Is it OK for an employer to withhold an employee’s wages if they were caught stealing?

My boss has caught me giving out merchandise (a cup of $1.79) and has withheld $53 of my check. Is that illegal and what can I do?

Asked on March 25, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An employer may not withhold money from an employee's paycheck (other than as required by law; e.g. tax withholding), unless the employee consents or agrees to it, even if the employee broke the law, violated employer policy, or owes the employer money. However, an employer may terminate an employee who breaks the law or violates company policy at work. Therefore, what the employer did is illegal, and you could, for example, sue (such as in small claims court, where you could act as your own attorney) for compensation; the employer could have taken other action, but not this.

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