telephone records should list her calls. If they do, and if her supervisors did, indeed, advise her as she claims, and if the payment was, indeed, listed as a ‘gratuity’ rather than ‘wages’, then there’s no legal reason I can see why she should not have assumed it was for real. Certainly, because there was no regular monthly amount involved (as would have been the case with wages or salary), there wouldn’t have been a discrepancy to alert her, and that can’t be used as an argument by the University.

This should make for a very interesting court case.



  1. Years ago an Air Force Technical Sargent in my shop started getting a paycheck several times its normal size. He contacted the proper people and was rudely brushed off.

    He did some research and discovered the penalties for various actions on his part. He took the low-risk path, made sure he could prove his attempt to report the error, and invested the extra based on having to pay it back at the maximum rate that the government could recover the money from him–half his pay (not counting allowances) per month.

    By the time the government demanded their money back, the amount had grown to 6 figures, and he would be well into retirement by the time they were done collecting.

  2. Extra pay is one thing; a cheque for "tips" is quite another. I say she is in the clear, and ought to be glad for her windfall.

    One of the guys in our shop got a really abnormally large paycheck resulting from an administrative cock-up after our last raise. Needless to say he sat on it, it won't be a week or two before they ask for it back. (In full, right now)


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