Unauthorized deductions from your paycheck may be unlawful. If your employer has deducted the cost of medical or physical exams, overpayment of wages, uniforms costs, or work tool costs, they may be engaging in wage theft. Wage theft is a catch-all term for payroll abuses which cheat workers of the wages they have earned. In California, wage theft can arise from a variety of circumstances, including failing to pay workers the state mandated minimum wage; failing to pay for overtime work performed and/or paying overtime at an incorrect rate of pay; failing to pay for work simply because it was performed “off-the-clock”; failing to pay workers all wages and penalties for late, interrupted, or missed meal and/or rest breaks; misclassifying workers as independent contractors; making unlawful deductions from workers’ paychecks; or by creating or enforcing various other policies which violate State and/or Federal law.
Wage theft is a longstanding problem in California. Although there are no exact figures on the extend of wage theft, authorities say it is rampant in such industries as construction, restaurants, and home health care. Wage theft from unlawful deductions often go unreported because workers may not even realize that they are being paid less than what they have legally earned. Under California labor law, workers are entitled to numerous rights and wage theft protections, and they can recover large penalties if employers violate those rights.
California Labor Code Section 221 and 224, allows employers to make deductions from workers’ wages in limited circumstances, including tax withholdings, garnishments or court orders, contributions to health benefit plans (when authorized). Employers must comply with both federal and state laws when making these deductions, particularly the limits on the amount deducted. California labor law expressly prohibits certain deductions.