If a piece of equipment accidentally breaks at work, do you have to pay for it?

UPDATED: Apr 6, 2012

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If a piece of equipment accidentally breaks at work, do you have to pay for it?

My son works at a restaurant and was getting something out of the oven. His hands were full so he asked another employee to close the oven door and when he did the glass broke. Now the company is trying to make the 2 of them pay for the repair. Can they do that?

Asked on April 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

When employees negligently, or carelessly, break something belonging to the employer, the employer may seek to recover the cost of repair or replacement from them--the law does not require an employer to bear or absorb the costs of its employees' negligence.

The employer may not, however, simply deduct or withhold money from employee wages, if the employees do not voluntarily pay the requested amount. Instead, the employer would need to sue them in a court of law, and to recover the money, would need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employees were at-fault--that is, that they caused the damage either intentionally or negligently (through unreasonable carelessness).

Note, however, that if you son does not have an employment contract, he is an employee at will, and may be fired at any time, for any reason--including for not paying for damage which his  employer feels he should have paid for.

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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