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Employment Law/Lowering pay and mistreatment


My brother works for a car dealership......can they lower his base pay and no one else's?  They said he must purchase a cellphone dedicated to the dealership or they would take 100.00.....everyday is a new reason to take money.   If a customer doesn't give a deposit.....they will take his money.......if a customer doesn't return, they take his this legal?

Are they allowed to listen in on transactions with customers.

Linda Cerino

Linda:  Much of what you relate here appears to be in violation of New Jersey law (assuming your brother works in NJ, since your post shows NJ as your location).  Here is a link to the section of the New Jersey labor statutes relating to deductions from wages:

I hope this link works.  If not, do a search for "New Jersey Statutes 34:11-4.4"

You will see there that the state places a number of conditions on withholding of wages from employees in New Jersey, by listing those items for which payroll deductions are permissible.  I note that the cost of tools or equipment necessary to do the job (such as, in this case, a cell phone) is NOT on the permitted list, nor is there any provision for deducting money because a customer doesn't give a deposit or doesn't return after an initial visit.  Even the permitted deductions cannot be made unless the employee has previously authorized it in writing, either directly or through a collective bargaining representative (that is, a union.)

As for his base pay, while there is no outright prohibition against an employer lowering the pay of an employee, an employer must give an employee advance notice of a reduction in his or her wage rate. The reduction cannot be made retroactively for any time worked. Also, the reduction cannot bring the rate of pay below minimum wage.

You mentioned that the dealership reduced your brother's base pay but not that of his fellow workers.  Unfortunately, that also is lawful unless by doing so the employer has violated an employment contract, and/or discriminated against your brother on the basis of any of the characteristics covered by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.  There is an informative chart on this web page, maintained by the Office of the Attorney General:

You can also find a great deal of additional information about the lawful handling of employee wages and work hours in New Jersey at this page, on the website of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

In light of all this, it appears your brother may have good reason to pursue a wage claim against his employer with the state.  (There are links on the DOL&WD site for filing such claims, along with other information claimants usually want to know.)  In addition, I would suggest that if possible, your brother consult with an experienced local attorney who specializes in employment law, especially wage claims, before he files his claim.  The attorney can answer his questions and assist with managing the claim and communicating with the employer or the employer's counsel, and will be well worth any expense involved.  If you don't know an attorney in this field, you can run an Internet search on the name of the city or county where your brother works and the words "bar association attorney referral."  Virtually all bar associations have this service, which matches people up with attorneys who specialize in the areas where people have issues.

I hope you find this helpful.

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Frank C. Magill


I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.


30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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