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Uniforms, Broken Equipment, and Other Forms of Wage Theft for California Mechanics

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“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” Spencer Johnson

Mechanic in Uniform Holding a Wrench

You Break It You Buy It - Not Exactly

If you accidentally break something that belongs to someone else, it’s only natural to offer to replace it. But what many mechanics may not realize is that it is illegal for California employers to dock pay for broken items, and such pay docking can constitute wage theft under state law.

Not only are employers prohibited from taking money from California mechanics for broken items, there are many other protections to stop employers from unfairly taking wages away from workers. Under the state regulations for workers in the transportation industry, automotive employees cannot be forced to pay for:

  • Cash shortages. If there is a shortage in the till at the end of a shift, the shortage should be logged and investigated, but the employer cannot make any deduction from a worker’s wages or demand reimbursement from any of his employees to make up the shortage.
  • Breakage or loss of equipment. In most cases, employees cannot be docked pay for missing or broken equipment that was provided by the employer. However, an employer can collect reimbursement if he or she can show that the equipment loss or damage was directly caused by intentional recklessness, dishonesty, or negligence of the part of an employee.
  • Uniforms. If an employer requires that his or her staff wear approved uniforms, these uniforms must be provided by the employer. Any apparel or accessories that carry a distinctive design or color can be considered a uniform. Employers cannot charge for uniforms that are required in order to maintain employment. However, employers may ask for a reasonable deposit for a uniform to ensure that the uniform is returned at the end of employment. If an employee returns his uniform when he leaves his position, he should receive his deposit in his final paycheck. If the uniform is not returned, the full replacement cost may be deducted from the employee’s last paycheck. Employers cannot deduct pay for normal wear and tear on a uniform.
  • Failed reimbursement. Your employer is required to reimburse you for any out-of-pocket costs that you spend for your employer’s benefit. If you purchase specialized tools or supplies, you should submit a reimbursement form. If you drive to another town to pick up parts, your employer should reimburse you for mileage.
  • Deductions. There are strict laws to prevent employers from placing any withholdings on your paycheck. The only deductions on your check should be those required by law (such as taxes). If you are fired, you must be given your final paycheck on or before your last day of work. If you have not received your last pay on your last day, you could be owed an additional amount for each day that your employer withholds your final paycheck (up to 30 days).

What Can You Do If You Suspect Wage Theft?

California has many laws to protect workers from unscrupulous employers. You should learn as much as you can about your rights before pursuing a claim. Feel free to read through a free copy of our guide to California wage and hour laws, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.


William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
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