What can I do if my boss made a deduction from my pay check that I did not agree to?

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What can I do if my boss made a deduction from my pay check that I did not agree to?

My boss sells honey and rescues bees for a fee. He was supposed to take some bees from a lady’s house for $87. He made me go with another worker I did not know, who was supposed to be in charge. The other worker did not do anything, he just looked at the property, I took the check, and then we left. The lady called me and asked why we did not take the bees. I called my boss and he said to tell her that the $87 was just the down payment. The lady became upset when I told her and she told me to forget it and to rip the check then and there, already far from her home. I deposit checks for my boss usually but the customer asked me to do this before I had a chance to deposit the check, so I did in fact rip it. It’s now pay day and my boss is saying that he is taking the $87 out of my pay. Pay from days that had nothing to do with the day of the incident. Does he have the right to do this? I have tried talking to him but there is no reasoning as he’s very stubborn. Would I have a case in small claims court?

Asked on March 27, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

An employer cannot deduct pay from an employee paycheck without employee consent or agreement to do so, or as required by law (for example, court-ordered wage garnishment for child support); this is the case even if the employee owes the employer money.
What the employer can do is:
1) They terminate you if they believe you cost them money, unless you have a written employment contract preventing that--or do anything less than termination, like suspending you, reducing your hours, reducing your pay (as long as you still earn at least minimum wage), etc. Without a written employment contract, you are an employee at will, and the employer may do anything it likes to your job.
2) They could sue you for the money--not that it would be worthwhile doing so for $87--and, if they could prove in court that you cost the employer money due to your negligence or carelessness, or by ignoring employer instructions, they could get a court judgment ordering you to pay that money.
If the employer took money out without permission, you could sue and would likely win; of course, the employer could theoretically counterclaim (since you're bringing them to court anyway) for the $87 you cost it, and if the court agrees you were at fault, the landlord could in turn get a judgment for $87, which means the two of you will essentially net out to the same place.


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