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When is it Legal for an Employer to Withhold Pay?

When is it legal for an employer to withhold pay from an employee?

Today, we revisit the concept of payroll deductions, which are a common practice in the United States. There are, however, lawful and unlawful ways that employers make pay deductions. We’ll explain the most common deductions (legal and illegal) in this article.

When It’s Legal for an Employer to Withhold Pay

This is a list of deductions an employer may withhold from your paycheck.

  • All required tax-related items such as Social Security contributions, federal/state taxes, and any wage garnishments ordered by a court of law (i.e., alimony, child support, debt collections).
  • Benefits-related deductions like health insurance and pensions. This category may cover other things like union dues, charitable contributions, and sometimes fees for meals and lodging.
    • State law controls the legality of these deductions which generally require the written consent of the employee.
  • In certain scenarios, if an employee received the wrong wage (too much from an accounting error), employers can recoup this from a later paycheck. This is only lawful if the paycheck still meets the minimum wage allotments (based on pay period duration) and generally requires the employee to consent to the deduction. The employer remains free to pursue the overpayment by other means including filing a lawsuit.
  • With prior written consent, an employer can also deduct for repayment of certain loans.

When It’s ILLEGAL for an Employer to Withhold Pay

Then there are those items an employer cannot deduct from a worker’s paycheck.

  • Pre-Employment Physicals: Your employer cannot require you to get a pre-employment physical, then force you to pay for it through deductions.
  • Work Supplies: An employer generally cannot deduct for things like uniforms, parking passes, bonding, professional photos for company use, and other work-related expenses.
  • Breaks and Meals: Although there are no federal laws for breaks, companies are bound to honor their policies regarding them. So, if an employee contractually has to receive pay for a break, then the employer must honor that.
  • Employer Costs: It is generally illegal for an employer to deduct its costs of doing business from employee paychecks even if the employee signs a written consent which allows the deductions.

Don’t forget that illegal deductions are a form of wage theft. That means you have every right to seek restitution when it occurs. Here’s how you do that . . .

What Do You Do When You’ve Lost Money Through Illegal Deductions?

Whatever you do, there’s no reason to tolerate shady payroll practices when you can get help to recover lost money. These scenarios can become complex (and contentious), so your first move should be to hire a reliable employment attorney.

Rowdy Meeks Legal Group LLC can help you file a wage claim and begin recovering lost wages. We’ll do everything we can to help you, up to and including filing a lawsuit to recover your illegally withheld money. If you’re in this unenviable position, we can help you file a lawsuit to recover lost wages, and seek further penalties against your employer.

Rowdy Meeks Legal Group LLC: We Represent Employees Who Lose Wages from Illegal Deductions

So, sometimes your employer can make legitimate deductions, but you should always review your pay stubs to keep them honest. Employers which aggressively deduct items from employee paychecks generally violate the wage laws. We can help you and your fellow employees recover their hard earned money.

If you have further questions on when it is (or isn’t) lawful for an employer to withhold pay, then contact us today for further assistance. We represent employees on unpaid wage claims including unpaid overtime throughout the United States.