If my former employer is accusing me of theft, can itgarnish my wages?

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If my former employer is accusing me of theft, can itgarnish my wages?

At my old company, I was doing the payroll. However I am not an accountant so I accidentally paid myself twice a couple of times. One in check, then direct deposit. My employer owed me money anyway so I didn’t say anything. He deducted the amounts from my paychecks and now that I no longer work there, it wants to come back and say I stole. Can it do that? Itowes me over $100,000 in overtime and also refused to give my final check saying that I owed it still. Can my final paycheck be refused on these grounds?

Asked on April 1, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Several different issues:

1) Can an employer withhold a paycheck or garnish wages from a paycheck, without either a court order or an agreement w/the employee to that effect? No.

2) Must a company pay overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week, IF you are not exempt from overtime (go to the federal Dept. of Labor website to see the different catetories of exemption; for you, the most likely ones would be the administrative exemption, or if you managed other staff, the executive exemption)--yes; you have to paid overtime if you meet the qualificatios.

3) If the company owes you money, can you take it out yourself, such as by overpaying yourself--no. Very emphatically no, in fact; doing so is theft, and it's a crime as well as giving rise to grounds for a lawsuit.

4) Can the company sue to get back any overpayment or other money you took? Yes, they could do this if they wanted, even if they owe you money for an unrelated reason (e.g. overtime).

With all these different issues, you should consult with an attorney to see what your potential liabil[tiy is (for the money you took), as well as your potential recourse or recovery, such as for unpaid wages or overtime.


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