The right and wrongs of paycheque deductions

Dear Working Wise: My employer demands that we pay for beer shortages at the restaurant where I work. We pay $3 for every bottle that is not accounted for. Is this legal? Signed, Steamed Server

Dear Steamed: No, your employer likely cannot ask you to pay for the missing beer.

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code does allow employers to make certain deductions from your earnings. These include Income Tax, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and Alberta Health Care premiums, as well as deductions resulting from a court judgment or order.

If your employer wants to make any other deductions from your paycheque, they must get your written permission. Examples could include company pension plans, dental plans or personal charges to company credit cards. Usually these deductions are discussed and permissions are provided before the employee starts their job. Missing employer ‘property’ such as beer would not fall into this category.

Alberta Employment Standards also prohibits employers from taking deductions from an employee’s earnings for cash shortages or lost property if any individual other than the employee had access to the cash or property such as beer.

This could include customers, other employees, administrative staff, supervisors, managers or owners. It may be difficult to find a time when only one person has exclusive access to the cash or property.

The only way your employer can deduct money from your paycheque for shortages is if:

They can show that you were the only person with access to the property; and

You give them written authorization prior to the deduction.

Finally, there are some deductions that are not allowed even with written authorization from the employee.

Employers can’t take deductions for faulty workmanship. Faulty workmanship can include things like accidental damage to an employer’s equipment, a “walkout” in a bar, a gas station “pump & dash,” broken dishes in a restaurant or mistakes in production.

Of course, some restaurant and bar owners might get around Employment Standards by taking the shortages out of your tips. Tips are not covered under Employment Standards.

Beer shortages could indicate some other issues that might require further investigation.

Your restaurant may need better security and staff training to prevent losses.

For more information on what employers are allowed and not allowed to deduct from your paycheque, read the Paycheque Deductions fact sheet at: http://work.alberta.ca/documents/Deductions-from-Earnings.pdf

If you have more questions about your situation, call the toll-free Alberta Employment Standards Contact Centre at: 18774273731.

If you would like information on how to file an Employment Standards complaint, visit: http://work.alberta.ca/es.

Good luck!

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services. This column is provided for general information.

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