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CaliforniaEmployment LawWage & Hour DisputeWage Theft

Unlawful Paycheck Deductions Constitute Wage Theft

By Walton Law APCJanuary 19, 2022November 7th, 2023No Comments

Unauthorized deductions from your paycheck may be unlawful. If your employer has deducted the cost of medical or physical exams, overpayment of wages, uniforms costs, or work tool costs, they may be engaging in wage theft. Wage theft is a catch-all term for payroll abuses which cheat workers of the wages they have earned. In California, wage theft can arise from a variety of circumstances, including failing to pay workers the state mandated minimum wage; failing to pay for overtime work performed and/or paying overtime at an incorrect rate of pay; failing to pay for work simply because it was performed “off-the-clock”; failing to pay workers all wages and penalties for late, interrupted, or missed meal and/or rest breaks; misclassifying workers as independent contractors; making unlawful deductions from workers’ paychecks; or by creating or enforcing various other policies which violate State and/or Federal law.

Wage theft is a longstanding problem in California. Although there are no exact figures on the extend of wage theft, authorities say it is rampant in such industries as construction, restaurants, and home health care. Wage theft from unlawful deductions often go unreported because workers may not even realize that they are being paid less than what they have legally earned. Under California labor law, workers are entitled to numerous rights and wage theft protections, and they can recover large penalties if employers violate those rights.

California Labor Code Section 221 and 224, allows employers to make deductions from workers’ wages in limited circumstances, including tax withholdings, garnishments or court orders, contributions to health benefit plans (when authorized). Employers must comply with both federal and state laws when making these deductions, particularly the limits on the amount deducted. California labor law expressly prohibits certain deductions.

Medical or Physical Examinations: Employers may not deduct the cost of any pre-employment medical or physical examination, including a drug test taken as a condition of employment, or any medical or physical examination required by law.

Overpayment Deductions: Under California law, it is unlawful for an employer to collect overpayments of wages from the worker’s paycheck. However, the worker may voluntarily agree to repayment of any overpaid wages, as long as the worker’s wages are not reduced below the California minimum wage at the time of the deduction. When this is mutually agreed to, employers should have a signed agreement in place with the employee.

Uniforms and Work Tools: An employer may not require a worker to pay the cost of any uniform or equipment required for the job.

If you believe that your employer has committed wage theft, contact us. Our team of employment attorneys will evaluate and discuss the merits of your case. Our attorneys will help you navigate through the difficult process of suing an employer for violating state and federal wage laws and help you recover lost wages. Even when individual wages taken by an employer appear too small to justify a lawsuit, an attorney may determine that the case has merit as a potential class action.