employer liable for damage done to employee’s vehicle by same company’s independent contractor mechanic

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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employer liable for damage done to employee’s vehicle by same company’s independent contractor mechanic

My vehicle was damaged by a mechanic at the repair shop where I work for minimum wage. The mechanic cut short and side swiped a concrete pillar causing $1200 in body and paint damage. My repairs not including the damage were a discounted price of approximately $800. The shop’s manager agreed to forgive my bill for

the repairs and we would figure out a way to cover the additional damage. This was 2 months ago and today I find the owner instructed the book keeper to take the repairs out of my paycheck and will not pay for the damage done to my car by the mechanic who is an independent contractor. I believe he has violated state and federal law as he is also deducting uniform costs and other charges from employee’s paychecks without written permission. I am 69 years old and on limited income and want to know if there is anything that can be done about this man’s and decisions.

Asked on January 22, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There are three different issues here:
1) Can your employer take money out of your paycheck without your consent (or a court order, such as for wage garnishment)? No: the law is clear that there are no deductions from employee pay without a court order or consent, and you could sue for the money taken out.
2) Is the employer liable for an independent contractor's damage? Not IF they are an independent contractor. Employers are liable for what employees do, but. independent contractors are not employees; they are in essence their own businesses, and they are responsible for the damage they do or costs they cause.
3) But is the mechanic an individual contractor or is he actually an employee, regardless of what the employer calls him--that is a key issue. The law looks to the reality of how someone works and the working relationship to determine if someone is an independent contractor or not--it does not care what the parties choose to call the relationship. If the employer sets the mechanic's hours, tells him where to work and can direct how he does his job, then he is almost certainly actualy an emloyee, not independent contractor, and therefore they would be liable for his damage.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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