DEAR CARRIE: I work as a cashier in a deli. Because of some drawer shortages, the manager called a staff meeting and said he was going to correct a $100 shortfall by taking $20 from the paychecks of the five employees who operate the register. Is this legal? -- Made to Pay
DEAR MADE: This is a case of a supervisor who lacks a basic knowledge of both management and state labor laws. If his remarks are no more than a scare tactic, they're a poor way to motivate employees. If he follows through on the threat, it would be a blatant violation of state labor laws.
Except for taxes, your employer cannot deduct anything from your pay without your written permission. And employers can't legally make employees pay for mistakes. Regulations specifically cite "cash shortages."
Here are more details from the state Labor Department's website:
"No deductions may be made from wages except deductions authorized by law, or which are authorized in writing by the employee and are for the employee's benefit. Authorized deductions include payments for insurance premiums, pension, contributions to charitable organizations, payments for U.S. bonds, union dues, and similar payments for the benefit of the employee. An employer may not make any charge against wages, or require an employee to make any payment by separate transaction unless such charge or payment is permitted as a deduction from wages. Examples of illegal deductions or charges include payments by the employee for spoilage, breakage, cash shortages or losses."
You should consider two things to address the problem: Send your manager an anonymous copy of this column. And call the state Labor Department for more information at 516-794-8195.
DEAR CARRIE: I quit my job of 29 years in January. I am 64 and plan to wait until age 65 or 66 to apply for Social Security benefits. Should I wait until then to contact Social Security or should I get in touch with the agency beforehand? -- Now or Later?
DEAR NOW OR LATER: I went to the source for information: the regional Social Security office in Manhattan. A spokesman said you should do a couple of things right way. The first two are to register for your personal Social Security account at socialsecurity.gov/ myaccount and also use the agency's Online Retirement Estimator at socialsecurity.gov/ estimator.
"The Estimator allows a worker to create up to three 'what if' scenarios to show the difference in the benefit rate depending upon their age or potential changes in earnings," the spokesman said.
Since your full retirement age is 66, you would receive full benefits if you waited until then to collect; collect before that and your benefits would be reduced.
Another thing you should do right away is review your annual Social Security statement at the "my account" site mentioned above.
"It's important that you review your annual Social Security statement . . . to make sure that all your years of work have been recorded so that the benefit we pay is correct," the spokesman said. "Social Security retirement benefits are based on your highest 35 years of work, your true lifetime of earnings."
One more piece of advice from the agency:
Even if you decide to defer filling for Social Security benefits, you must sign up for Medicare during your 65th birthday year. That sign-up involves the traditional Medicare program's Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical). Go to socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.
Read more on prohibited wage deductions at bit.ly/lisocialsecurity for more on prohibited wage deductions.