Can an employer withhold paychecks?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer withhold paychecks?

There’s someone in the upper ranks of my office threatening to withhold pay if a small part of our job isn’t done writing daily notes for our shift.

Generally, under federal law, an employer cannot withhold a final paycheck. Federal law, i.e., the Fair Labor Standards Act (

Asked on December 23, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Under federal law, typically an employer cannot withhold a paycheck. The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), mandates that an employee be paid a minimum wage. When it fails to pay any paycheck at all, it has failed to pay a wage for the pay period. And failure to pay any wage means that the employer has failed to pay the minimum wage required by law. That is the basis for many lawsuits/wage claims. Typically, such deductions/withholding of pay can only occur if the employeee gives their consent to it in writing and even then only certain limited permissible deductions are allowed and these deductions can amount to no more than, a certain percentage of the gross wages due. Additionally, another factor to consider is the timely payment of wages. If wages are not paid on time, this, too, can be considered an improper withholding. At this point, you can contact your state's department of labor for further information and/or consult directly with a local employment law attorney.

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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