Can my employer dock my paycheck for a mistake?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can my employer dock my paycheck for a mistake?

I work for a moving company and I was asked to put a diesel fuel additive into the truck. Well I put it into the wrong tank and the truck quit running about a block away. I was never shown how to properly do it, so I figured it went in the same tank as the gas and now my boss is taking

$100 a month out of my paycheck until I pay the $5,000 bill that he said it cost him to fix the truck.

Asked on June 15, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

An employer cannot legally make such a deduction from wages. The state courts have held that losses occurring without any fault on the part of the employee or that are merely the result of simple negligence are inevitable in business operations and therefore the employer must bear such losses as the cost of doing business. That having been said, one of the exceptions to the above gives an employer the right to deduct from an employee’s wages for the loss of equipment if the employer can show that the breakage was caused by a dishonest or willful act, or by the employee’s gross negligence. However, based on the facts presented, this damage was caused by a simple accident, not by a wanton act. At this point, you should consult directly with an employment law attorney and/or contact the Department of Industrial Relations to file a complaint. 

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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