Can my employer make a deduction from my final paycheck in order to cover a negative PTO?

I was let go suddenly and I had a negative PTO balance. Can my ex-employer deduct from my final paycheck to pay that back?

Asked on May 23, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether you had any notice (from an email, a memo, a discussion with HR or a manager, an employee gandbook, etc.) that if you "borrowed" PTO (e.g. used it before it was accrued) or otherwise had a negative balance when your employment terminated, that they could take the money from your final paycheck. If you were in any way made aware of this beforhand, then in accruing a negative balance in knowledge of the policy, you could be said to have consented to this--to the deduction.
If you were never told or made aware that you'd have to repay the balance on that way, they should not be able to deduct the pay and should have to pay you the full amount. If they don't, you could contact the labor department to see if they could help you, or, if they can't, you could sue for the money, such as in small claims court.  Bear in mind that if you do owe PTO, the employer could in turn sue or countersue you for the value of the negative balance, so if you take legal action vs. them and they take vs. you, you may not actually net out ahead.

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