What to do if a paycheck is being withheld to cover an employee’s cover training costs after they give notice?

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What to do if a paycheck is being withheld to cover an employee’s cover training costs after they give notice?

I am a recruiting manager working with a candidate was in a pretty tough position and I’m trying to help them all. He just put his 2 week notice to his employer today and his employer showed him a contract that he signed stating he would have to pay back any training costs if he were to leave the company within the 2 years of signing that contract; the 2 years will be up in 2 1/2 months. That is all it states. His employer said that if he cannot pay that amount of $9,000, they would hold his last paycheck to put it towards that amount. The contract does

not state anything specific of being prorated, a certain amount, or anything in compensation

details. We are trying to see if his new employer will pay those costs but we are wondering if his employer has the right to come after him based on such a vague contract? We believe his employer cannot hold his last paycheck according to state labor laws.

Asked on May 17, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Two different issues here:
1) First, is the contract to repay enforceable? For a definitive answer, the agreement need to be reviewed by an attorney, since all contracts are enforced according to their exact or specific words or language. However, generally, not only are such contracts enforceable, but there is no requirement for proration--it is legal to require 100% reimbursement or repayment if the employee leaves even a day early. While the contract should be reviewed, there is nothing in what you write suggesting it could not be enforced.
2) Withholding the paycheck: an employer may not withhold employee pay, even if the employee owes the employer money, without employee consent; if the contract does state that pay may be withheld and the employee did not otherwise agree to it, the employer may not do this. They have to pay him the money; if they don't, he could contact the state department of labor to file a wage and hour complaint and/or file suit (e.g. in small claims court) for it.
What the employer can do, if it feels he owes it repayment, is to sue him for the money (or if sued by him, file a counterclaim or countersuit for it in that legal action).


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