Deductions from your paycheck

Also in
Show Endnotes
Greater Boston Legal Services

When your employer takes money out of your pay, it is a “deduction”. Some people call it “docking” your pay. Employers must give you a pay slip every time they pay you. The pay slip must list all the deductions from your pay. Your employer is only allowed to deduct certain things.

  1. Your employer must deduct some money, like taxes, and money a court has ordered, like child support.
  2. Your employer can take some deductions that you agree to and that you want taken out, like an IRA or a health plan.
What deductions does my employer have to take out of my paycheck?

Your employer must deduct: 

  • State and federal taxes,
  • Social Security (FICA) contributions,
  • Court-ordered wage garnishments or income assignments like child support.


An employer’s failure to make deductions does not make you an independent contractor unless other requirements are met.  Learn more at Independent contractors.

What other deductions can I ask for?

Your employer can take out some deductions that you agree to and that you want taken out. Your employer must have your agreement in writing. These deductions include:

  • Credit union payments,
  • Insurance premiums,
  • Lodging and meals (there are rules around this),
  • Pension contributions,
  • Union dues or agency service fees,
  • Contributions to charities, and
  • Vacation, health, and welfare fund contributions.
What else can my employer take out of my check?

The only deductions your employer can take from your pay are deductions they must take and some deductions you have agreed to. Your employer must have your agreement in writing. Your employer cannot decide to take other deductions out of your pay for any other reason.

Sometimes employers take money out of your pay to pay themselves back for cash shortages, or property damage. But this is not legal.

Cash Shortages

If your employer believes you are the reason for a cash shortage, they must prove you committed a crime. If they want you to pay for the cash shortage, they must take you to court and prove you took the money. Your employer cannot simply pay you less.  

Property Damages

Your employer cannot  deduct from your wages the cost of any property damage you caused.

They cannot dock you for:

  • the cost of general wear and tear type damage to property,
  • damage you caused to their property, nor
  • damages you caused to someone else’s property.

If your employer feels that you damaged the property on purpose, they can take you to court, but they cannot simply decide to take the money for repairs out of your pay. 

Business Expenses

Your employer cannot dock the cost of tools, equipment, cleaning supplies, gas, insurance, or their other business expenses from your pay. All of these are “ordinary business expenses” your employer must pay. They are not allowed to make you pay for them.

What if I am late to work?

Sometimes your check may not be the full amount that you expect it to be. It is less than usual. 
If you are paid on an hourly basis, your employer only has to pay you for the hours that you work. If you work 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM or 40 hours a week, the employer must pay you for all 40 hours.

If you come into work after 9:00 AM, your employer must only pay you for the time you actually worked. So, if you come in at 10:00 and still leave at 5:00 PM, your employer only has to pay you for 7 hours that day.

What if my employer paid me too much?

Your employer may make a mistake and pay you too much. They only have to pay you for the time you worked.
If your employer thinks they overpaid you, they may not deduct the overpayment from your wages if you do not agree 

  • that you were overpaid, or 
  • by how much you were overpaid. 

If you and your employer agree that you were overpaid, including by how much, you can agree to let your employer make a deduction from a future paycheck. But, the employer must 

  • limit how much they take at one time, 
  • cannot reduce your pay below the minimum wage after the deduction, and 
  • must give you a fair and reasonable plan to repay them. 
If I borrow money from my boss, can they pay themselves back by taking it out of my paycheck?

No. If you borrow money from your boss, they have to get your written permission to take the money from your paycheck. You must agree that you owe the debt, and how much you owe. You do not have to give permission to your boss to take the money from your paycheck.

Can my employer make me pay for my uniform?

No. If your employer says you must wear a uniform, they must pay for it. 

If the uniform must be dry-cleaned or washed in some special way, your employer must repay you for the cost of cleaning it.

If you can wash the uniform with your own clothes, and it does not require any special treatment, your employer does not have to repay you for the cost of washing it.

What can I do if my employer docks my paycheck illegally?

If your employer docks your paycheck illegally, you can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General. 

If you are not sure about any policy at your work, call the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division Hotline at (617) 727-3465.

Resource Boxes
More Resources
Helpful links


Was this page helpful?