Can employers withhold wages from cashiers when the cash drawer is short?

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Have you or someone you know had their pay deducted because their cash drawer was short at the end of their shift? Let’s see if I can answer this question with the wonderful resources the government provides for us. It is an interesting topic because I recently came across an application which had notice of how the employer would be permitted to withhold money from employees if their cash drawer was short at the end of their shift. I decided to do some legal research to see if this was legally permissible in the state of Louisiana for all of my friends out there who are cashiers.

According to the Federal Department of Labor, employers are legally allowed to deduct the following: Taxes (State, Federal (unless you claim exemption from both), Social Security (OASDI) Taxes, and Medicare Taxes), Health, Dental, Vision Insurance Premiums (if employer shares cost of premiums), 401K or Retirement deductions. These deductions are usually seen by all on their paychecks and are a necessary part of working. Mind you, the Federal Government has promulgated for deductions such as Cost of Uniforms or Recouping monies short in a cash drawer to not bring an employee below the federal or state minimum wage as well as overtime. If the employee is brought below either from such deductions, it could lead to serious repercussions. The Fact Sheet mentioned the following phrase, “Items which are considered primarily for the benefit or convenience of the employer;” I interpret this as company equipment (cars, computers, phones, iPads, tools etc). The fact sheet states how an employer may deduct the cost of these items according to the guidelines of *not* bringing an employee below the required federal/state minimum wage and overtime compensation. I find this quite stunning considering I denied a former employers Plant Services Manager the authority to have employees sign a waiver to accept charges for damaged iPads. In my opinion, all employers take on their own risk by employing others and are subject to loss in their organization; whether it be equipment or other kinds of loss.

The Louisiana State Legislature mandated the permitted withholdings article below and advised the following, “Except for deductions required by law, no withholding may be made from the earnings of an employee for the purposes permitted by the Section unless the withholding is specifically and voluntarily authorized by the employee is writing.” So in other words, the federal law allows for such deductions (uniforms and cash reimbursement for short drawers) as long as the employee is not brought below the federal or state minimum wage as well as overtime compensation. The state states the deduction can be permitted if the employee authorizes the deduction in writing. The application I filled out asked for me to authorize my understanding and acknowledgement of this stipulation; therefore I would be subject to this should I work as a cashier. I’m sure shortages happen quite often and could put the employer in a bad place, but I never imagined an employer would do something like this. The HR part of me is saying it would be better to talk physically to the employee with this stipulation and get their written permission instead of requiring it as part of the employment paperwork (I like how it is included, just not the way it was presented).

So there you have it folks, you can have other deductions besides the common ones if you give your express and written permission. I don’t know of any respectable working individual who would want this to happen to them (I know I would not want another deduction myself), so it may very well be a lost cause unless someone brought it up in the interview. Please remember if your employer makes any deduction for damaged equipment, short monies from a cash drawer or uniforms which puts you below minimum wage and below your overtime compensation rate, it is considered illegal and should be reported to them immediately to fix the error. If they don’t fix it, it may be time to call the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. It may be happening to others besides you. I know the employers I worked for did not require this because this is obviously the cost of doing business and some loss is part of the game.

Department of Labor Fact Sheet:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs16.htm

Louisiana State Legislature Permitted Withholdings:

http://legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?p=y&d=99474

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