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New York employment law and employee mistakes

New York residents are likely familiar with cameras placed on traffic signals to record the license plate numbers of vehicles that fail to stop at a red light. The subsequent tickets are sent by mail to the registered owner of the vehicle, but some may wonder who is responsible for payment when the vehicle in question is owned by a company but being driven by an employee. In these situations, New York employment law states that payment is the responsibility of the employer.

The law states than an employer may not demand payment from an employee for reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of mistakes made by the employee. A ticket resulting from a red light camera would fall under this protection because it was issued to the owner of the vehicle. The employee would be responsible had he or she been pulled over by a police officer and given a traffic ticket.

An employee may choose to make voluntary restitution to their employer if they make a mistake, but the New York State Department of Labor often scrutinizes such cases closely for signs of coercion. While the law does not allow employers to demand payment when an employee makes a mistake, they are permitted to take other disciplinary action. An employer could suspend an employee that makes a mistake, give the employee a written or verbal warning or terminate their employment.

In many states, absent a provision in an employment agreement to the contrary, both the employer and employee can terminate the employment arrangement at any time. Federal and state laws do protect employees from wrongful termination based on discrimination, but pursuing such a claim may be challenging and the process is often highly combative.

Source: AZ Daily Sun, "Help Wanted: Company, not worker, owes for red-light icket", Carrie Mason-Draffen, September 25, 2014

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