Question: Included in our new employee handbook is a standard payroll deduction agreement, which employees must sign and return to Payroll. There’s a clause in the agreement that says employees’ consent to payroll deductions includes, but isn’t limited to, miscellaneous deductions—faxes, phone calls and so forth. HR has told employees that if they don’t sign the agreement, then no deductions can be made. What does Payroll tell employees?
Answer: HR is incorrect, but the culprit is probably bad writing, rather than a bad intent. Employees don’t, for example, have to consent to federal and state income tax withholding and FICA withholding. Employees’ consent is needed for benefits deductions, because benefits are optional.
Under the laws of most states, employers can only take those voluntary deductions that employees have authorized in advance. That’s probably what this clause is meant to address.