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Payroll deductions for employee damage

broken plate

Question:

Can a restaurant owner charge me for something that I broke in the restaurant? For example, my boss charged me $227 dollars for a part on his front door that I didn't even mean to break.

– Logan Dill, Server, Victor’s Mexican Grille, Richmond, Texas

Answer:

Restaurateurs hate to hear this but employee mistakes are typically the cost of doing business and can’t be charged to the employee in most states. This case is slightly different, however, in that the issue isn’t a typical server error like ringing in a wrong order or dropping and breaking a plate but rather some substantial damage to the property.

The key question is whether the door broke as a mistake or at the end of a period of wear-and-tear or whether you were abusive to the property and did some intentional damage. If it is truly the former, your employer can’t garnish your wages. According to the wage and hour law in Texas:

“An employer may not withhold or divert any part of an employee's wages unless the employer: (1) is ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction;(2) is authorized to do so by state or federal law; or (3) has written authorization from the employee to deduct part of the wages for a lawful purpose.”

That said, in cases of negligence, dishonesty, or willfulness employers can charge you for the damage nearly everywhere. In this case it sounds like the key question is whether your employer thinks the damage was intentional.

My advice to owners and managers is to only charge if they are confident the employee willfully destroyed property. Otherwise, it's just another restaurateur frustration but there isn't much to be done about it.

More on charging employees for mistakes here.

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