Can I be suspended for a dine and dash without written notice?

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Can I be suspended for a dine and dash without written notice?

I’m a waitress and I had a table dine and dash on me. One of my managers led me to the freezer where the restaurant owner was, the manager stood behind me, it was a rather intimidating situation. The owner then said I had to either pay the bill or get suspended for a week and stood in silence for several minutes. I said I had to think about it and went back to working. Shortly after the manager told me to leave, that was it. I had no clue if I was suspended or fired or what. When the schedule was posted it said I was suspended. Are they allowed to punish me and without written notice? I was not being incompetent or a poor worker, I gave the table their check, got drinks for another table and when I came back the original table was gone. I didn’t realize until later that they hadn’t paid because people usually pay up front.

Asked on August 29, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

First of all, any employment contract or union agreement that prohibits this action will control. Absent that, in some states, the only stipulation in a situation like a "dine and dash" is that under federal law liability for such a shortage is legal so long as any deduction does not reduce the employee's income to less than minimum wage. In other states, in addition to the federal limit, an employee can only be made to pay for such a shortage if it was due to an intentional act or negligence. In other states, an employee can never be held for a shortage. And in others an employee must consent to such a deduction, again subject to the federal limit. Specifically, in CT an employer may not deduct for a dine and dash unless the employee has signed a form approved by the CT Department of Labor. That all having been said, thee fact is that "at will" workers can be be suspended (or fired) for any reason or no reason at all. Bottom line, while you did not have to agree to pay for this shortage but you could have been suspended for it.


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