Q. One of the positions in our manufacturing company has a formal apprenticeship program. To stay accredited, we must submit monthly reports showing the number of classroom training hours in which each apprentice participates. Submission of these forms is mandatory, and yet every month there are always some apprentices (for whatever reason) who fail to submit their forms. Can we withhold a portion of an apprentice’s paycheck at the end of the month until we receive the training reports?
A. Unfortunately, while Indiana is an “at will” state, one of the few forms of discipline that you cannot impose on an employee is depravation of wages for work performed. To withhold an apprentice’s monthly pay in the manner you describe violates both state and federal wages laws. It would subject you to significant liability including (but not limited to) triple damages and attorneys’ fees.
But you are not left without recourse. While you cannot withhold an apprentice’s pay, you can impose other forms of discipline for the failure to submit the mandatory report.
For example, you could set a deadline for submitting the report and move anyone who fails to meet that deadline one level up the disciplinary ladder for each late submission. The disciplinary progression can continue until the apprentice either submits the reports in a timely manner or accumulates enough infractions to warrant termination.
Ultimately, while you cannot withhold earned wages from employees, you can still require them to meet your workplace standards. You can subject your apprentices to any form of discipline you see fit.