Can my employer threaten to retain my wages and retroactively reduce them in order to force me to stay on staff?

I gave short notice of my last day due to a short notice of new employment. I deal in a very personal business and many clients have an attachment to me. They will be devastated and some may demand refunds. I am not on contract. I gave 6 days notice of my last day. They told me today they would be retaining my wages and reducing them retroactively to minimum wage unless I can service out clients for another 3 weeks, at which point I would earn them back. I start my new job on Monday and cannot guarantee my time to them. Is that legal?

Asked on September 8, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is completely illegal to do this unless you had some employment agreement with them which gave the right to do this in this situation. But unless you had agreed to let the employer do this, they have no right to retroactively reduce or to withhold wages. For work you have done, you have to be paid per the terms of your employment at the time you did the work; if the employer won't pay, you could sue them.

If they want you, they are free to make it worth your while in some way--for example, to offer you bonus or some other sum of money to keep working or servicing clients for three weeks. But that is the proper way to do this--not to threaten to withhold wages you have already earned.

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