Can my employer withhold my wages?

Situations in which an employer wants to withhold wages from your paycheck can occur for many reasons. Perhaps you have left the job, and the employer says it must deduct certain costs from your last paycheck. Or maybe your employer has a policy to withhold money from your pay if your cash drawer is short.

Regardless of the situation, you may wonder if your employer’s actions are legal. Arizona law states there are only a few exceptions to the rule that an employer cannot withhold pay from an employee.

Other law

One exception to the rule is if there is another law, either state or federal, that allows withholding. For example, your employer always has the right to withhold taxes because it is a federal law requiring them to do so.


For most situations, your employer must have permission from you in writing to hold back any money from your paycheck. This includes situations where you agree to have your pay docked for shortages from the cash you collect or for replacement on employer property you may damage. If you do not provide your written consent, then it is illegal for the employer to withhold money for payback.


Employers do have the right to correct errors. If you received an overpayment, then the employer can deduct the amount of overpayment from your next paycheck. However, it should happen as soon as they discover the error to avoid an improper deduction claim. Trying to reduce your paycheck for errors that happened years ago probably will not be legal.

Anytime your employer takes money from your check, there must be a legal reason for it. You have the right to question any deductions.