Can an employer deduct wages for damages a customer claims an employee made while installing cable?

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Can an employer deduct wages for damages a customer claims an employee made while installing cable?

Employee was no where near the so-called damaged air handler. Never did any work near, on or in AC unit. Never went under the house where unit is. Employer deducted $1,400 from employees weekly paycheck without written consent. Employer has general liability insurance for such claims, did not file claim or inspect so called damage before taking the money from the employee.

Asked on October 5, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) An employer may never deduct money from an employee's wages without the employee's consent, other than for certain benefits, for withholding, or otherwise as ordered by a court (e.g. if wages are being garnished).

2) If the employer believes that the employee broke something and cost it money, the employer is entitled to sue the employee and try to prove, in court, that it is entitled to the money. They are not required to absorb the cost themself or submit to their own insurance.

3) If the employee does not have an employment contract, then he or she is an employee at will and may therefore be fired at will--e.g. the employer could fire the employee for the alleged damage, and the employer does not need to prove anything in order to be able to do so.


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