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Docking my Pay in MA

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  • Docking my Pay in MA

    I am a manager at a small company and my boss was going to send me to a conference. Flight and hotel reservations were made on the company credit card.

    I became ill the morning of the flight and was unable to go. I was vomiting, and generally had some form of 24 hour stomach bug.

    I went to my doctor and got a note that day that I brought to work the next day.

    I even made an honest attempt to reschedule to flight for the next day, but that was impossible without a significant upcharge which the boss said he would not pay.

    My boss then presented me with his credit card bill showing $152 for my flight reservation stating that the ticket is mine, I am free to do with it what I like and that he needs to be paid back for it.

    Before I could do anything, my next paycheck came to me with the flight deducted from my pay.

    Is this legal? Should I be required to pay for a company trip because I fell ill? Can he argue the financial loss is my fault and therefore I must pay for it?

  • #2
    Generally speaking, such deductions cannot be made from your pay without your written authorization. That's the chance the employer takes by purchasing a nonrefundable or nonchangeable (without a huge fee) ticket. You don't want the ticket; you should not have to pay for it. Here's the form from the Attorney General's office, which serves as the Dept. of Labor for Massachusetts, to file a claim for the improper deduction.
    http://www.ago.state.ma.us/sp.cfm?pageid=1129

    And just so we get the terminology correct, they did not dock your pay, they took an unauthorized deduction. In legal terms, these are two different things.
    Last edited by Pattymd; 04-16-2006, 06:56 AM.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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    • #3
      I agree with Patty.

      For further clarification, in MA, the DOS issued an opinion letter in April 2003 adressing seven deduction requests and denied them all. There are very few deductions allowed from an employee's wage in MA (other than those required by law). They include things like lodging and meals (although very limited in both cases), lost merchandise, lost tools, short cash, purchased products, etc., each of which is conditioned upon certain circumstances. So, it is very unlikely that a deduction against wages for a missed flight would pass in this state.

      But, there are also additional Federal guidelines on deductions from wages. These can be found at 29 CFR sections 778.304-778.307 (http://www.dol.gov/dol/allcfr/Title_...CFR778.304.htm, is the first of these sections)

      Patty's link to the AG form is the place to start if you want to file a claim in MA.

      Phil
      This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

      This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

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      • #4
        And if you read the FLSA reg to which Compensation Counsel provided the link, you will see the following statement:

        (a) The word ``deduction'' is often loosely used to cover reductions
        in pay...
        The FLSA does not generally deal with deductions from NET pay, which is the circumstance you have.
        Last edited by Pattymd; 04-17-2006, 08:23 AM.
        I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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        • #5
          Thank You

          Thank you all for your advice. I've now written a polite yet firm letter to my boss requesting the money be returned to me, or that we speak before my next paycheck. If he does not, I will be filling out the form that Pattymd so kindly linked for me.

          Once I begin this process, I'm concerned about any disciplinary action he might decide to take. What can I do to protect myself?

          I currently have no written disciplinary action against me, and nothing that could get me fired. My boss hasn't given me a review in over 2.5 years (nor anyone else in the company) and the one review I have recieved was wonderful.

          I am documenting in a home notebook all the events that are occuring since the unauthorized deduction. Should I be doing anything else?

          Thanks again for all the advice so far.

          Comment


          • #6
            If you only complain internally, you basically have no legal protection against retaliation. However, if you file a claim with the state, and you are terminated or receive other adverse treatment as a result of filing that claim, then you do have protection under whistleblower laws. Such laws do not protect internal complaints; only complaints to the proper governing authority.
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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            • #7
              Thank You

              I just wanted to once again than everyone for their input. Today was pay day, and amazingly the full ammount has been returned to me.

              Your willingness to offer this advice so quickly and freely is more appreciated than you could imagine. Today, you saved me $152.19. You have probably done the same for many others in the past.

              I can't thank you enough. Please don't ever stop.

              Comment


              • #8
                Most of the MA retaliation statutes do require some sort of report to an outside agency, except the one dealing with minimum wage (c. 151, s. 19(1)). There, the language states "or because such employer believes that said employee or individual may complain of a violation of the provisions of this chapter". This would apply in your circumstance if the unauthorized deductions reduced your pay to below minimum wage.

                In that case, there is possible criminal liability for your employer under c. 149, s. 27(c), and you would get damages of 1-2 months wages, plus attorney's fees and costs.

                You didn't mention how much you were making, but if losing $152 in a week drops your pay below minimum wage, and your boss thought you were going to complain, then you might have some recourse for his retaliation.
                This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

                This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Glad it worked out for you. Better luck with your next position.
                  I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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                  • #10
                    Glad to hear it worked out, too. For some reason, when I was drafting my response last night, I didn't see the good news you posted before mine.

                    That's great.

                    Phil
                    This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

                    This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ah, Phil, you probably took a break in the middle of composing your response to get a drink of, um, coffee.
                      I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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                      • #12
                        Chapter & Section?

                        What chapter & section of general law has the applicable rules for pay deductions? I need to "remind" someone of the law.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Human Resources

                          As an added bonus to a happy ending, today I met with the HR director of my company and explained to her my situation. She agreed that this was out of line, uncalled for, and should never have occured in the first place. HR will be discussing this with him later today.

                          Oh yes, did I forget to mention the HR department is his wife?

                          (sometimes being a small company has it's perks)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yes Patty, Coffee does seem to be in great demand around here.

                            The most recent general opinion from the DOL on deductions is FLSA 2006-7 (http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/opinion/F...10_07_FLSA.htm)

                            The sections of 29 CFR 541.602 and 29 CFR 778.304-307 also deal at some length with deductions.

                            In MA, you can try the sections beginning with 455 CMR 2.00. You might also review a 2003 opinion of the DOS at MW-2003-003 (http://www.mass.gov/dos/mw_docs/mw-2003-003.htm)

                            Proper deductions have been the subject of quite a bit of litigation and regulation nationally, so there is a great deal more. But those should get you started.

                            Phil
                            This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

                            This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Rhubarb1979,

                              I'm thrilled to hear that everything worked out.

                              Phil
                              This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (www.gordonllp.com).

                              This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.

                              Comment

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