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Patrick, Esq.
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(In California) Can I charge my employee for accidentally accepting

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(In California) Can I charge my employee for accidentally accepting a fake $50 bill?

Read more: What can I do about my boss charging my for accidentally accepting a fake $50 bill? | Answerbag
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

California law is extremely protective of an employee's right to their earned wages and strictly prohibits an employer from deducting from any employee's wage to make up for a loss arising from the employee's ordinary negligence. If the loss arose from the employee's GROSS negligence (recklessness) or willful misconduct, the loss can typically be deducted from the employee's wage, but even then, the employer will be strictly scrutinezed by the Labor Board and the employer runs some risk of liability.

This law is not contained within one code section, but rather within at least two code sections that must be read together. Those sections are Labor Code 221 and 224. They read as follows:

221. It shall be unlawful for any employer to collect or receive
from an employee any part of wages theretofore paid by said employer
to said employee.

224. The provisions of Sections 221, 222 and 223 shall in no way
make it unlawful for an employer to withhold or divert any portion of
an employee's wages when the employer is required or empowered so to
do by state or federal law or when a deduction is expressly
authorized in writing by the employee to cover insurance premiums,
hospital or medical dues, or other deductions not amounting to a
rebate or deduction from the standard wage arrived at by collective
bargaining or pursuant to wage agreement or statute, or when a
deduction to cover health and welfare or pension plan contributions
is expressly authorized by a collective bargaining or wage agreement.
Nothing in this section or any other provision of law shall be
construed as authorizing an employer to withhold or divert any
portion of an employee's wages to pay any tax, fee or charge
prohibited by Section 50026 of the Government Code, whether or not
the employee authorizes such withholding or diversion.

A claim for loss arising from simple negligence could, at least in theory, be brought in civil court. However, such suits are incredibly uncommon because, ultimately, the company would have to prove that it properly trained the employee to do their job and that the loss did not arise from improper/insufficient training or development. Also, it of course would be financial impractical to pursue such a claim in court over an amount of only $50.

Although an employer cannot deduct from an employee's wages for a loss arising from ordinary negligence, employers retain full discretion to terminate or suspend with pay an employee for such conduct.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.

Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Very best wishes to you.
Patrick, Esq. and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you

Please reference the following link for more information from the Labor Board regarding deductions from wages for negligences:

Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns. If I have answered your question, I would be very grateful for a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. This is the only way I am compensated for the answers I provide and so is very important to me.

Kindest regards.