Unlawful Deductions from Paychecks

Wage and Hour Lawyers Representing Los Angeles Workers

Employers sometimes make unlawful deductions from paychecks. At The Nourmand Law Firm, our Los Angeles wage law attorneys can advise and represent you in a wage and hour claim related to unlawful deductions. California statutes provide for certain situations in which deductions are not acceptable and for exceptions from the general rules. For example, if an employer requires uniforms or an employee photograph, it must pay the cost for the uniforms or photograph, rather than deduct it from wages. The exception is that under Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order 9, an employer may deduct a uniform cost from final wages if the employee does not return the uniform, and the employee provided a prior written agreement. Similarly, if a bond is required of an employee, the employer is supposed to pay the cost.

In another example, employers sometimes unlawfully take gratuities that were left for a server at a restaurant. However, restaurants are allowed to have a policy of tip pooling among employees who provide table service. Similarly, no deduction may be made from employee wages when there is a medical exam required under law or when there is a pre-employment medical or physical exam.

Unlawful Deductions from Paychecks

In California, employers are only allowed to withhold sums from wages if California or federal law permit it or require it, the employee has specifically authorized the deduction in writing to cover insurance premiums or certain other deductions, or a deduction to cover a pension, welfare, or health contribution is authorized expressly by a wage or collective bargaining agreement.

However, the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders provide other restrictions. Among these restrictions is the ability of an employer to make deductions from an employee's wages because of equipment loss, equipment breakage, and cash shortage. The exception is for a loss caused by an employee's gross negligence or a dishonest or willful act. An employer's accusation alone, however, does not permit the deduction. Courts have held that when an employee is not at fault or is only ordinarily negligent, the employer is supposed to bear the loss as a cost of business.

What if the employer loans money to an employee? If the employee authorizes deductions for periodic installment payments in connection with a loan, these may be allowed. However, a lump sum payment of an outstanding balance at the time that employment is terminated is not permitted, even if an employee gives written consent to this deduction. Only one installment payment may be deducted from the final paycheck of a worker who has borrowed money. Similarly, it is illegal for an employer to deduct past salary advances that were not accurate from the current payroll or to deduct unidentified returns from a sale on commission.

Under California law, there are penalties for unlawful deductions from wages, as there are for underpayments, failures to provide rest or meal breaks, failures to pay timely final wages upon termination, and other violations. A claim may be filed with your local office of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), but in some cases, it may be better to file a lawsuit, such as when there are multiple claimants or significant losses. There are strict time limits for how soon after the date that the claim arose that you must file with DLSE or file a lawsuit. Seeking penalties may be limited by a one-year or three-year limitations period.

Discuss Your Wage and Hour Claim with a Los Angeles Attorney

It is a good idea to consult with a lawyer before you file a claim. We may be able to advise you about whether it would be appropriate to file a private lawsuit to recover the deductions, penalties, interest, and attorneys' fees. If you have faced unlawful deductions from paychecks, the Los Angeles lawyers at The Nourmand Law Firm are here to provide aggressive legal representation. We also represent workers in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Vernon, Victorville, Glendale, Pasadena, Montebello, San Gabriel Valley, Alhambra, Palm Springs, Beverly Hills, Van Nuys, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, and other cities in San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange Counties. Call us at 800-700-WAGE (9243) or contact us through our online form for a free appointment. We also can assist you if you need an overtime lawyer to address other violations of wage laws.

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