LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff | Dec 10, 2015

Can your employer charge you for mistakes?

Whether or not employers can charge you for mistakes depends on where you live. The only federal rule is that deductions can’t reduce your pay below minimum wage. This rule applies regardless of what state you live in. But many states provide extra protection for employees who make mistakes.

Most states classify “mistakes” as 1) cash or cash register shortages, 2) acceptance of bad checks, or 3) lost, damaged, or broken equipment. The exact rules on what your employer can do if you make such a mistake vary by state, but one of the most common rules is that your employer needs your written consent to deduct from your pay.

As always, if you have specific questions, contact a business attorney or an employment attorney.

To start out, take a look at the table below to see what the policies are in your state.

Can employers charge employees for mistakes?
  State rules
Alabama Alabama has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
Alaska Generally not. Missing, lost, or stolen cash/property can only be deducted if you admit, in writing, that you personally took them.
Arizona Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Arkansas Arkansas has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
California Generally not. However, employers may be permitted to charge employees if the mistake was the result of dishonesty or gross negligence, or the incident was intentional.
Colorado Generally not. Employers are legally barred from making deductions to cover cash shortages, lost or damaged property, bad checks, or any similar scenarios.
Connecticut Only if you have given written authorization to your employer on a form approved by the Connecticut labor commissioner.
Delaware No. Employers cannot charge employees for their mistakes, and any written agreement requiring this is in violation of the law.
Florida Florida has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
Georgia Georgia has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
Hawaii Generally not. Employers cannot charge for most mistakes, even if you sign an agreement saying they can. Cash shortages from a register/box/till under your sole control are one of the few exceptions.
Idaho Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Illinois Only if you freely agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Indiana Generally not. Deductions for mistakes are not listed as a permissible wage deduction under Indiana law.
Iowa Generally not, with some exceptions. For example, employers can deduct for damaged or lost property if you caused the incident through willful or intentional disregard of your employer's interests
Kansas No. Kansas law prevents employers from charging their employees for mistakes.
Kentucky Generally not, though exceptions may exist for shortages from a cash register/box/till that is under your sole control.
Louisiana Generally not, unless the incident was caused through your willful or negligent action, or you were found guilty of theft from your employer. Any fines cannot exceed actual damages.
Maine Generally not, though exceptions may exist for agricultural workers and work performed in a private home.
Maryland Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Massachusetts Unclear, but likely not permitted. Camara v. Attorney General, 458 Mass. 756 established that a company could not deduct from an employee's wages to cover damages they caused to a company truck.
Michigan Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Minnesota Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake, after the mistake has occurred, OR if you are found liable in a court of law for the damages.
Mississippi Mississippi has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
Missouri Missouri has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
Montana No, employers cannot charge employees for mistakes, shortages, or damages.
Nebraska Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Nevada Only if your employer has reason to believe you were responsible, and you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
New Hampshire Generally not. Deductions can only be made to follow federal or state laws (such as taxes), or when you agree to a deduction that is for your benefit (such as insurance premiums).
New Jersey No. Your employer cannot deduct from your wages to pay for mistakes.
New Mexico Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
New York Generally not. Deductions must be for your benefit (and agreed to in writing), or done to comply with some aspect of state or federal law.
North Carolina Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for a mistake, OR if you've been arrested or charged. If found not guilty in the latter case, your employer must repay you.
North Dakota Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Ohio Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Oklahoma Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake, AND if you were the only person responsible for it.
Oregon No. Employers in Oregon cannot charge employees for mistakes. They are limited to taking disciplinary action or attempting to pursue a remedy through the courts.
Pennsylvania Likely not allowed. The Pennsylvania Administrative Code only authorizes certain deductions "for the convenience of employees" and doesn't list mistakes, shortages, or breakage as an acceptable cause.
Rhode Island No. An employer cannot deduct from your wages to cover mistakes, shortages, damages, or other losses (except for taxes).
South Carolina Only if you receive written notification of the policy on deductions upon hire, or 7 days before any changes become effective. You are entitled to an itemized statement of any deductions.
South Dakota South Dakota has no state law on deductions, meaning employers can generally charge you for mistakes as long as they don't reduce your pay below minimum wage.
Tennessee Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Texas Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Utah Only if you agree in writing, or if sufficient evidence is presented to convince an administrative law judge or hearing officer that the deductions are justified.
Vermont Generally not. Employers in Vermont cannot deduct the cost of cash shortages, or that of broken, damaged, or lost equipment.
Virginia Only if you agree (in writing) that your employer can deduct from your pay for the mistake.
Washington Deductions for mistakes can only be made from your final paycheck, and cannot be "saved up" from previous pay periods. Employers generally need your oral or written agreement to make a deduction.
West Virginia Only if you agree to the deductions.
Wisconsin Only if you agree to the deductions in writing, OR if your employer and your representative (e.g. a union) agree the loss was caused negligently or intentionally, OR a court finds you guilty/liable.
Wyoming Yes, but such deductions are subject to numerous restrictions that limit when and how they apply to employees. The specific restrictions depend on the type of mistake.

Sources

Alabama: No state law. Refer to Department of Labor guidelines.

Alaska: Alaska Department of Labor

Arizona: Arizona Revised Statutes

Arkansas: No state law. Refer to Department of Labor's guidelines.

California: California Department of Industrial Relations

Connecticut: Connecticut Department of Labor

Delaware: Delaware Division of Industrial Affairs

Florida: No state law. Refer to the Department of Labor's guidelines.

Georgia: No state law. Refer to the Department of Labor's guidelines.

Hawaii: Hawaii Revised Statutes

Idaho: Idaho Statutes

Illinois: Illinois Administrative Code

Indiana: Indiana Code

Iowa: Iowa Code

Kansas: Kansas Statutes

Kentucky: Kentucky Statutes

Louisiana: Louisiana Revised Statutes

Maine: Maine Revised Statutes

Maryland: Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Judicial Branch

Michigan: Michigan Compiled Laws

Minnesota: Minnesota Statutes

Mississippi: No state law. Refer to Department of Labor guidelines.

Missouri: No state law. Refer to Department of Labor guidelines.

Montana: Montana Department of Labor and Industry

Nebraska: Nebraska Revised Statute

Nevada: Nevada Administrative Code

New Hampshire: New Hampshire Department of Labor

New Jersey: New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development

New Mexico: New Mexico Statutes

New York: New York State Department of Labor

North Carolina: North Carolina General Statutes

North Dakota: North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights

Ohio: Ohio Revised Code

Oklahoma: Oklahoma Administrative Code

Oregon: Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Code

Rhode Island: Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training

South Carolina: South Carolina Code of Laws

South Dakota: No state law. Refer to Department of Labor guidelines.

Tennessee: Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Texas: Texas Labor Code

Utah: Utah Administrative Code

Vermont: Vermont Department of Labor

Virginia: Code of Virginia

Washington: Washington Administrative Code [1], [2]

West Virginia: West Virginia Code

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Wyoming: Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

Disclaimer

This table aims to present a clear picture of the laws in your state using the best information that was available at the time. However, many state laws have various intricacies that cannot be fully explained in the space available. Always consult a lawyer if you believe your employer may be violating state or federal employment laws.

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