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What Are Illegal Wage Deductions?


The Fair Labor Standards Act imposes strict standards on how your employer is allowed (and not allowed) to make deductions from your paycheck, or what they are allowed to consider as part of your pay.

Employers frequently try to skirt these rules and assume that their workers don’t know their rights well enough to notice or fight back against wage theft, but a wage and hour attorney in Columbus will notice right away.

Because our wage lawyers in Columbus know what to look for when it comes to illegal wage deductions leading to unpaid wages, we want to empower you to know what to look for as well. If you’ve seen evidence of any of these illegal wage deductions, you should talk to our lost wages lawyers in Columbus about recouping the wages that you are legally entitled to.

Illegal Wage Deductions for Uniforms

While it is permissible for an employer to require a uniform for work, a provided uniform does not count as wages. An employer cannot provide a uniform in lieu of their obligations to pay minimum wage or overtime obligations.

That means that an employer cannot deduct the cost of a uniform from your pay if it causes your pay rate to fall below the minimum wage or decreases the overtime rate that you are entitled to. That is an illegal deduction. You are legally entitled to that pay, and an unpaid wage and hour lawyer in Columbus can help you recover this.

Take, for example,  if a restaurant pays minimum wage to a host, but deducts money from their paycheck for the host uniform. If a worker is making minimum wage, the employer cannot deduct money from their paycheck for a uniform, or most other reasons – even losses resulting from the employee’s negligence.

If a worker is making more than minimum wage, employers are only allowed to deduct for specific purposes up to the amount of minimum wage. This means that at the end of the workweek, your paycheck, after the uniform deductions, cannot result in you making less than the minimum wage per hour on average.  In Ohio, the minimum wage will be $10.10 as of January 2023.

If an employer is paying $11.10, or one dollar per hour over the minimum wage, then for an employer working 20 hours a week, they would only be able to deduct a maximum of $20 each week. If the employer deducts more than $20 in this example, the employee would actually make less the minimum wage per hour.   It sounds complicated, that is why an unpaid wages lawyer in Ohio should get involved to help fight back against these illegal deductions – preferably one with a long history of successful results.

Illegal Wage Deductions Cover More Than Uniforms

While the FLSA mentions uniforms specifically when referring to illegal deductions that a wage and hour attorney in Columbus can fight back against, the Act covers more than uniforms.

The Act states that “items which are considered to be primarily for the benefit or convenience of the employer” cannot be included in wages. This means uniforms, but also some things one might not expect.

Other categories considered to be “for the convenience of the employer” include tools required for work, damages caused by employees or customers, unpaid bills by customers, and theft of company property. None of these can be deducted from an employee’s weekly pay beyond minimum wage or overtime obligations, even if the employee is at fault.

What an Employer Can and Cannot Do

In a number of states, there are laws that protect employees from any paycheck deductions resulting from issues like damaged equipment or a cash drawer that comes up short. Ohio is not one of those states, but wage and hour attorneys in Ohio can still make sure an employer does not deduct wages beyond the Ohio minimum wage threshold in accordance with federal and Ohio law.

That means that a minimum wage worker cannot have their paycheck deducted even if there is money missing from their register if the amount deducted will result in the worker making less than the minimum wage.

Of course, that doesn’t mean your employer can’t take other actions – they are within their rights to terminate your employment or even pursue legal action if they believe money or equipment was intentionally stolen. Our employment attorneys in Columbus can help you fight back in any of these cases, especially if your check is being deducted unjustly or beyond the allowable maximum.

If you feel you’ve had your wages cut unfairly, or more than is legally allowed, contact the wage and hour attorneys at Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP and reclaim the wages you worked for and are legally entitled to.

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