Is it legal for an employer to deduct wages from my paycheck for loss product which they cannot prove is lost?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it legal for an employer to deduct wages from my paycheck for loss product which they cannot prove is lost?

I am a delivery driver for a door company in Ohio. Recently I delivered

some hardware to a job site, one box of which contained hardware that did not go to that site. The contractor whom I delivered to was not there, so I was informed by my boss that in that situation to leave the contents in a

secure area of the site. This particular site was a hospital and the product I delivered was in a dock area with secured key fob doors. After realizing that I had delivered the wrong hardware to that site, I informed the management and was told I had better find it or the money was going to come out of my pocket. This was several days later, and when I went to retrieve the hardware, the on site contractor told me he did not have the hardware nor did anyone he had work with him see it. I devoted 3 hours of unpaid time looking for this hardware, looking at all the places the on site contractors workers could have placed it. Coming up short, I was told today that it was coming out of my paycheck. Is this legal? What steps do I take?

Asked on February 28, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) The employer may NOT deduct money from your wages without either your consent (agreement) or a court order (like court-ordered wage garnishment).
2) IF you were at fault (e.g. careless or negligent) in losing the product--and if no one can find it, it is "lost" for this purpose--they could sue you for the money, such as in small claims court.
3) However, bear in mind that unless you have an employment contract protecting your employment, you are an "employee at will" and may be terminated at any time, for any reason, even unfair ones--including that your employer believes you cost it product or money and will reimburse them for it. You could therefore lose your job over this.

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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