Can I withhold a paycheck from an employee who owes me money? 9 Answers as of January 31, 2013

I have an employee that owes me around $1,641.00 and he just up an quit after I explained I could not let anymore charges occur and we needed to talk about how he was going to pay this money back. I still have his last paycheck, do I have the right to keep this as some sort of payment since it is less than $100 or can I withhold the paycheck for a certain number of pay periods to try to get him to understand he needs to talk to me about payment so I don't have to take him to court. Where can I find this information so I can show other employees to help them understand when I try to help them out?

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Cohen Durrett, LLP
Cohen Durrett, LLP | David L. Cohen
I assume you are in California. As such you cannot withhold payment for work as an offset against monies owed by an employee. If you loaned money to an employee or granted an advance on pay; you would have needed to document that in writing at the time the money was paid. As part of the loan/advance you should have outlined a repayment schedule and if so you can withhold that amount only. You cannot accelerate the repayment plan even if the employee quits. Also, the employee cannot legally agree at that time to accelerate the payments. He would have to agree now in order for you to withhold more than he originally agreed upon. If you did not get a repayment plan signed by the employee in advance, and he is not agreeing to repay you now, you cannot withhold anything, but can sue in small claims to recoup your money.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/31/2013
Kram & Wooster, P.S. | Richard H. Wooster
In Washington, unless you have the agreement from the employee to withhold the money, you cannot withhold their pay. You run the risk of being sued for double damages. Best practice on employee debts is to have a promissory note that document the amount owed and consent to deduct amounts owed from pay.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 1/31/2013
Bassinger & Harvey
Bassinger & Harvey | Randy J Harvey
NO! You must pay an employee all wages owed at the time you terminate their employment. If you are not terminating them you must pay them on the proper pay day or face the possibility of fines. If an employee owes you money you cannot take it from their pay unless there is a written agreement for you to do so.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 1/31/2013
WILLIAM L SANDERS, ATTORNEY AT LAW | William L. Sanders
I can not answer your question. You failed to state why he owes you money. For the $100 due, I would pay him and not invite trouble, but that is pratical advice, not legal advice.
Answer Applies to: Georgia
Replied: 1/31/2013
Steven Miller | Steven Miller
No. You must pay the employee, and your remedy is to sue the employee.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/31/2013
    Law Offices of Charles R. Perry
    Law Offices of Charles R. Perry | Charles R. Perry
    Employers have no right to withhold paychecks because of a claim of a debt owed to the employer. Failure to pay within an employee who quits within 72 hours are liable for penalties on top of the wages in question, even if the employer is owed money. The employer's only remedy in this case is to take the employee to court to collect the monies owed. The last paycheck should therefore be sent to the employee without delay.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/31/2013
    Law Office of Kristine S. Karila | Kristine S. Karila
    It is unlawful to hold his paycheck or to deduct the loan from it unless you have a written, signed agreement from him stating that you may deduct it from his final paycheck. If he did not give at least 72 hours of notice prior to quitting, you are legally required to have his full, final paycheck ready for him at the place of business no later than 72 hours after he quits. If not, you can be held to pay him one day's pay for each day he has to wait to be paid - up to 30 days PLUS attorneys' fees. I can help you with this issue. In the future, if an employee wants to borrow money, you should have a solid contract for them to sign. Contact an employment law attorney. I offer a free initial consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/31/2013
    KEYL ADR Services, LLC | Mark D. Keyl
    You could hold a portion of it as partial payment. If you lend money to employees, I strongly recommend you have them sign a contract for how it will be repaid. That way the contract rules.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 1/31/2013
    Ken Love Law | Kenneth Love
    DO not help your employees out as you say unless you get signed agreements allowing you to withhold the money from their paychecks. Your company should create a policy for "advances" which is what this sounds like. You can help employees out and advance their wages to them and then withhold it from their paycheck. Without this, you will have a hard time with the state Department of Labor when you have an employee who claims you just kept their check for no good reason.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 1/31/2013
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