Employers are increasingly using paycheck deductions as a way to penalize staff for subpar performance or workplace infractions. Their ability to legally do this depends in large part on whether you are an hourly or salaried employee.

If you are paid hourly, then it is pretty easy for your employer to dock your paycheck, although some states require an employee to give written consent to the deduction first. The biggest limitation on this practice is that the deductions cannot drop your pay below the federal minimum wage.

If you are a salaried employee, paycheck deductions can ironically end up having a positive effect for you. Federal wage guidelines state that a person’s salary cannot be reduced based on the quantity or quality of that person’s work. Therefore, if your paycheck is docked for subpar performance, you would no longer be considered a salaried employee, and would be eligible to collect overtime. However, this does not apply to paycheck deductions that are a result of violating an important company safety rule.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If an employer has taken a deduction from your paycheck, you may wish to file a labor complain for an illegal labor deduction. However, before doing so, you should consult an experienced employment law attorney.