What can my employer properly deduct from my paycheck?

In Massachusetts, the answer is “not much.” In addition to ordinary payroll deductions for state and federal tax, social security, unemployment insurance and the like, employers may also make the following deductions:

  • Union dues;
  • Health insurance premiums (if authorized by employee);
  • Garnishment or support order;
  • Lodging and meal deductions (subject to strict limitations);
  • Repayment of undisputed loan or advance from employer;
  • Repayment for employee theft when such theft is proved by an independent and unbiased proceeding;
  • When the employer has obtained a judgment against an employee for the value of the employee’s property.

Employers violate the Massachusetts Wage Act when deductions are made for other purposes. For example, employers violate the law when making deductions for “fines” imposed against employees in lieu of discipline, or requiring an employee to assume the cost of paying for his or her uniform without reimbursement. Employers may not make deductions for ordinary business expenses, thereby shifting the cost of business to its employees. Such deductions might include the cost of tools, gas, equipment and cleaning supplies.