You are chosen as the driver of the Company Truck, a brand new 2020 Ford F-450 XLT Super Duty, and it is your responsibility to drive your crew to the jobsite every morning. You’re making a left turn out of the Dunkin Donuts parking lot after everyone has received their morning coffee, and your co-worker is in the passenger seat wildly gesturing with his hands as he’s updating you on the events of his prior evening. The radio is blaring with news of the various traffic jams around the state, and in spite of the no smoking rule in the boss’ new truck, the guy behind you is lighting up his morning cigarette. You hit the gas, make the turn and begin to head up the street when – BOOM: suddenly everyone in the truck launches forward in their seats, someone yelps in surprise and you all realize at once that you have been rear-ended! “That guy in the white Explorer just slammed into you, bro!” Your coworker exclaims from the backseat. You think to yourself how you didn’t even see a white Explorer, and then you wonder out loud “Am I going to get fired for this?”
It’s about two weeks later, and you are still working, so you’re happy about that. You open up your paycheck and your heart sinks. You worked 40 hours last week but you are taking home $150 after taxes, health insurance and…as your eyes scan the list of deductions, you see it: ”truck damage fees”. What do you do when your boss says you can keep your job IF you agree to pay for the damage to his truck? You have bills, so you agree to pay for the damage. He tells you the damage will cost about $8,000 to fix and he’s taking payments out of your paycheck every week. You reluctantly agree, and sign a document outlining what you owe. You aren’t sure how it cost $8K, and you aren’t sure how it’s your fault, but hey, it’s a brand new truck and you have no choice and now you’ve signed something agreeing to pay so there is no way out of it, right? NO! YOU NEED TO CALL ATTORNEY PHILLIPS TODAY!
Even if you signed paperwork giving permission to deduct payments from your check, you still have rights and there is a proper process that must happen before you can be expected to pay money. MA law does allow deductions for certain things besides taxes, like union dues, healthcare costs, meals and lodging, however, there are not many other kinds of deductions an employer is allowed to take from an employee’s paycheck. The Massachusetts Wage Act serves to protect employees and their right to earned wages, and any deduction made must not bring an employee’s hourly rate to below minimum wage.
In order for an employer to decide an employee owes money, and for it to be deducted from his or her paycheck, an employee has the right to a fair and independent decision maker, such as the court, to take an unbiased look at the situation. An unbiased decision maker needs to determine if the employee is really at fault and what the financial damages really are after taking various factors into consideration, such as insurance. The employer itself, no matter how thorough and fair they believe their internal systems to be, is not unbiased in the matter, and ultimately serves to gain by an employee being found at-fault.
This is also the case for deductions involving theft. If an employee is accused of stealing or embezzlement and expected to repay money, the facts of whether or not the employee did steal and the amount stolen must be established by a Court in the form of a judgment or by some other independent, unbiased source, with protections in place for the employee. An employer cannot just accuse a worker of theft and begin deducting money from the worker’s paycheck based on their suspicion: the worker is due a fair process of evaluation before a decision is made.
Although every given situation is unique, every worker should know their rights. If you are in a situation where you are paying your employer via your paycheck, then you need to consult with Phillips & Garcia right away. Our clients do not pay any upfront fees, and we only get paid if and when we win your case. Attorney Phillips has built his career on giving a voice to "the little guy" in the face of big business and powerful institutions. He has handled many employee rights problems and is an experienced advocate for worker's rights. Leave a message in the contact box on this page or call our Dartmouth, MA office today at 508.998.0800 to schedule a discussion with Attorney Phillips today.