California Federal Court Finds Employers May Deduct Outstanding Credit Card Balances From an Employee's Final Pay
A federal judge in California held this week that employers may lawfully deduct amounts owed by employees on their employer-guaranteed credit cards from the employees’ final pay. In Ward v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, a group of former employees claimed that Costco’s deduction of outstanding amounts owed by these former employees on their Costco-sponsored credit cards from the employees’ final paychecks violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and California minimum wage and overtime legal requirements.
Like many employers, Costco provided a guaranteed credit card program to some employees, guaranteeing the credit card to the issuer in the event of an employee’s default. Each employee signed an authorization permitting Costco to deduct an amount equal to the employee’s credit card then-outstanding balance from the employee’s final paycheck. Each terminating employee received a final paycheck that included pay for all hours worked during the final pay period, as well as accrued vacation and sick leave pay. Costco then deducted an amount equal to the outstanding balance of the employer-sponsored credit card from the employees’ final pay.
At trial, the group of former employees argued that only gross wages for hours worked could be considered in determining whether Costco satisfied its obligation to pay minimum and overtime wages. The court rejected this argument, holding that it could also consider the pay for non-work, such as accrued vacation and sick leave pay. Using this figure, the court concluded that none of the nineteen former employees “had an amount withheld high enough to invade minimum or overtime wages.” Accordingly, the court entered judgment in favor of Costco, holding that plaintiffs failed to prove a violation of the FLSA and California wage and hour laws.
Photo credit: Matthew John Hollinshead