Can my pay be withheld due to accidental property damage?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can my pay be withheld due to accidental property damage?

I am a subcontractor for the federal government. I recently did some work on a government building, and accidently damaged a security camera. I have liability insurance to cover

instances like these, however the people I am dealing with say they will be taking it out of my final invoice. Not only that, but they are taking their time in having this camera fixed, therefore, they will not submit my invoice until they have it completed. Shouldn’t this be something I can turn into my insurance, rather than have my pay be withheld?

Asked on July 13, 2016 under Business Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

No, they have no right to take the money out of your pay or compensation, unless you gave them the right to do so--either agreed to let them do it this specific time, or have an contract/agreement which them which allows this sort of offset. Otherwise, their obligation to pay you and your obligation to reimburse for damage you did are separate: legally, they should pay you, then sue you for the camera-related money if you don't pay them.
Practically, the only way to get your pay would be to sue them; and if you do (as it seems) also owe them for the damaged camera, they could countersue you for that. It's therefore not clear that its worth the cost and trouble  of a lawsuit to net out to approximately the same place.

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