What Are Legitimate Deductions From Wages?

One of the most troublesome aspects of determining what wages are due and unpaid is the question raised by deductions from wages made by the employer. The employer may not make deductions unless ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction (as in court­ordered child support payments); authorized to do so by state or federal law (as in IRS withholding); or authorized in writing by the employee, and then only for a lawful purpose. The latter category is the one that causes many problems. Authorizations that are too general or too broad may not be given effect. Deductions for out­of­pocket loans to an employee, even though there is an oral agreement to repay, or even to repay out of a particular wage payment, will not be allowed, unless the deduction is authorized in writing. Employers must be careful to get a proper written authorization before making a payroll deduction.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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