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Is it illegal for an employer to take shortages out of their employees?

Fort Worth, TX |

I work at a furniture retailer. They do not have registers. They have a cash box and a deposit bag, and you add up totals with a calculator. Somehow the deposit ended up short today, and as I have seen this happen before, I understood that the idea is this: pay it out of your own pocket or get written up and possibly fired. I was not the only person who handled the money. Just now I heard that it's illegal to require your employees to pay back shortages, and that writing them up for refusing is retaliation. It's probably too late for me since I already paid it (not knowing it was wrong). However, if this happens in the future, is there any way to avoid being written up for shortages? Can I threaten a law suit?

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Attorney answers 1


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits deductions from employee pay for cash shortages, unless the shortage results from theft or misappropriation.

On the other hand, an employer may write-up employees for any reason it chooses, and a Texas employer may generally fire an employee for any reason (at-will employment).

In your situation, there is no way to avoid being written-up if there is a shortage. Further, if there is a shortage that leads to your termination, you cannot successfully sue for being terminated.

However, if you refuse to make up the shortage and the employer deducts it from your pay, they are violating the FLSA. Further, if the employer deducts it from your paycheck, then you challenge the deduction, and the employer terminates you, you may have a retaliation claim.

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