DEAR CARRIE: If an employee gets a ticket or a violation while driving a company vehicle and the company has no written policy in place, nor any signed acknowledgment from the employee in question stating that he or she knew of a rule requiring employees to pay for any tickets, is the employee responsible for the fine? Also, what are the repercussions if an employer takes money for a fine out of the employee’s wages, again with no written policy in place? — What Rules?
DEAR WHAT RULES: The rules are pretty simple. If the ticket was issued against the vehicle, like a red-light ticket, then the company is responsible for the ticket. If the ticket is issued to you, such as a speeding ticket, then you are supposed to pay. And if the company is supposed to pay it can’t legally take that money out of your wages. It can fire you for the ticket, but it can’t deduct the cost from your wages.
At least two reasons explain that: The first is that, except for taxes, the company can’t deduct anything from your check without your written permission. And secondly, the company can’t deduct from your wages the cost of a loss to the company, even if you caused it.
Here’s what the state Department of Labor’s website says about employers and deductions:
“They are not permitted to charge employees for breakages, cash shortages, fines or any other losses to the business.”
For more information, call the Labor Department at 516-794-8195 or 212-775-3880.
DEAR CARRIE: I am an employer, and I’ve got a good one for you. Most all my staff has been here for more than 15 years and I pride myself on that longevity. I try to approach everybody as an individual. Everyone has idiosyncrasies, and I make concessions to adjust for each staff member. And I get very few complaints. I even go beyond what is required, and pay my entire staff for the holidays when I am closed. Those days include Christmas, Easter, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But here’s the clincher: When some of the employees get a paycheck that includes one of those paid holidays, they want to know why they didn’t get overtime, since it’s over 40 hours. When I tell them they didn’t work over 40 hours, they say, “Well we would have if you hadn’t closed.” What do you think of that? — Can’t Win
DEAR CAN’T WIN: This is a case of employees who need to stop staring a gift horse in the mouth. When they get paid for a full week without having to work a full week, that’s something to be grateful for. And you have to pay hourly workers overtime only when they work more than 40 hours a week, not when a paid holiday puts them over that mark. I think you need to educate them about labor law.
DEAR READERS: Thanks for another terrific year of questions, from employees and employers alike. The issues we tackled included:
- Complex Social Security questions, explained with help from the Social Security Administration’s New York office
- Whether employee home offices can be inspected by an employer
- Where an unemployed young grad can go for help in restructuring his student loan payments
- When a volunteer must be paid wages
- Whether a retail worker can be forced to buy her company’s pricey shoes
- When questions on a job application are too personal
- How long an employer should keep a paper trail on a problem employee before acting.
I look forward to more great questions in the coming year.