Who is liable for items stolen from a motel room when it was caused by an employee’s mistake?

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Who is liable for items stolen from a motel room when it was caused by an employee’s mistake?

I work at a motel on the first shift. I switched a guest from room 220 to room 230 but forgot to change it on the system. Later that night the front desk clerk, second shift checked another guest into room 230. They came back downstairs and got moved to another room since there where things in room 230. When the guest from room 230 returned they saw that things where stolen out of their room. They want to get a refund for the things that were stolen. My manager says he is going to cut my check for the missing items. Can he do that? Can I be made to pay?

Asked on February 14, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is legal if there is an union/employment contract or stated employment policy indicating that your employer can charge back errors of this kind.  Otherwise, no your employer cannot deduct for an employee's mistake (see below).  Even if it can require repayment for this loss, it cannot simply deduct from your paycheck. The fact is that payroll deductions are subject to a number of limitations.  For example, instead of an automatic payroll deduction, you might need to make repayment by writing a check, etc. to your employer.

Note:  Without a previous agreement requiring repayment, an employer may not force the employee to repay money for a loss.  However, in an "at will" employment situation (and most employment arrangements are), an employer can terminate an employee for not making repayment.  The fact is that an at-will employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all.

Bottom line, depending on the amount in question you just may want to work out a repayment arrangement to keep the peace - and your job. In other words, pay if you want to stay.


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