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Can we discipline late worker by cutting her pay?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. One of our hourly employees ($15 per hour) arrives late way too often. We’d like her to get here on time so we’re considering cutting her hourly rate when she arrives late. For example, if she arrives an hour late, we would not pay her for the hour and cut her pay to minimum wage for the rest of the day. Can we do that? — A.N., Texas

A. First, you must pay hourly employees for the time they work. If your employee arrives an hour late, you obviously don’t need to pay her for the hour she didn’t work.

Generally speaking, employers are free to prospectively change the wage rate of their at-will employees and may adjust those rates up or down.  However, you should give advance notice in writing of this policy and you should check your state wage payment laws to determine whether any state or local laws limit implementing this policy. 

So you should not cut her pay to minimum wage without giving her advance notice. You can, however, discipline her some other way for being late and then warn her that future tardiness may mean a wage cut.

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