Ask the Lawyer CUSTOMERS WALK OUT WITHOUT PAYING; CAN EMPLOYEE GET STUCK WITH THE BILL?
CUSTOMERS WALK OUT WITHOUT PAYING; CAN EMPLOYEE GET STUCK WITH THE BILL?
QUESTION: I work at a restaurant. Last week, we had a large group (10 people) in for lunch, a busy time. They asked for one check. When I presented it to them, they asked for individual checks instead. While I was in back re-doing their check, they walked out, without paying (or tipping). When I got my next paycheck, the amount for the 10-person lunch had been deducted, leaving me almost nothing for 30 hours of work. My boss said it was my fault, so I should pay – and learn from the experience. I don’t think this is legal.
ANSWER: It is not legal. Under Michigan Law, MCL 408.477(1), an employer “shall not deduct from the wages of an employee, directly or indirectly, any amount … without the full, free, and written consent of the employee, obtained without intimidation or fear of discharge for refusal to permit the deduction,” even where the deduction is for the benefit of the employee or, for instance is for a charitable cause (like the United Way).
When the deduction benefits the employer (as in your case) it requires the written consent of the employee for each wage payment subject to the deduction. This means your boss can’t ask you to sign a form allowing him or her to make deductions from any and all of your paychecks, if needed. If a deduction is going to be made, you must give your approval in advance, each and every time your paycheck is affected. And, even if you agree to the deduction, the deduction is not lawful if it reduces your gross wage to a rate less than the minimum wage.
Violation of this law is a criminal offense, punishable by fines and/or jail time. In addition, an employer who breaks the law must pay the worker the wages due, plus a penalty of 10%. The employer may also be ordered to pay the worker exemplary damages of not more than twice the amount of wages lost, in addition to any attorney costs, hearing costs, or transcript costs. Finally, the employer may be assessed a civil penalty of $1,000.
If you wish to report your employer’s violation of the law to the Michigan Department of Labor, you must do so within 12 months. Your employer is forbidden by law from retaliating against you for filing the complaint. If an employer discharges a worker for filing a complaint in good faith, the employer may not only face penalties under the law, but may be sued in civil court. An employee who is discharged must file a complaint with the Department within 30 days after the discharge.
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ASK THE LAWYER
By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
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