Can my previous employer withhold my paycheck for courses that she wanted me to take?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can my previous employer withhold my paycheck for courses that she wanted me to take?

I had an independent contractor agreement with a real estate company to provide administrative services. My boss wanted me to take my real estate exam and get my real estate license, which I did. She paid for the course and the exam fees. I left that position a few weeks ago, and she has applied my last paycheck towards the fees that it cost her. There is nothing signed stating who would pay for

these fees, nor have I ever received an invoice, until today in the mail. Is this legal?

Asked on April 24, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not legal unless there was an agreement that you would repay her under these circumstances. (If there, such an agreement is enforceable.) Without an agreement to repay, you are under no obligation to do so: she may have chosen to pay for the course/license, but did not have to, and her voluntary choice to pay for it does not obligate you to repay it without your agreement or consent to do so. You could sue her (e.g. in small claims court) for the money; you would sue the company and also her, assuming they are not one and the same.

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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