I have a friend in Arizona whose employer refuses to give pay under certain conditions.

It is a live-in place, where she and other people are working for the summer. There is a contract to stay for the duration of the summer. $4 per day is withheld by the employer from the paycheck which will be paid at the end of the contract if the employee has stayed for the entire contract duration. This isn't what struck me as illegal, though.

There are dorm checks, and if anyone in the group does not pass this dorm check, the whole group of employees does not receive their pay. Apparently the missed check is paid the following pay period if the dorms are brought to the standard.

What laws, if any, are violated by the employer here? Is reporting to a government agency a reasonable action? I believe the Department of Labor regulates this sort of thing.

What advice can I give my friend?

  • 7
    Certainly sounds illegal. The Department of Labor should be able to tell you if they're breaking the law. Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 5:47
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    Who owns the dorms, and is rent payed by the employee? It's not just the work salary thing that comes into play here. ... In any case, iI'd consider leaving this kindergarten at least. This is not a mom that doesn't give desserts if the room is not tidy - this is money that some employees actually need to not starve etc. . Withholding salaries actually can lead to dead people, this already happened. (And even if it's not that serious, being hungry and cold despite working fulltime is not fun).
    – deviantfan
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 5:47
  • The company owns the dorms. A room and meals are part of the payment, I believe.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 5:56
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    What do you mean by "dorm checks"? Is that "dorm" as in "dormitory"? And what is checked? Cleanliness? Being present? Vandalism? Please edit to clarify.
    – sleske
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 8:13
  • Yes, as in dormitory. As in a room with multiple people who sleep there. Cleanliness is what their checking.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 11:26

2 Answers 2


It’s illegal. If you worked, they have to give you your pay for the time worked. If they think that for whatever reason they should have paid less, they need to pay you first, and then can take you to court. With what your post says, any judge would kick them as far as he can.

And that’s why the law is that way: So that scammers can’t rip you off. Including by making you sign contracts that allow them to break the law.

  • I'm not a lawyer, but if the friend signed a contract agreeing to the terms, then I don't see how a judge would disagree. Of course, there are limitations to enforcability of a contract, but regardless if he agreed to the terms prior to arriving there, then it's going to be much harder for anyone to be on his side.
    – Dan
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 14:20
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    @Dan Most laws cannot be changed by two private parties even if they agree.
    – deviantfan
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 14:32
  • Do you have examples of that? Where two parties agreed to how they are paid and condition of payment, and the court found that it was illegal even when they did not met the condition of payment?
    – Dan
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 14:46
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    @Dan in general a contract that violates the law or public policy is not enforceable. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act says that employees have to be paid at least the Federal minimum wage. They can dock wages for property damage, but failing to meet a standard of cleanliness in the employees quarters sounds iffy. Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 17:22
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    @Dan its a well known legal concept in common (and other ) law systems any illegal or prohibited terms are null and void automatically. Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 19:18

You're friend needs to gather any documentation regarding payment policies and employment contracts she has and talk to a lawyer ASAP. What the employer is doing is highly unethical and probably illegal (but they may have found some weird loop holes). A good employment lawyer will ensure your friend, and the other employees, get the money they're owed. Then I would personally run as far away from that company as fast as I could.

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