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May employers deduct money from wages?

Under New York law, employers are not allowed to deduct money from wages unless a governmental agency or the employee authorizes the deduction. If the employee authorizes the deduction, the authorization must be given voluntarily and in writing while the employee is in full knowledge of all of the terms and conditions of the deduction.

A deduction from wages that is authorized by the employee must be for the benefit of the employee. Some examples of allowable deductions are payment of insurance premiums, payment for room and board or dues that the employee owes to a labor organization. A wage deduction could also be taken to cover discounted parking passes, cafeteria purchases, day care fees or a gym membership.

Another legal reason that an employer may have to deduct money from wages is if an accidental overpayment occurred because of a clerical or mathematical error. If an employer paid a worker advanced wages and needs to recover them, the employer may also legally deduct that amount from wages. In both of these cases, the employer is required to provide the worker with a clear method for disputing the amount being deducted from their wages and give the employee a way to delay the recovery of the funds.

An employee who believes that money has been deducted from is or her wages unlawfully might want to speak with an attorney about whether or not the deduction was legal. If an employer has deducted money from wages as some type of disciplinary measure that was not authorized by the employee, the employee may be able to maintain an action against the employer because of unfair pay practices.

Source: New York State Department of Labor, "Deductions from Wages", November 18, 2014

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