Employees who receive a regular paycheck and are paid on an hourly basis often have questions about their rights with regard to paycheck deductions. For example, if an employee works at minimum wage, can the employer charge the employee for a uniform? And can the employer deduct the cost of the uniform from the employee’s paycheck? If an employee breaks something at work, can the employer deduct the replacement cost from the paycheck? Or, relatedly, if an employer provides meals to restaurant employees, can the employer deduct the cost of those meals from the employee’s paycheck?
Paycheck deductions can be made in a number of circumstances, but it is important for employees to understand their rights. Georgia does not have specific laws concerning most paycheck deductions. Accordingly, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs most issues concerning deductions from wages under federal law, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides guidance about paycheck deductions under the FLSA.
Uniforms and Paycheck Deductions
Generally speaking, even if an employee does not expressly permit an employer to deduct the cost of a uniform from his or her wages, an employer is allowed to do so. However, in order for a paycheck deduction to be lawful, the employee’s wages cannot fall below the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour). If an employee earns only the minimum wage, then a paycheck deduction for a uniform is likely to be unlawful. For example, if an employee works at a retail establishment and earns $7.25 per hour but is required to wear a uniform that costs a total of $50, the employer cannot deduct the cost of the uniform because a deduction would result in the employee earning less than the federal minimum wage.
However, if the employee earns even slightly more than the federal minimum wage—such as $7.50 per hour—then the FLSA permits the employer to make regular paycheck deductions to cover the cost of the uniform as long as the pay does not dip below $7.25. In this example, if the employee works 40 hours per week at $7.50 per hour and gets paid on a weekly basis, the employer could deduct up to $20 per paycheck ($0.50 per hour) from each paycheck until the uniform cost was covered.
Tools Required for the Job, Breaking Items On the Job, and Register Shortages
Similar to uniform deductions, an employer is allowed to deduct the cost of tools required for a person’s job as long as the employee does not earn less than the federal minimum wage. The same rule typically applies for any items an employee breaks, as well as cash register shortages that occur under the employee’s watch.
Deductions for Meals at Work
Unlike uniforms and tools, an employer is often permitted to deduct the cost of meals provided on the job even if those deductions bring the employee’s hourly pay rate below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. For example, if a restaurant employee eats a meal at work and earns only the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the employer is still permitted to deduct the meal as long as the employee is only charged the actual cost of the meal (not the price tag on the menu). In addition, the employee must accept the meal—employers cannot charge employees for meals they do not accept.
Contact a Wage and Hour Lawyer in Georgia
Employees should seek a remedy for wage and hour violations, and a Georgia wage and hour lawyer can assist you. Contact The Vaughn Law Firm today.