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Company X is a small ~50 employee money service business in the United States. Each employee is made to sign paperwork that says in the event an employee loses money in excess of $x.xx they're responsible for payment of the lost cash value as long as the error resulting in lost was made on their shift. If more than one employee working from the same cash in that shift results in loss and no one can determine whose at fault, we're made to come to some agreement to split the cost. This is the entire body of the agreement.

So some two weeks ago, it was found that some dollar amount was missing from any number of errors. This cash is counted at least once per week to maintain accuracy. At least 4-6 individuals regularly work with this cash. This week, those involved were informed that the fairest way to handle the situation is to split the loss evenly among all involved and pay it back, since they obviously were unable to pinpoint who did it or when.

Being said: is it right to want to refuse to make any restitution payment on money lost given the following? I'm not involved but I will refer to the individual in question as myself:

  1. I do not show on any reports handling the lost money;
  2. There's no actual evidence of wrongdoing on my behalf otherwise;
  3. My job is in handling compliance, but I am required to handle this money from time to time;
  4. The management is basically saying because we can't implicate anyone specific, we'll simply punish everyone; and
  5. This cash falls under the direct responsibility of someone other than me, and this person authorizes others to help out in handling the cash.

My question is, Am I right in refusing to want to pay this restitution money? And if they're adamant on their position, what are my options, does anyone recommend resigning? Cash lost is less than $500 USD, but this is on principle.

EDIT: This is pretty recent so we haven't gone into a meeting w/ management to discuss the matter in earnest, but I do want to have an idea of what sort of mindset I should be entering on i.e. i'm not just being overly difficult in my conviction and there's a tangible argument to the contrary.

closed as off-topic by Jim G., The Wandering Dev Manager, Wesley Long, Myles, gnat Oct 7 '15 at 18:24

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  • 2
    Welcome to Workplace.SE. You might get better answers if you can provide a little more context. Is the paperwork you signed a contract, or some kind of agreement? Do the laws in your locale permit such personal liability? Where are you located? This is looking more like a legal question, which will probably be put on hold or closed as off-topic for this forum. – Kent A. Oct 7 '15 at 3:16
  • It's a paper agreement that we sign yes, i understand it's something they may attempt to hold us on, but i mentioned it because we've been going on two weeks with no word of repercussion and so i think it's negligible to consider it. – CKM Oct 7 '15 at 3:17
  • Essentially for some people, accusation of losing money is pretty much baseless. So, to avoid burdening one person - the person in charge of the cash - with 100% of the blame, they're disseminating the obligation to every who could possibly be involved in the loss. While this may be "fair" in the sense one person doesn't have to foot the bill, it's not necessarily right, in my opinion, that everyone should feel consequence. – CKM Oct 7 '15 at 3:26
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    Company specific and/or legal, voting to close. – The Wandering Dev Manager Oct 7 '15 at 7:21
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    @TheWanderingDevManager I disagree. While yes, it does refer to a specific company policy, the question isn't asking what is allowed or legal. The question is that, given a disagreement with this policy/decision, what is an appropriate way to respond? – David K Oct 7 '15 at 12:06
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You need to talk to a lawyer. Pretty sure employees cannot be held responsible for loses regardless of the type (cash or product) in the United States.

And just because you signed something doesn't make it legally binding. Your employer is likely in violation of employment law.

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    That first paragraph is a rather broad claim, do you have a reference for it? I'm pretty sure that if the cash or product were your responsibility then you can be held accountable if they are lost. Wait-staff and cashiers come to mind. Also, I'm pretty sure if I lost a company issued phone, for example, I can be held accountable. In OPs case there appears to be no clear definition of responsibility, so that seems to be the real issue. – cdkMoose Oct 7 '15 at 17:07
  • @cdkMoose I agree. Not only wait staff, but also any company property is normally released to you with a "promise" that you'll repay them if it is lost, stolen, or broken. It isn't "unfair" to ask that of your employee. What is unfair is to ask employees to pay for something they have no clear control over or unclear way to hold accountability. – Dan Oct 7 '15 at 17:24
  • smallbusiness.chron.com/… answers the equipment side pretty well. The employee can refuse (at the risk of termination), but the employer cannot withhold it from pay or deduct it from the paycheck. As for cash this link is California, but probably applies in most if not all states. dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_deductions.html – Bill Leeper Oct 7 '15 at 18:58
  • @BillLeeper California has a lot of laws that differ from other states. So no, what happens in California most certainly doesn't mean it's applied elsewhere. – Dan Oct 9 '15 at 16:42
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In some (most?) states, what you describe might not be permitted by law unless they take you to court and prove you have committed a crime first. Check with your attorney, the local Attorney General, or the Department of Labor.

But if it is legal...

Am I right in refusing to want to pay this restitution money?

Since you signed the paperwork agreeing to abide by the rules as written, and this falls within those rules, it appears that you are not "right" by refusing.

And if they're adamant on their position, what are my options, does anyone recommend resigning?

If you feel that the agreement you signed is to onerous, then you should resign. If you feel that it is illegal, then you should talk with an attorney.

For me, I wouldn't have joined such a company to begin with, but resigning is not really something anyone outside your specific situation could really recommend. You need to factor in how much you need this job, if the rules will be the same in other jobs in your field, if you wish to work with a lawyer, etc, etc.

You might wish to hold off on such a decision until you have had time to talk with management and complain that you think this is unfair. While it sounds like the agreement you signed means that you really can't "refuse" you could may a plea for fairness, and thereby test how strictly this policy is enforced. That might be your best bet.

If you find that the policy is enforced strictly and that they are requiring you to pay restitution, then you can make your ultimate decision.

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I would recommend consulting a lawyer though. However, since it is <500, I'm not sure if it is worth losing your job over and it is very doubtful that a lawsuit would net you anything at all. At best, you'd spend a lot more than $500 to prove your point and in the end, you'd have no job and on top of that word might get around.

The main problem is that you all share something that you're all responsible for yet there is no way for your company to know at any single point who has access to this shared resource. This is evident by them stating that since they can't determine who is responsible, you're all responsible. With that said, I would at the very least bring up this point during your meeting. Perhaps you could work out a compromise or work out a clearer way to establish responsibility for future cases such as keeping a log book of how much money is in the box once it changes from person to person.

Next up is if you want to determine if you want to pay it or not. I would simply refuse on grounds mentioned above however that is entirely up to you.

It's not uncommon in restaurant industries for waiters to be responsible for the table they wait on. If the customers walked out, most of the time that balance comes out of the waiter's pay unless there are other circumstances involved. Even in this case, you'd at least feel responsible since it is clearly established who has responsibility.

  • Wow, just wow. It's "small change" but what would stop the company (manager, etc) from removing 1000 each week? The employees have to make good. – CGCampbell Oct 7 '15 at 14:59
  • @CGCampbell It isn't 1000 dollars a week. We're not talking about hypothetical situation but a real one where they want the OP to split the cost of a item that doesn't have clear line of accountability. That is the issue here but since the amount is so small, it isn't worth it to go to court with. Being held responsible for something you're in charge of is perfectly fine to do but the problem with OP's case is that there is no clear accountability with the cash box. – Dan Oct 7 '15 at 17:21

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