Can my employer deduct items from my paycheck without notifying me?

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Can my employer deduct items from my paycheck without notifying me?

My former employer implemented a ‘new policy’ that requires staff to pay for shipping costs of products shipped incorrectly. He implemented this after I was no longer employed there, but had two remaining paychecks due to me. In one of my last paychecks, he purposely did not process my paycheck electronically with the others causing me to wait 4 days to receive my check so he could issue a paper check and deduct shipping costs for an order that I mis-shipped two weeks ago. My check stub does not show the deduction, but I was provided a copy of the gift receipt with the shipping costs handwritten on it. My former employer then told me that he was deducting this from my check. This was the first time he made me aware that he was doing this. A current coworker notified me that this was a new policy being implemented today. Is this legal?

Asked on June 12, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, they cannot retroactively impose this policy on you. A policy requiring payroll deductions for errors is legal IF it is announced in advance, before the errors occur, and so that employees, by continuing to work there after notice of the policy, can be said to have agreed or consented to it (and by their consent, can be held to be bound by or to it). But that is not what you describe: you state that you had already stopped working there before the new policy. Therefore, you never consented to it, and an employer cannot retroactively and unilaterally alter the terms under which you had been working, or fail to pay in full for all the work you did prior to the new policy. You could sue your employer for the money taken out; unfortunately, that's your only real option for trying  to recover the money, so depending on how much it was, it may or may not be worth doing this.


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