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My son just started a job with a franchisee of a well-known delivery company. The franchisee is located in Virginia, and some of the items in the employee handbook sound fishy to me. He was given a sheet that listed several offenses along with the associated monetary fine. Three which stood out were:

  • Excessive tardiness and absences - $200
  • Failure to clean the delivery truck - $50
  • Accident - $200 per pay period, "until the company is made whole"

I have no idea how they plan to impose these fines, immediately make him pay or withhold the amount from his paycheck, but I would think that the only recourse an employer has for failing to perform assigned duties is termination, and a civil suit for actions that cause financial harm.

Is this a case where employment terms, no matter how onerous, are allowed, or does this company have no idea what they are allowed to do with their employees?

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    what does the contract say? Contracts can do a lot – Trish Aug 14 '20 at 16:38
  • I can find nothing in the contract even referencing this sheet of paper. Even if there were, is such a provision enforceable? – Michael J. Aug 14 '20 at 16:48
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    It would also be interesting to know which of these these -- the contract, the sheet and the handbook -- come from the franchisee and which from the franchisor. – Just a guy Aug 14 '20 at 20:02
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    @Trish: what does the contract say? Contracts can do a lot I know this question is tragetted to the US, but as a side note in France employment contacts can do almost nothing. Everything is defined in the employment law an one cannot diverge from that (except is the contract is not for an employee but for very specific executive positions) – WoJ Aug 15 '20 at 16:00
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    Since the legal situation is quite clear, you might hop over to workplace.stackchange to see what you should do. Since it is a franchisee you should consider looking for a job elsewhere - and inform the well-known delivery company about what their franchisee is up to. – gnasher729 Aug 15 '20 at 18:50
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Not by payroll deduction, unless the agreement to do so was not a condition of employment

While it is true (as Just a guy's answer notes) that under § 40.1-29(C) an employee may agree via "written and signed authorization" to an employer withholding money from paychecks, the agreement to do so must be voluntary and not a condition of employment/continued employment.

§ 40.1-29(D) of the Code of Virginia states:

No employer shall require any employee, except executive personnel, to sign any contract or agreement which provides for the forfeiture of the employee's wages for time worked as a condition of employment or the continuance therein, except as otherwise provided by law.

This does not mean that an employee who damages company property or otherwise negligently causes the company financial harm is not liable for such damages, though. Damages to a vehicle or costs incurred for cleaning it might be possible damages. "Excessive tardiness and absences" seems like it'd be difficult, but not impossible, to prove monetary damages for. But to recover these damages against the employee's will, they'd have to file a lawsuit: they cannot simply deduct the damages from wages unless the employee voluntarily agrees to pay them that way (a blanket authorization as a condition of employment does not count).

This article has some more information and a couple relevant examples (including one about vehicle damage).

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    Yikes! How did I miss that, when it's in the next section? I edited my answer to add your point. I hope I gave you enough credit. PS Welcome to LSE. And thanks for saving me from myself. – Just a guy Aug 14 '20 at 22:53
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    @Justaguy Thanks! Happy to have helped, seemed like an interesting first question to answer :-) – Ryan M Aug 14 '20 at 22:54
  • Just out of curiosity, did you already know this? If not, how'd you find it? – Just a guy Aug 14 '20 at 22:57
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    @Justaguy I didn't know it previously, but I was surprised that any state would allow a blanket authorization via employment agreement (I know it's quite a common thing to ban), which was what made me double check. I found it by searching "virginia wage deductions" on Google, and that article I linked was in the featured snippet. Good find on the VA Department of Labor citation, by the way! I'm actually curious how you found that one as well: I hadn't gotten that far, despite some cursory searching for definitions of how these terms are interpreted. – Ryan M Aug 14 '20 at 23:04
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    I got lucky. Since the statute didn't mention "blanket authorizations" I figured that phrase had to come from somewhere. I tried "Blanket authorizations signed by an employee" + Virginia The DOLI manual was the second item, after the website you found. – Just a guy Aug 14 '20 at 23:24
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It depends on what your son signed

§ 40.1-29(C) of the Code of Virginia says employers need written permission to withhold anything besides taxes from paychecks:

No employer shall withhold any part of the wages or salaries of any employee except for payroll, wage or withholding taxes or in accordance with law, without the written and signed authorization of the employee.

As Ryan M points out, there's more!

The very next section, § 40.1-29(D) says employers can't require you give permission as a condition of employment or the continuance therein...

This clause has been interpreted by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, to mean:

Blanket authorizations signed by an employee at the commencement of employment which allow such forfeitures will be considered per se a condition of employment, and are not allowed. Only a signed agreement that is truly voluntary, and is not a condition of employment, is allowed by § 40.1-29(D).

Note: Edited in light of correction by Ryan and editorial suggestion by amolloy.

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  • I'll have to take a closer look at what was actually signed. As I recall, he signed that he would comply with the employee handbook, and this sheet was separate from it and not even referenced. – Michael J. Aug 14 '20 at 19:08
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    I suggest editing your answer so that the correct part comes first, or perhaps adding a headline summarizing your complete assessment. You don't want someone to read the first few paragraphs and then stop, coming away with what you describe as an "incomplete and misleading" interpretation. Just because you wrote it first doesn't mean it has to be first on the page. – amalloy Aug 16 '20 at 18:37
  • @amalloy Thanks for that very helpful advice. You are absolutely right. I hope my edits fixed the problem. FWIW, it's a little tricky b/c I don't want to just copy Ryan's answer, which I think should be accepted as the answer (as I say in the comments above). – Just a guy Aug 16 '20 at 21:59

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