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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12809
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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My father passed away August 9, 2012. Recently my boss (Im

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My father passed away August 9, 2012. Recently my boss (I'm pretty much her personal assistant) called me into her office and said "I told Zara (our accounts manager) to pay you the 8 days you took off to handle your father's funeral and affairs... but now that Andrea's in Hungary for her mother's funeral, I really don't want to pay her the same amount of days... it's our policy that I give you only 3 days pay for bereavement." I calmly said, what are you trying to say, Paula, that you want me to pay you back after a year the 5 additional days you gave me? She said "Yes, however we can deduct it out of your paycheck every 2 weeks so it's not a burden for you." HONESTLY - can she do that??? I was so ticked off that I told her if you think I owe you the money then take it all out of my next paycheck - which she did! But REALLY was that legal? I'm STILL bewildered by the whole thing particularly for what I do for her personally beyond my realm of office duties! Yes, it's her own company.

Unhappy emploXXXXX, XXXXX

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your father and your employer's demand that you pay her back for part of your bereavement leave.

Under the circumstances you describe, an employer CANNOT demand repayment. The bereavement pay constituted a "wage earned" in consideration of your employment and contributions to the company. California law zealously protects an employee's right to earned wages and permits forfeiture only in certain extremely limited circumstances as provide by statute.

Your employer cannot force you to give this money back, nor deduct from your wages or retaliate against you in any manner for your refusal to forfeiture wages. Any deduction from your wages to repay your employer would be unlawful and give rise to a wage claim. Likewise, any retaliation against you for refusing to pay this money back would give rise to a claim for damages.

It would be wise to document this controversy in writing so that you have a paper trail in the event you need to tie some subsequent retaliation to these events. An email will suffice, simply stating that you refuse to pay back any portion of the bereavement compensation you received, as that money constituted a wage earned in consideration of your employment and as such may not be forfeited.

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, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes to you and thank you so much for coming to Just Answer.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I'm confused - are you going to respond to my second question - did you receive it?

My apologies but I did not receive any other question, just your post above asking me if I am going to respond to another question.

Would you be so kind as to repost whatever you had asked?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No worries... I'm the type of person that is very uncomfortable "owing" anybody anything. What I said to my boss is that I don't wish to have her take "back my wages in increments - just take it out of my next check..." which she DID! Now that I have thought long and hard about the whole matter, I'm really ticked - especially when I opened my paycheck this morning UGH! Can I request her giving me the "wages" back? Thanks!

Thank you so much for your reply.

The fact you consented to repayment in the form of a deduction from your wages weakens your case, as it is much harder to argue "forfeiture."

Now that your employer has your money, you will need to go on the offense rather than defensively protecting your future earnings, which is all that previously would have been required. This means filing a wage claim with the DLSE on the grounds that you were pressured into agreeing to a reduction from your wages. Given the bad blood that may create and the now weakened legal argument you have, that may or may not be worth your effort.

To file a wage claim with the DLSE, visit this link:

Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns. It is my pleasure to assist you further if necessary.
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