Can an employer keep an employee’s entire paycheck to pay a debt to the company?

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Can an employer keep an employee’s entire paycheck to pay a debt to the company?

An employee was caught stealing. The employee says the company can have a portion of the paycheck to pay back a portion of the debt upfront, and they will then make payments on the remainder of the debt. If the company does not accept that can it choose to keep the employees entire check without their permission?

Asked on June 1, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, it cannot; it would be illegal to do so. By law an employer may only withhold money from an employee's paycheck if the employee consents, or if terms of employment says that it can.  For example, if there is a stated company policy or an employment/union contract that provides for this.  However, an employer can sue an employee in civil court to recover any amounts wrongfully taken.  Additionally, a criminal court can make restitution a condition of any penalty imposed. 

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, it cannot; it would be illegal to do so. By law an employer may only withhold money from an employee's paycheck if the employee consents, or if terms of employment says that it can.  For example, if there is a stated company policy or an employment/union contract that provides for this.  However, an employer can sue an employee in civil court to recover any amounts wrongfully taken.  Additionally, a criminal court can make restitution a condition of any penalty imposed. 


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