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Use and provision of Back Belts California

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  • Use and provision of Back Belts California

    My employer has issued protective back belts to the employees for lifting items over 50 pounds.
    Yesterday they asked all employees to sign an acknowledgement that if they lose or damage their belt, the cost of the replacement belt will be deducted from their paychecks. The cost is not specified, could be $20... could be $100.
    What this has caused is a rash of employees stealing back belts from one another to avoid being deducted for one they may have lost.

    Can an employer make a payroll deduction for protective equipment such as a back belt if it is lost or stolen or accidentally damaged? Should we sign this document authorizing such a deduction?

  • #2
    http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_Deductions.htm
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    • #3
      thanks... but

      I have read the thread posted... I believe the deduction would be unlawful if it is taken. Does the signature on the agreement make a difference?

      I think my employer thinks as long as he has the signed agreement, he can take the deduction legally. Is this the case?

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      • #4
        I won't address the issue of the deductions for the lost belts.

        We used to issue them. We no longer do.

        They do not protect against back injuries. They do make some employees think they are Superman and encourage lifting more than is sensible.

        We ditched the belts and our overexertion claims dropped, resulting in a substantial reduction in workers comp claims.
        Senior Professional in Human Resources and Certified Staffing Professional with over 30 years experience. Any advice provided is based upon experience and education, but does not constitute legal advice.

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        • #5
          great information for my employer

          But... not so helpful to me.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by likinglife View Post
            But... not so helpful to me.
            Unless you are forcing employees to take the equipment, I would say that the rules Patty gave you support the deduction. You can contact CA-DLSE directly if you want to try for a different opinion.
            "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
            Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by likinglife View Post
              But... not so helpful to me.
              Not if you lost the item and are being charged.

              If you are forced to take the worthless item, but not forced to wear it, tuck it away where you know where it is and be able to produce it upon demand.
              Senior Professional in Human Resources and Certified Staffing Professional with over 30 years experience. Any advice provided is based upon experience and education, but does not constitute legal advice.

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              • #8
                yes...

                the memorandum we are being required to sign:

                "This back belt is being issued to you for your use during the course of your daily job... It must be worn at all times when lifting and must remain on company property and may not be loaned to another employee.

                Should you lose or damage it, you will be responsible for the cost of it's replacement. That cost will be automatically deducted from your paycheck.

                Your signature below indicates your agreement to the above"

                Sounds pretty involuntary to me.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by likinglife View Post
                  Sounds pretty involuntary to me.
                  Yes, it does.

                  You can suggest to your company that they save on the costs of buying these items.

                  See http://http://www.cdc.gov/Niosh/backbelt.html, a government website that won't support wearing them.
                  Senior Professional in Human Resources and Certified Staffing Professional with over 30 years experience. Any advice provided is based upon experience and education, but does not constitute legal advice.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by likinglife View Post
                    Sounds pretty involuntary to me.
                    I am fairly sure that CA agrees with you on this point.
                    -----

                    From the CA-DLSE manual:

                    11.3 Any Deduction Must Be For Direct Benefit Of Employee. Deductions are only permitted for items which are for the direct benefit of the employee – not deductions which in any way benefit the employer either directly or indirectly. (3 Ops.Atty.Gen. 178).

                    ------

                    http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/opinions/1993-04-19-1.pdf

                    From the above referenced opinion letter, page 5, 2nd pargraph there is something on point that apparently is a text version of a graphics image that I cannot copy over. But it references the A.G. memo and says that the recovery of uniform or equipment costs is "for the benefit of the employer" and cannot be deducted.
                    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
                    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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                    • #11
                      California back belt

                      From Patty's link, question # 2 covers it. I've used it successfully.

                      2. Q. If I break or damage company property or lose company money while performing my job, can my employer deduct the cost/loss from my wages?

                      A.

                      No, your employer cannot legally make such a deduction from your wages if, by reason of mistake or accident a cash shortage, breakage, or loss of company property/equipment occurs. The California courts have held that losses occurring without any fault on the part of the employee or that are merely the result of simple negligence are inevitable in almost any business operation and thus, the employer must bear such losses as a cost of doing business. For example, if you accidentally drop a tray of dishes, take a bad check, or have a customer walkout without paying a check, your employer cannot deduct the loss from your paycheck.

                      There is an exception to the foregoing contained in the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders that purports to provide the employer the right to deduct from an employee’s wages for any cash shortage, breakage or loss of equipment if the employer can show that the shortage, breakage or loss is caused by a dishonest or willful act, or by the employee’s gross negligence. What this means is that a deduction may be legal if the employer proves that the loss resulted from the employee’s dishonesty, willfulness, or grossly negligent act. Under this regulation, a simple accusation does not give the employer the right to make the deduction. The DLSE has cautioned that use of this deduction contained in the IWC regulations may, in fact, not comply with the provisions of the California Labor Code and various California Court decisions. Furthermore, DLSE does not automatically assume that an employee was dishonest, acted willfully or was grossly negligent when an employer asserts such as a justification for making a deduction from an employee’s wages to cover a shortage, breakage, or loss to property or equipment.

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