My mother recently was scammed at work. She is an assistant manager at her work and was scammed into giving $300 away. The scammer was impersonating her boss and had all the names and sounded legit.

Her company is now making her pay that $300 out of her check, even though there was no training on what to look for and no procedure in place to ensure this wouldn’t happen.

So is this legal for them to do to her?

  • 12
    "Is there anything that can be done?": yes, ask a lawyer/union first.
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 7, 2023 at 3:05
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    Confused on why you ask "is this legal", but don't provide even a hint about what location your mother works. Jan 7, 2023 at 3:45
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    This is a question that you need to ask an attorney, not the internet.
    – joeqwerty
    Jan 7, 2023 at 4:45
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    This is wage theft. Your mother needs to contact the Labor Department in her State and file a complaint of wage theft. She may be able to delay filing a complaint. In the meantime, she needs to accumulate evidence (preferably written evidence) of what happened. Also, she shouldn't threaten to go to the Labor Department, she should just do it. Filing a complaint protects her from retaliation, but threatening to do so won't protect her if they let her go before she files. In any case, you need to ask this question on the workplace or on the law stack exchange and specify which state you're in. Jan 7, 2023 at 5:31
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    The employer has no right whatsoever not to pay her wages. The employer can go to court and sue her for damages and see where he gets with that.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 7, 2023 at 14:56

3 Answers 3


Her company is now making her pay that $300 out of her check

So is this legal for them to do to her?

Employers are not allowed to withhold wages as punishment.

But in some states an employer can withhold wages due to losses attributable to the employee, as long as the resulting pay does not fall below the minimum wage.

She should contact the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development for help.

  • 1
    This. Details depend on the state - for example, in California, deductions for losses are only allowed if the employee was dishonest or grossly negligent.
    – sleske
    Feb 1, 2023 at 8:49
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    In other places, reducing the wages is never allowed. The employer is free to sue the employee for any damages, but they cannot just take the money they think they are owed.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 1, 2023 at 12:54

Alaska is an At-Will state. That means the person can be fired for any or no reason at all, as long as the reason is not protected by law.

None of the protections listed were applicable to the victim of a crime that caused the company damages. Incurring damages through the actions of an employee, like mishandling a machine, crashing a company car or losing company property seems to be a valid reason to fire the employee.

So whether it is legal to keep the money from her paycheck, instead of paying them in full and demanding the money afterwards... I don't know. My best guess would be "no, not without sueing her first". But that probably isn't really the question here.

The company seems to be in their rights to fire them. Even without actual damages, "I think you are to gullible to do this job" is a reason with no protections by the law. Which is pretty much the ultimate punishment in employer/employee relationships.

Whether the person sees 300$ for continued employement as a deal worth taking, and an employer that blackmails their employees that way ("pay me or else") worth working for, is up to them.

Obviously, a specific contract could override anything above. Make sure you read the employment contract carefully if there is anything in there about such a situation or about mitigating at-will employment.

  • An afterthought... isn't taking 300$ out of her check cheaper in the end then having her pay back 300$? If they gave her the money and then made her give it back, she'd still owe taxes on the money to the government, while being paid 300$ less should be excempt, I would guess. But I'm really not into US tax law.
    – nvoigt
    Jan 7, 2023 at 9:11
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    @JoeStrazzere No, but it has everything to do with whether you have any right to not be fired for what happend. If the job had protections against being fired for what happened, the option to fight the payment would be way better. There is no point in winning the $300 argument when as a consequence you lose your job. At-Will makes that possible.
    – nvoigt
    Jan 7, 2023 at 12:36
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    There is no point having a job if the employer thinks he can just take your money. And “at will” doesn’t mean “no rules”. Firing you because you don’t agree to wage theft sounds like a dangerous strategy.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 7, 2023 at 21:27

I'm no lawyer - but I'm fairly certain in most areas that deducting anything from the employees pay without their consent is illegal.

In NZ, lawful deductions are things like PAYE (Tax), Child Support, Court ordered payments, Student loans and anything that the Employee has consented to in writing.

E.g. I want to upgrade my laptop through work, so I agree to pay the company back at $100 per pay period for X number of weeks.

Assuming you are in a Western country, there is likely similar provisions to protect the employee.

  • 1
    "So is this legal for them to do to her?": you say you're not a lawyer, it's NZ vs USA and you don't answer the question, sorry, these are thoughts or unrelated facts, and sound like a comment. It's like saying: I'm pretty sure they can't make you work 25 hours a day in Thailand, it's no more than 10 in Belgium, and if they do, they pay overtime.
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 7, 2023 at 6:29
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    Let me rephrase - most countries in the Anglosphere (UK, NZ, Aus, CAN, US etc.) have a number of common aspects of law - mostly because they all derive their law from English Common Law. The US is a little tricky because of State's law - but I'm pretty sure that this is also considered Wage Theft - In fact - I looked at NZ, Aus, UK and the US - for their specifics (US here: dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/16-flsa-wage-deductions) - all of them use the same example of an employee deducting a short cash register from a pay cheque as something illegal - as I said, same provisions Jan 7, 2023 at 6:45
  • So, based on your comment, what is your answer to BWallace? Is it legal? What has to be done and why? Can you clarify this in your post?
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 7, 2023 at 6:50
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    @OldPadawan The answer says it's likely illegal. The next steps are heavily dependant on exact jurisdiction. Jan 7, 2023 at 7:11
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    @OldPadawan, I'm not a lawyer either. Also, I can't be sure about Alaska, but in California, which is also an "at will" state, it can be considered retaliation to fire someone who has filed a wage theft claim against you. Also, an employee has two years to file such a claim. In other words, it may be in the employee's best interest to look for a job elsewhere, and only file a wage theft claim after they've left their current employer. Of course, the mother needs to contact the Labor Department in her state, to see if one of those options are viable. For all I know, this may not work. Jan 7, 2023 at 12:31

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