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Can you be fired and have wages garnished for a time clock discrepancy?

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Can you be fired and have wages garnished for a time clock discrepancy?

My husband was recently fired on grounds of stealing from the company. There is paperwork that shows time clock discrepancies of him being paid for hours not worked, but there is proof in paperwork and co-workers that he actually did work. However, the company stated thet,  “he was stealing from the company” and he was ” just padding his pockets”. This took place for 5 weeks before the company “noticed” the issue. On his final check they deducted them from his check without consent. What can he do?

Asked on November 3, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

First off, was there an union/employment contract or stated employment policy indicating that his employer can charge back errors of this kind? If so such a deduction may have been legal. However, even if an employer can require repayment for this type of loss, it cannot simply deduct from an employee's paycheck; payroll deductions are subject to a number of limitations.  In such a case, he might need to make repayment by writing a check, etc. to his employer (as opposed to automatic paycheck withholding).  However, without a previous agreement requiring repayment, an employer may not force the employee to repay money for a loss. 

Of course, if your husband can prove that the deduction was made in error since he actually worked the hour in question, then he must be paid for all time that he worked.  it's the law.  Unfortunately, in an "at will" employment situation (and most employment arrangements are), an at-will employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all.

At this point your husband should try and work things out with his former employer.  If he cannot then he needs to file a claim with the IL Department of Labor or speak directly with an employment law attorney.


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