I made a mistake at work and caused damages that my employer has insurance for, I am being forced to pay or I will get fired, what can I do?

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I made a mistake at work and caused damages that my employer has insurance for, I am being forced to pay or I will get fired, what can I do?

My husband is a mechanic and he made a mistake at work causing an engine to be replaced. His boss had him fix it for free, 16 hrs labor free. We thought that was his punishment but after he had fixed it his boss confronted him telling him he’d need to pay for the motor and other charges. The employer has insurance for damages like this. We didn’t know he’d be personally liable for any damage made. He told his boss that he felt it wan’t fair to make him pay as other people in the shop have made damages which they didn’t have to pay for. Also if we don’t pay he will get fired. What can we do?

Asked on May 28, 2009 under Employment Labor Law, Idaho

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Unless your husband is being treated differently from other mechanics there because of his race, religion or something like that, there is probably not much you can do.  Employment without a written contract, which is most people, is "at will," which means an employer doesn't need a reason to fire someone, with most of the very few exceptions having to do with thinks like discrimination and other illegal reasons for firing.  Most courts extend that to "adverse employment actions" that are less "adverse" than firing, such as what your husband's boss is doing here.

However, the 16 hours of unpaid labor might be an issue under the wage and hour laws.  You would have to have a local employment lawyer review all the facts, to give you accurate advice about your rights and your options in this situation.  One place to look for an attorney is our website, http://attorneypages.com


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