Can employers legally take money from my pay without my permission?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can employers legally take money from my pay without my permission?

I am an auto tech and I made some repairs to a utility trailer. I packed the wheel bearings and 1 of the bearings got hot 400 miles down the road. The repairs to the trailer were said to be $1780.00. My employer is taking half out of my pay and I only made $70 on the job.

Asked on March 27, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There are two different issues here:
1) Do you owe your employer the money? IF you were negligent or careless in how you did the work (i.e. you did not do it right) and that cost them money, then yes, you are liable for it: anyone who negligently or carelessly costs another money or damages their property is responsible for it. If you did nothing wrong, you do not owe them anything.
2) How can they get the money? They can't take it out of your pay unless you agree to let them do so (or they sue you and get a court order to garnish your wages): the law is very clear that employee wages may only be garnished or withheld with employee consent or a court order. 
They can sue you for the money--that is their option to collect. If they can prove you were at fault in some way, they can get a court order requiring you to pay.They could also terminate (fire) you for having cost them money without agreeing to repay it.

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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