Employment Standards Rules

WAC 296-126-028  Wage deductions during on-going employment.

(1) During an on-going employment relationship, an employer may deduct any portion of an employee's wages below the state minimum wage that is in effect at the time the work is performed if the deduction is for any of the following reasons:

(a) Required by state or federal law; or

(b) For medical, surgical, or hospital care or service; or

Example: The business paid a worker's medical costs for an injury not related to the employee's job duties and deducted the amount to repay those costs to the employer.

(c) To satisfy a court order, judgment, wage attachment, trustee process, bankruptcy proceeding, or payroll deduction notice for child support payments.

(2) During an on-going employment relationship, an employer may deduct wages when the employee expressly authorizes the deduction in writing and in advance for a lawful purpose for the benefit of the employee. These deductions may reduce the employee's gross wages below the state minimum wage.

Example 1. Employee purchase of employer's goods or services: An employee works for a tire store and wants to buy tires from the store. The employee can enter into a written agreement in advance with the employer to buy the tires through a payroll deduction. However, the employer must sell the tires to the employee for the same price or less than it would sell the tires to the customer.

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Example 2. Employee loan: An employee worked for a hardware store and asked the employer for a loan. The employer loaned the employee money and charged reasonable interest. An agreement with the terms of repaying the loan and interest through payroll deductions was made in writing and in advance between the employer and employee.

Example 3. Employee benefits: Deductions have been specifically agreed upon orally or in writing in advance by the employee and employer for monthly pension, medical, dental, or other benefit plans.

Example 4. Creditor or third party: An agreement with a creditor or third party to withhold $400 from the final paycheck for an automobile loan to be paid directly to the employee's financial institution by the employer. The creditor or third party can be the employer of the employee.

(3) Neither the employer nor any person acting in the interest of the employer can derive any financial profit or benefit from any of the deductions under this regulation.

(4) For the purposes of this regulation, reasonable interest charged by the employer for a loan or credit extended to the employee is not considered to be of financial benefit to the employer. Note: Employers are advised to check with the United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division and the Internal Revenue Service regarding application of federal laws on charging interest.

(5) The employer must identify and record all wage deductions openly and clearly in employee payroll records.

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Helpful information:

The following are examples of situations when deductions are not allowed from the employee's wages during an on-going employment relationship:

Example 1. Customer's bad check or credit card: The amount of a customer's check that is returned for nonsufficient funds when an employee accepts a check in violation of established policies, or if an employee accepts a customer's bad credit card in violation of established policies.

Example 2. Shortage from cash register: The amount of a till shortage even when an employee participates in cash accounting at the beginning and end of their shift, has sole access to the cash register, and is short at the end of the shift.

Example 3. Customer walks out without paying: An unpaid bill when a customer leaves the restaurant without paying even when an employee is not watching their customers at a restaurant and ignores the fact the customers are finished dining and are ready for their check.

Example 4. Damage or loss: The cost for replacing broken glasses when the employee drops a tray of glasses when unloading the dishwasher.

[Statutory Authority: Chapters 49.12, 49.46, 49.48, 49.52 RCW, and RCW 43.22.270. 05-24-019, § 296-126-028, filed 11/29/05, effective 1/1/06.]

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