Worker lost $700: Can we make him pay it back?

August 2, 2011
in Employment Law,HR / Employee Relations

Q. One of our employees ran an errand for us to pick up $700 in cash. He says he lost it. Can we make him pay it back? — C.F., Florida

A. How do you handle other lost company property? You should follow the same procedure for the lost cash. There is nothing wrong with asking the employee to pay it back.

However, in many states, you cannot deduct it from his wages or fire or threaten to fire him if he doesn’t pay it back. (Find a list of each state’s laws governing permissible wage deductions here.) Florida, where you are located, has no law prohibiting employers from deducting from employee wages to cover the loss of company property.

But even if it is legal to recover the missing money by deducting it from your employee’s pay, you must make sure any deductions don’t bring the employee’s hourly rate of pay below the minimum wage. That runs afoul of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

I sense that underlying your question may be discomfort over this “lost” cash. Maybe you’re questioning whether it was, in fact, lost. You may want to question the employee carefully and conduct a workplace investigation, especially if you’ve experienced other incidents of disappearing company property.

If you think he may have stolen the money, you could also contact the police, who may investigate the matter. In that situation, you need to be careful about claims of false arrest or malicious prosecution. It is best to just present them with the facts and let them decide how to proceed. Don’t make any public accusations that may cause a defamation lawsuit.

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