Federal and California laws combine to protect employees from the most extreme types of employer misconduct. High up on the list of misconduct is unlawful wage deductions. You work hard for your money, and under the clearest of laws, the money you earn belongs to you. It is therefore important to understand the circumstances in which an employer can deduct from your wages, and when you should ask questions.
Lawful Wage Deduction
The California Labor Code sets forth the limitations and limited circumstances in which an employer may deduct from an employee’s wages. These include:
- Deductions explicitly authorized by federal or state law. Examples of this may include federal income tax or social security withholding, or court ordered child support wage garnishment. However, even if a wage garnishment is permitted by law, an employer is prohibited from terminating an employee if their wages are being garnished.
- Deductions that have been agreed to by the employee in writing, for benefits such as health insurance premiums.
- Deductions authorized by a collective bargaining agreement or employment wage agreement. This may include contributions to a pension or retirement fund.
Unlawful Wage Deduction
Remember, your wages belong to you, so wage deduction is an exception and not the rule. This means that in many circumstances that an employer deducts money from your wages, you should have a healthy amount of doubt. Some examples of common, yet unlawful deduction include:
- Lost money or damaged company property. Unless you have lost company money or broken company property due to “gross negligence”, a willful act, or some dishonest act, an employer cannot deduct the lost property from your wages. This is a complex area of law and you should consult an attorney if this occurs.
- Medical examinations. An employer cannot make an employee pay for a medical exam that is part of the job.
- Uniforms. An employer that requires employees to wear uniforms is legally obligated to pay for that uniform and cannot deduct the cost from the employee’s wages.
- Photographs. If an employer requires a photograph for identification or some other employment purpose, an employer cannot make the employee pay for the photos.
- Tips and gratuities. Gratuities belong to employees and an employer cannot take these tips, nor can an employer deduct wages because the employee received tips.
Moss Bollinger Stands Up For Employees
Wage deductions are the exception and not the rule; yet, employers sometimes get it wrong. If you believe that your employer is unlawfully withholding your wages, consult with an attorney. The Moss Bollinger law firm aggressively advocates for employees against unlawful employer misconduct. We work on a contingency basis and do not get paid unless you do. Call Moss Bollinger today at (866) 535-2994 for a free consultation or use our online form.