Can an employer force you to pay back money for a safe shortage?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer force you to pay back money for a safe shortage?

I am a shift leader at a fast food restaurant. Recently, a lot of money has gone missing from our safe. Instead of trying to find out who the guilty party is, my boss is ordering all of the shift leaders, including me, to pay back 100 each in order to bring the safe total back up to what it should be. We were even required to sign our names on a handwritten piece of paper, stating that we would. If we refused, they would bring the police into it. I find this decision to be completely out of line. Is this even legal?

Asked on June 19, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Typically, an employee can be held liable for such a shortage, unless this action is prohibited under the terms of a union agreement, employment contract or state law (you can check with your state's department of labor). That having been said, if an worker can legally be held liable for such a shortage, an employer cannot deduct the amount of the shortgae from the employee's paycheck, at least not without their consent. As for being forced to sign the paper in question, that would be cohersion so you cannot legally be held to such a signing. That having been said, in an "at will" employment relationship, you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. Accordingly, you could dispute the circumstances under which you were forced to sign the paper but you could lose your job for doing so.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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