Can an employee be penalized forleaving on short notice and have money deducted from their final paycheck?

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Can an employee be penalized forleaving on short notice and have money deducted from their final paycheck?

I worked for an organic farm in HI for nearly 2 years. I did 16 hours a week of work-trade in exchange for my room and board on the farm. And I was payed $15 hour for work done above the 16 hour per week. I recently quit the job, 2 days before I was scheduled to go on vacation for 10 days. So I left and didn’t return. My bosses are claiming that I owe them for 2 weeks of “rent” translated as 16 hours per week for 2 weeks at $15 per hour. They deducted this amount from my final pay (they owed me for 6 months of back-pay) without mentioning it to me beforehand.

Asked on July 16, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Hawaii

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, your employers may not simply deduct money from your paycheck; employees must be paid for all hours that you worked.

That does not mean that you might not owe your employer money; depending on the exact terms of your employment, if you simply left without notice, so that they were providing room to you when they did not have to, it is *possible* (unlikely, I think, but possible) that they could seek reimbursement of rooming expenses. However, to get it, they would have to sue you and prove their case in court by a preponderance of the evidence (including proving that the terms of your employment entitled them to this); they may not simply take the money from your paycheck.


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