Can my employer withhold my paycheck if I owe a cash shortage from a previous pay period?

Boss won’t release my paycheck
because he wants the whole balance
paid on a cash shortage 55.00
from a previous pay period, that he
agreed I could make payments on.

Asked on December 27, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, he legally may not withhold your paycheck if you owe him money due to your cash shortage: the law is clear that an employer may withhold employee pay only with employee consent (e.g. if you say the can withhold pay to pay off some debt to the employer) or as ordered by a court or the IRS (e.g. wage garnishment). The employee owing the employer money is not valid grounds to withhold a check. You could sue to get the check, but it may not be worthwhile doing so: 
1) By the time the matter got to court, you will likely have resolved this issue (e.g. paid the money, gotten your check) anyway;
2) In the lawsuit, he could countersue for the money you owe him or put it out there as a set off or credit vs. the amount he owes you on the paycheck.
3) While you employer can't withhold your pay, he may legally terminate (or cut hours, demote, reduce pay, suspend, etc.) you for having a cash shortage. You therefore want this resolved and put behind you, not dragging on.
Your best bet as a practical matter is to pay the balance of the shortage and get the check released that way. As stated, however, legally what he is doing is wrong and you could sue, if you choose.

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