Can your employer withhold wages to punish you?

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2021 | Wage-And-Hour Claims

If you count on your regular paycheck to live, you are far from alone. In fact, according to a recent study, 56% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Many individuals also have more credit card debt than they do savings.

Your paystubs likely list the deductions your employers automatically take from your earnings. Both federal and state laws establish which deductions are permissible and which ones are not. While there are exceptions, your employer generally cannot withhold wages to punish you.

Unreturned company property

If you use company property, such as a vehicle, laptop or tools, your employer probably can withhold your paycheck until you return items. If you must continue to use the items to do your job, it may be improper to withhold earnings. Consequently, withholdings for unreturned company property typically occur when you leave your job.

Damaged company property

Employers often spend valuable resources on furniture, equipment and other property. If you damage company property, your employer can probably withhold wages to cover repairs or replacement.

Required uniforms

It is usually acceptable for employers to withhold the cost of required uniforms from an employee’s paycheck. There is a critical exception, though. If withholding for uniforms drops your pay below the required minimum wage, your employer may violate the law.

Dishonored paychecks

Nowadays, many employers use direct deposits to pay workers. If your employer still issues paper checks, you may receive a pay deduction to cover the costs of dishonored or returned paychecks.

Determining whether wage withholdings are permissible or illegal often depends on a careful review of both the law and the facts. Ultimately, if you believe your employer is not complying with federal or state law, you may need to act quickly to receive the wages you have earned.