If I work in a restaurant and had a customer leave without paying the bill, can my employer make me pay that bill?

UPDATED: Dec 4, 2011

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If I work in a restaurant and had a customer leave without paying the bill, can my employer make me pay that bill?

I want to know if this is legally my responsibility?

Asked on December 4, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Indiana


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Such a "dine and dash" policy is most likely illegal. In the majority of states it is not legal for an employer to deduct from the employee's salary an amount owed by a customer who has skipped out on a check. Minimum wage and like labor laws ensure full pay for hours worked; an employer illegally deducting money from an employee's wages faces severe penalties.

So, as a general rule you, cannot be charged for a walk-out. That is unless you specifically agree to be (typically that consent must be in writing) or the terms of an employment contract or union agreement allow for this. However, you could be terminated for not doing so. The fact is that most employment relationships are what is known as "at will". This means that you can choose to work for an employer, or not. In turn, your employer can hire or fire you for any reason or no at all. Accordingly, while you legally have the right to not make up for a walk-out, you could lose your job over 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 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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