An ex-employer wants to deduct money from my wages

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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An ex-employer wants to deduct money from my wages

Hello. I worked for a building firm in summer last year. They have not paid me
for several invoices and although they are willing to pay now, 9 months later,
they said they will deduct 300 from my wages, for a water leak in a property.
They said they have witness statement and photographic evidence. Sould I ask to
see it, in order to determine if indeed it is my fault or they are just trying to
pay me less. Are they even allowed to ask me for money, even if there was
something that went wrong? Don’t they have insurance that should cover this? I
have never signed a contract with them, nor was I ever told that I will be held
responsible for things like this. I don’t know what to do. Thanks, Michael

Asked on April 21, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

IF you caused the leak, either deliberately or by negligence (carelessness), they are entitled to get the money from you; someone who damages property or costs another money either deliberately or through negligence has to pay for it. 
However, the *can't* withhold your pay without your agreement to let them do so. If you don't consent to the withholding, they have to pay the full amount; they could then sue you for the money, if they choose. If they don't pay you the full amount, you could sue them for the money they are withholding, but be aware that in such a lawsuit, they could put forward their claim that you damaged (the leak) the property as a counterclaim or offset; if they can prove that you did or caused the damage by a "preponderance of the evidence" (that it is more likely than not that you are responsible), they can get a judgment for that amount (for the actual cost to repair) and offset it vs. anything they owe you in withheld wages. If you feel you actually did around $300 in damages, it would therefore not be worthwhile to take legal action, since they'll be able to hold onto that money if they can show you did the damage when you sue them.
Even if they have insurance, they are not required to put in a claim; they are allowed to seek the money from someone they believe to be at fault.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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