What can legally be deducted from an employee’s last paycheck?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What can legally be deducted from an employee’s last paycheck?

I worked for a car dealer as a sales manager and made a mistake on a deal that cost us $5,000. A typo – 1st error in 5 years. Consequently, I had to sign a paper with a break down of amounts that would be deducted from bouns pay and a smaller amount from weekly pay. Also on that paper it said that I would be terminated if I didn’t pay it back. About 2 weeks ago I got fired and they only paid for 1 vacation not 2, my bonus check was cut and they deducted money out of my check which was more then agreed upon. I got a $0 paycheck; the deductions were $1100 to be exact. Can they deduct my pay? Is it legal and, if so, is it still legal after termination?

Asked on December 10, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can't have *anything* deducted from your base pay (wages or salary) except for deductions required by law (e.g certain taxes; wage garnishments) or to which you consent or agree (like for health insurance). You can sue to get your pay.
If you negligently (carelessly) made a mistake which cost them money, they way they should try to get it back--and they can only get back the actual amount you cost them--would be by suing you for the money. Note that if you sue them for the paycheck, they could countersue you in the same lawsuit for any amounts you owe them.
A commission (not wages or salary) check may, however, be debited to reflect adjustments in commissions, such as due to errors, bad debts, returns, etc.

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