Q. An employee who recently quit has not returned a company-owned laptop computer worth more than $1,000. Can we withhold the value of the computer from the employee’s last paycheck?
A. Maybe. Under the Texas Payday Law, an employer may not withhold wages unless the employer has either a court order or a written authorization from the employee to deduct money for a legal purpose.
If you rely on an employee’s written authorization to deduct wages, the authorization must specifically state the lawful purpose for which the employee has authorized the deduction. The authorization must also provide the employee with a reasonable expectation of the amount to be deducted and must clearly indicate that the money will be deducted from the employee’s wages.
An employee handbook or written policy accompanied by the employee’s signed acknowledgement can replace a separate written authorization to deduct wages. Like a standard written authorization, the handbook must give the employee a reasonable expectation of the amount to be withheld and must clearly indicate that the amount will be deducted from wages.
The acknowledgment of receipt must state that the employee agrees to be bound by the authorization for deduction. It can’t merely acknowledge receipt of the handbook.
In no case, however, can deductions reduce wages paid below the minimum wage for hours worked.
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