If a piece of equipment accidentally breaks at work, do you have to pay for it?

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If a piece of equipment accidentally breaks at work, do you have to pay for it?

My son works at a restaurant and was getting something out of the oven. His hands were full so he asked another employee to close the oven door and when he did the glass broke. Now the company is trying to make the 2 of them pay for the repair. Can they do that?

Asked on April 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

When employees negligently, or carelessly, break something belonging to the employer, the employer may seek to recover the cost of repair or replacement from them--the law does not require an employer to bear or absorb the costs of its employees' negligence.

The employer may not, however, simply deduct or withhold money from employee wages, if the employees do not voluntarily pay the requested amount. Instead, the employer would need to sue them in a court of law, and to recover the money, would need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employees were at-fault--that is, that they caused the damage either intentionally or negligently (through unreasonable carelessness).

Note, however, that if you son does not have an employment contract, he is an employee at will, and may be fired at any time, for any reason--including for not paying for damage which his  employer feels he should have paid for.


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