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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 18791
Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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In the state of Massachusetts, is it legal for an employer

Customer Question

In the state of Massachusetts, is it legal for an employer to take money from future paychecks because they "over-paid" on previous paychecks? The situation is I got hired for a lifeguarding and swim instructor job at a gym. I would get 12$ an hour for lifeguarding and if I had lessons, I got paid a commission of the lesson's price, which for the hour lesson was basically 20$. After the first paycheck in which I paid for guarding and giving lessons (as in say in my first hour of work I had a lesson, which I got paid for and for guarding, essentially making 32$ that hour) and from my discussions with the owner before being hired, I thought that is what it was supposed to be. Eventually, after about a month and half, if not more, as I was picking up my paycheck the person in charge of doing payroll mentioned that she was writing a letter (which I never received or heard about again) for me informing me that there was an error with how I was getting paid. Basically instead of both, it was either or depending on what I was doing. I was okay with that, since I also got to work out for free which is why I got the job in the first place. However, I noticed that they took, at least in the first check after that, but I believe it was from a couple, hours off that I worked and reduced the hours I taught, thus paying me less. On the most impressive of these deductions, in a week in which I definitely had 14 hours on the clock, I ended with about 2 and like 1 lesson on said check. When I asked about this situation and them taking money that they "over-paid" me, I was told that they were taking their money back and any company would do this in some form. So. (sorry for the long story) I want to know, is it legal for them to take away pay from future checks to "pay back/put towords" the money they already paid me and I put in my bank account? I mean, the error was not with me in any sense and I thought that is how I was to get paid. And I do an excellent job. Need a swim instructor? ;)
JA: Because employment law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?
Customer: Massachusetts (its also written in that big spiel above).
JA: Have you talked to a lawyer yet?
Customer: no. I just asked about this at work and I thought it was strange, and after that answer I got in person, decided to look online. This was one of the first things that came up and so I thought i'd ask
JA: Anything else you think the lawyer should know?
Customer: No. I don't think so. I mean, from what I was told when getting hired, and from what my first check and checks afterwards were. I was getting paid the right way, and also bringing the gym a lot of return customers for my efforts. I never got the letter which I think, due to its nature, should have been a certified mail type document and I don't think I should have to pay for their error.
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Allen M., Esq. replied 2 months ago.

Thank you for trusting your question to JA today. I am a licensed attorney with over a decade of law practice and over 20 years of experience in the legal field. I’m happy to be of assistance.

Massachusetts courts allow an employer to deduct wages where there is a clearly established debt owed to the employer and the deduction doesn't take your pay checks in the future below minimum wage.

If the employer can establish that you were overpaid, then yes they can show a debt owed to them. Nothing in law makes an overpayment something you can legally keep and the employer is legally entitled to request the return of that overpayment and deduct such overpayments from your check, provided that each check you receive at least meets minimum wage standards after the deduction.

If you have any further questions, please let me know. I invite follow up questions, so use REPLY for those. If you have no further questions then good luck going forward and please do not forget to rate my service with a top-three rating so that I receive credit for working with you today. Please rate me based on my service and not on your satisfaction with the law, which I am not in control of and I am just reporting to you. Also, feel free to request me in the future, if you have questions concerning a different matter

Expert:  Allen M., Esq. replied 2 months ago.

Hello, I wanted to check in and make sure that there was not any additional information that you required after the response I previously provided to you. If you need further assistance, please use REPLY and ask me for any additional information you may need. If not, take care and have a great day.