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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 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.

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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