Can an employer dock pay for monetary errors

My wife is a travel agent and sometimes makes mistakes that could result in her company having to pay a vendor a fee for the mistake. For example, forgetting to cancel a hotel room on time might result in the vendor wanting to be paid a fee for one night at the Hotel. She has always been able to correct the problem without getting her employer involved. But her employer has stated that they will dock her pay check to pay for any fees that they incur as a result of her errors. Is this legal in Ohio? If your employer forced you to sign a form as a condition of employment stating that you will be responsible for any fees incurred for mistakes made, is it then legal for your employer to deduct these fees from your pay? Isn't this really just part of the cost of doing business for an employer?

2 answers  |  asked Oct 30, 2009 1:36 PM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Answers (2)

Neil Klingshirn
From a purely legal perspective, an employer can "agree" with an employee that the employee is responsible for certain costs, such as uniforms, and can dock pay (that is, withhold money from paychecks) to cover those costs. However, the agreement must be in writing. ORC 4113.15. I do not know of a legal reason why an employer could not hold an employee responsible for costs that it incurred because of the employee's mistakes.

Historically, employers abused this to the point of placing employees in debt, particularly in company towns. The minimum wage was passed in large part to protect employees from that abuse. For a highly compensated individual, Bruce has some good advice on how to deal with an abusive employer.

posted by Neil Klingshirn  |  Nov 2, 2009 07:06 AM [EST]
Bruce Elfvin
In the event any such 'docking' would force your pay to fall below minimum wage it is clearly illegal. If you make frequent errors the correct approach would be for the employer to terminate your employment. I would suggest that you talk to the employer and start looking for a new job to make sure that you don't end up in the wrong position. Your approach should be to point out what types of errors occur and which ones may or may not be attributed to you. Then the cost of doing business aspect should be gone into and maybe a compromise proposed should the errors exceed 1 per month or some other frequency.

posted by Bruce Elfvin  |  Oct 30, 2009 1:49 PM [EST]

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