Can my employer withhold pay for a fine they received during my shift?

I was hired at a retail shop (hourly+commission) and given a schedule (with no hours) that had opening and closing shifts. After a week of working my supervisor informed me that I can take reasonable breaks and leave early when business was slow. In the mornings I would get coffee and open the doors a few mins after the time he would verbally tell me. Their shop was fined $100 on these days and my employer knew this but did not inform me. He fired me without notice and said he will deduct the fines from my pay. Is this legal? Not telling me about this set schedule/fines then withholding them?

Asked on July 12, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An employer may charge an employee for fines or the equivalent, unless doing so violates existing company policy, an employment contract, union agreement or the like. Federal law holds that so long as the employee still earns at least the minimum wage after deductions, there is no rule against charging losses/damage to employees.

However whether or not an employer may automaticaly deduct such sums from an emplyee's paycheck varies from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction. Many state statutes provide that an employer may not deduct from an employee's paycheck without the prior written consent of the employee. However other states permit such deductions automatically. And still others allow automatic deductions without only under certain circumstances (dishonesty, gross negligence, etc).

What you need to do now is to contact an emloyment law attorney or your state's department of labor to find out specific state law.

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