What do I tell my boss when they try to take money out of my paycheck?
September 13, 2005 2:18 PM   Subscribe

What's the proper way of telling the company I work that I won't stand for being fined out of my paycheck? (On behalf of an anonymous MeFilterian)

The job I work for involves billing our vendors in a way that, if not done perfectly, results in a chargeback. I've heard rumblings from the higher-ups that if "chargebacks become a problem, we're going to start charging employees out of their paychecks". This job has recently moved to being my responsibility (I just started the job several months ago), and as I'm just a beginner, a few mistakes have been made that are totally my fault. And I'm certainly doing all I can to improve and get better every day. Accepting fines out of my paycheck was *never* part of my contract, or job description, and I want to be prepared with what to say if they point the finger and say they're gonna take my money. My first inclination is to say, go to hell, I'll quit before you take a dime of my money. The company is doing very well financially, by the way, and I take home less than $20,000 a year.
posted by onalark to Work & Money (13 answers total)
You should talk to your HR department. Maybe bring it up to lawyer.
posted by xammerboy at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2005

IANAL, but it's my understanding that you can't sign away your rights. Meaning, if this procedure is against your state's employee law, then the contract is illegal.

Send this question to your state's dept. of Labor and Industries. Find out if your company's actions are legal.

Talk to HR, as well. Make a fuss.
posted by luneray at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2005

You wrote that this "was *never* part of my contract, or job description." Do you actually have a written contract? If so, read it carefully. However, it doesn't really matter what your job description said about it.

It's unclear from the question, but has there been any official policy statement that informed you that the chargebacks would be deducted from the paychecks? If not, then it would be unlikely that they would deduct them unannounced. It is very possible that these "rumblings" are just a scare-tactic.

Remember that if you start making a fuss about it, you could soon be unemployed. Also, I wouldn't make much of a fuss if it hasn't been officially implemented. I'd say the best route is to discuss this scenario with your immediate supervisor now, before any deductions happen, in a calm and reasonable manner.
posted by MrZero at 2:40 PM on September 13, 2005

Your situation depends heavily on the terms of your employment contract and the relevant state law. And whether your second step should be to talk with HR or to an attorney depends on the nature and atmosphere of your company. The only helpful advice you'll get here is that your first step should be an attempt to straighten out the matter calmly with your immediate supervisor.
posted by cribcage at 3:06 PM on September 13, 2005

If you mean it, then get ready to put your job on the line. It is total BS that they'd do this to you, but get ready for a fight.

"I'm sorry but I will not allow for you to debit money from my paycheque. I have talked to a lawyer who specializes in employment law and I am prepared to sue you if you deduct any money from my paycheque or if you fire me over this matter."

Wait for them to make the first move, and then drop that on them.
posted by pwb503 at 3:21 PM on September 13, 2005

So, just to summarize so far: Two people have told you to go to a lawyer, and a third has told you to go to the state Department of Labor... when there hasn't even been an official policy put in place.

Cribcage nails it: your first step should be an attempt to straighten out the matter calmly with your immediate supervisor.

You've got nothing more than rumors, and don't forget that. What's the old saying, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on?" The same is true for rumors in organizations.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:43 PM on September 13, 2005

I think that part of the "proper" way is to let them know ahead of time. That way, they can keep their policy but move responsibility to someone else if they want to. That might sound like just offloading it to some other schmuck, and that may be the case, but let that schmuck make her/his own choice about it. If you all make the right choice, it puts pressure back on the company. Talk to them about it, get the real truth, tell them it's a serious problem for you and let them decide if they want to keep you or not. Be prepared to quit this job. Having standards requires having a backup plan.

This is totally asinine, btw. The company needs to afford some level of error on the part of employees. Finding good people isn't easy and we all make mistakes. If they are not satisfied with your performance they should fire you. But nickel and diming you to death is ludicrous. You can't employ someone and entrust duties to them without taking on some level of risk.
posted by scarabic at 5:23 PM on September 13, 2005

Get prepared and talk to a lawyer/labor dpt but I wouldn't make a big deal about this at your job. You are only going to back someone important into a corner and make them feel stupid. This will most likely backfire on you later on.

I have been at a few jobs that threatened to take money out of our paychecks for various infractions, but it never actually happened. Even if the management is completely incompetant, someone is going to warn them that doing this is completely illegal before it happens.
posted by sophist at 7:40 PM on September 13, 2005

According to the US department of Labor, this practice is only illegal if the net result is to drop an employee below minimum wage. The idea here is that if I pay you five fifteen an hour for forty hours of work and then fine you twenty bucks, you actually walk away with less than five fifteen an hour. I have, thus, violated the federal min. wage laws.

But it occurs to me that if your contract states that you are paid X amount of money, then the same principle could perhaps be applied. That is, if they pay you X and then fine you Y, you're now getting paid less than X. That's a violation of your contract and, I assume, a good basis for a lawsuit. A lawyer, hopefully, can tell you whether I'm right.
posted by Clay201 at 7:42 PM on September 13, 2005

Response by poster: AnonyMeFi: "I really appreciate all the advice and support, it has been very helpful."
posted by onalark at 8:08 PM on September 13, 2005

Another word for 'rumblings' is 'rumor'. I very much doubt anyone has any inclination to fine you out of your paycheck. You might want to be less gullible about what you hear.
posted by angry modem at 9:49 PM on September 13, 2005

I take home less than $20,000 a year.

Honestly, I would be looking very hard for a different job right now. There's no point making a fuss about it because as a recent and obviously low-level employee, your opinion won't mean squat to anybody who matters. So either they are going to do it or they aren't, and if they are, either you are going to eat it or you are going to quit and be looking for a job anyway. I strongly suspect you can do a hell of a lot better than you are. Go get it.
posted by nanojath at 10:50 PM on September 13, 2005

If 'mistakes' are so terribly common, then it sounds to me like the problem is their system, not the person cobbling the bills together. Apart from the very good, calm, sane advice offered above, tell 'em to charge it to the jackass analyst that designed their shit.
posted by Goofyy at 2:57 AM on September 14, 2005

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