Can my employer take my check for amounts they claim I owe?

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Can my employer take my check for amounts they claim I owe?

I work in wireless retail, and since I
started, I made a few mistakes, being
new to the system and thrown into a
store by myself after the 3rd day of
training. A boss informs me of an amount
that I owe due to the mistakes. I signed
an agreement to pay back the amount, BUT
ONLY AFTER I RECEIVED MY PAY, THAT I
WOULD PAY THEM BACK OUT OF MY OWM
POCKET.. NOT BY THEM HOLDING MY CHECK I
wanted to know, if I quit, do they still
have to legally pay me, or can they take
my entire paycheck to cover the amounts
due from the mistakes I made? BTW, it’s
direct deposit and bi-weekly, if that
helps.

Asked on December 6, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

An employer may only make a paycheck deduction for a very limited number of reasons such as certain taxes, back due child support, a lega garnishmentm, etc. No deduction can be made form an employee's paycheck for any amounts owed to their employer, unless the employee agrees to such a deduction and in writing. That having been said, this does not mean that you do not owe your empoyer this money. In fact, it can sue you in small claims court if you do not work out a repayment arrangement. And of you don't pay what you owe, you can be terminated as a result.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

They can only withhold money from your check if you specifically agreed to let them do so--not merely agreed that you owe them money, but specifically agreed that they could take amounts owed from your pay. The law is very clear that employers may only withhold or deduct from employee pay with employee consent or agreement (or if required by a court or IRS wage-garnishment order). Without your agreement to let them take the pay, they could suspend or fire you if you don't repay the money promptly (or demote you, reduce or change hours or duties, etc.), or they could sue you for the money--but they can't simply take your pay.
Of course, if you did sign anything saying they can take your pay, then they can, even if you thought they would not: you are held to what you signed.


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