What are an employer’s rights to charge an employee for an item mistakenly given away instead of being sold?

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What are an employer’s rights to charge an employee for an item mistakenly given away instead of being sold?

My brother works at a organization who takes donations and sells them. The company received a vacuum cleaner that was put out to sell. A customer asked if there were any attachments to the vacuum, and my brother knew that it came in with them but they were not in the box. He went to the back, and found them to the side, so he brought them out and have them to the customer. The manager found out the attachments were missing and told my brother that he had to pay for them because they were going to sell them separate. Is it legal for them to make my brother pay for this? He assumed that they forgot to put them back in the box, not that they were going to sell them separate!

Asked on August 5, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

When an employee negligently, or carelessly, costs his employer money, he can be held liable, or responsible, to repay that amount. Your brother carelessly gave away items which were not for sale (he gave then away without checking whether or not they went with the vacuum); the fact that his intentions may have been good is not a defense. If he does not voluntarily repay his employer, they could sue him for the money (though they cannot simply withhold it from his paycheck--that would be illegal); they could also choose to fire him, of course.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

When an employee negligently, or carelessly, costs his employer money, he can be held liable, or responsible, to repay that amount. Your brother carelessly gave away items which were not for sale (he gave then away without checking whether or not they went with the vacuum); the fact that his intentions may have been good is not a defense. If he does not voluntarily repay his employer, they could sue him for the money (though they cannot simply withhold it from his paycheck--that would be illegal); they could also choose to fire him, of course.


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