Can an employer withhold a final paycheck if an empolyee got fired for stealing?

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Can an employer withhold a final paycheck if an empolyee got fired for stealing?

My employer is telling me that if I don’t give him my last paycheck, he will call the cops on me for stealing. In CA.

Asked on November 18, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Typically, an employer must pay an employee's final paycheck in full. Some states do allow for a deduction due to theft. However, in CA, while there is no strict prohibition against this, case law weighs against such a deduction.

Intentionally failing to pay wages can result not only in the business being sues but the managers personally, as well. Additionally, legal action can result in both civil and criminal prosecution.

Instead of withholding wages due to suspected theft, the better course of action for an employer would be to terminate the employee in question and sue for damages in civil court. Also, if the theft is reported to the authorities, a criminal court may impose restitution as part of the defendant's sentence. 

Note:  The above assumes that there was no prior agreement regarding reimbursement of stolen items. For example, if the employee agreed to such withholding from their final paycheck via an employment policy, union agreement or existing company policy.


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