Can an employer legally reduce your pay, retroactively?

I had to leave my job suddenly due to an illness. I am physically unable to work right now and I need time to take care of my issues and get better. I have provided them with several doctors notices and a resignation letter. Apparently, I did not provide them for a doctor’s notice for 1 day. I was in the hospital Thursday-Friday and the note said I can return to work that Monday. I ended up having to call out due to my illness. I received a voicemail the day after my last day working there. It was from HR and they said that since I did not provide a typed resignation letter or a doctor’s note for that 1 day that my last paycheck will be reduced to minimum wage. I typed out the resignation letter the next day and sent it to them, so that is taken care of. I can probably get the doctor’s note but if I am unable to, can they legally do this? Also, when I was filling out my new hire paper work they made me sign a form stating if I do not give a two weeks notice then my hourly pay rate will be reduced to the state minimum wage and will be reflected on your last pay period. I was pretty sure this was illegal but I had no choice but to sign it. I was only told that my pay would be reduced if I did not give them 2 weeks notice. I am just confused why they are coming after me for 1 doctor’s note. This was never something I signed or was told about until after I left.

Asked on November 20, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, retroactive reductions are only legal IF you have previously agreed to some policy stating that under certain circumstances, a retroactive reduction would be made--i.e., you need to have consented to this.
Without your consent to a retroactive reduction, only a forward-looking or prospective reduction from the moment you receive notice of the change forward or onward would be legal--i.e. if they tell you that they are reducing your pay, it may be reduced for all work or time from that point forward.
If there was an illegal retroactive reduction, you can sue them (e.g. in small claims court) for the extra pay you should have received.


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