Can my employer deduct a penalty fee from my check for being late, absent or making a mistake at work?

The company I work came up with a demerit system – 2 points for being absent, 1 point for being late, 2 points for making a mistake. If you gt to 5 points they carry over to the next month. If you reach 8 points they deduct a dollar an hour for 4 weeks. If you get 10 points they take $2.00 per hour for 4 weeks and you can be terminated. Is this legal?

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No this is absolutely illegal and in fact, they could be considered in violation of the 13th Amendment of the constitution. State labor laws and federal labor laws preclude employers from deducting pay in this manner; if you did the work, you should get paid. Deductions for sick time or days missed are the reason for sick leave and paid time off or vacation pay. It is one thing to have a record on your employment record regarding issues concerning mistakes or late arrivals, but to do deduct pay for time you should be paid (time you actually worked) is a double hit for not being paid for time you already did not get paid for by arriving late or otherwise. And to make a mistake; everyone makes mistakes. So, contact the state labor department and the state attorney general.

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