Is docking my payment legal?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is docking my payment legal?

I work for a very small company; there are only 3 full-time employees and the owner. I’ve been there 16 years and the other 2 have been there 18 and 21 years. Recently, I needed to take spring break off because my kids were off from school and no one else could watch them. An employee with seniority usually takes this time off but hadn’t at the time I asked for it. He also hasn’t had to

contend with anyone else for the time because in the past my kids were taken care of during this

timeframe. I was told this time was reserved for the senior employee yet no policies have ever been in affect to this nature. It’s always been who asked for it first. New Link Destination
make a long story short, I told my boss that even though they said I could take it off, I was going to because had no other options.

My boss was on vacation during the pay period so my paycheck was normal and correct vacation days were deducted. He returned, sat me in the office and told me that he was going to dock my pay for those days and vacation days wouldn’t be returned to me because they were unauthorized days off. I am very upset because I followed our policies but evidently a rule which never had been discussed (i.e. certain days are only reserved for certain people) was implemented when convenient for the company. I am a salary employee. Is this legal? What recourse do I have?

Asked on April 17, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not legal to dock employee pay without employee consent or a court order (such as for wage garnishment). They would not have to pay you for any days you missed work (an employer does not have to pay salaried staff if they don't work at all some day[s]), unless you used paid time off, like vacation days, to cover the absence; if you did use vacation, as you indicate, however, they would need to pay you for those days and cannot take any money back from you.
If the absence was unauthorized or in violation of some rule or policy, even one of which you were not aware, they could terminate you unless you are protected by the terms of a written contract; in the absence of a contract, employment is "employment at will" and you may be terminated at any time, for any reason whatsoever. But while they could terminate you, or otherwise discipline you (e.g. reduce your salary going forward), they can't take away or dock pay for days already worked or for which you already used vacation days. So you do need to bear in mind that they could do worse to you than docking you pay; but docking your pay is itelf illegal.
(Note: they do not need to be fair, either: they may reserve certain days for certain staff but not others.)
If you choose to pursue getting your money back, you could sue the employer in small claims court, or contact the department of labor about filing a complaint.

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 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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