Is it legal for my boss to make me pay the difference if the cash drawer comes up short?

I work at a deli, and on Saturday our register came up $16 dollars short. I barely touched the register during my shift, yet my boss made me and my coworker pay the difference. This happens all the time, and I’ve been told that it’s wrong and that I shouldn’t have to pay for it. Is that true?

Asked on July 25, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If your employer believes that you caused it a loss due to an intentional action or negligence (carelessness), it can seek recovery of that money from you. However, it cannot simply withhold money from your paycheck. What it can do is 1) state that it will fire you unless you pay the money it feels you lost/cost it; and/or 2) sue you for the money. As you can see, you could refuse to make good the loss, but your employer could then terminate you if it feels you are costing it money. However, the only way it can actually get the money from you  is if either you agree to pay it or it sues you and wins.

Legally, only if you did in fact cause the loss could you be held liable for it in court and be required to pay. The problem for you is that unless you have an employment contract which guarantees your employment, you are an employee at will and your employer may fire you even on a suspicion that you are costing it money, without having to prove that. So you could avoid paying, but lose your job.

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