Can an employer withhold a final paycheck if an empolyee got fired for stealing?

UPDATED: Nov 18, 2011

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Can an employer withhold a final paycheck if an empolyee got fired for stealing?

My employer is telling me that if I don’t give him my last paycheck, he will call the cops on me for stealing. In CA.

Asked on November 18, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Typically, an employer must pay an employee's final paycheck in full. Some states do allow for a deduction due to theft. However, in CA, while there is no strict prohibition against this, case law weighs against such a deduction.

Intentionally failing to pay wages can result not only in the business being sues but the managers personally, as well. Additionally, legal action can result in both civil and criminal prosecution.

Instead of withholding wages due to suspected theft, the better course of action for an employer would be to terminate the employee in question and sue for damages in civil court. Also, if the theft is reported to the authorities, a criminal court may impose restitution as part of the defendant's sentence. 

Note:  The above assumes that there was no prior agreement regarding reimbursement of stolen items. For example, if the employee agreed to such withholding from their final paycheck via an employment policy, union agreement or existing company policy.

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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