Can money be deducted from an employee’s paycheck without their consent?

I work at a pizza place as a delivery driver. The boss is starting a new policy tomorrow whereby employees will be fined $1.00 for cursing, $2.00 for taking too long on deliveries and 0.50 for “not moving with purpose”. The list goes on. The money will be deducted from employee paychecks and go into a box to be given to employee of the month. I make minimum wage and don’t claim my cash tips. Is this legal?

Asked on March 5, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is almost certainly illegal.

1) As you correctly note, money may not be deducted from an employee's paycheck without employee consent, except in the case of certain deductions required by law (for example, FICA; court-ordered wage garnishment).

2) The items which trigger penalties are so vague--and are also nothing which would give rise to a cognizable or valid legal claim by the  employer against the employee (e.g. an employer can't sue for "cursing" or "not moving with purpose"--there is no legal compensation due for that)--that it is almost certain that this would be viewed as a violation of minimum wage law. That is, if you are making minimum wage, any deducations will push you below that; however, since there are legal grounds or basis for these deductions, they could be used by the employer as a handy way to avoid paying minimum wage, which is illegal.

Therefore, what you describe appears to be illegal.


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