If you allow a customer to pay with a credit card your employer doesn’t accept, you can’t be stuck with the bill if it puts you below minimum wage. But since many merchants can’t afford even small losses today, you must pay attention to the cards you swipe.
Dear Your Business Credit,
My employer doesn’t accept the Discover credit card, but our computers still allow us to process payment. However, our employers make us pay the bill if we accidentally swipe a Discover. Is this legal? –Confused
It depends, to some extent, on what you earn. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employer may not make deductions from an employee’s wages for items that are for the “benefit or convenience of the employer” if they “would reduce the employee’s earnings below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation.”
So what items are we talking about? Some examples cited in the law include tools used in the employee’s work, damages to the employer’s property by the employee or other individuals, financial losses due to clients or customers not paying bills and theft of the employer’s property by the employee or other individuals.
I am not an attorney and can’t give legal advice. However, for many cashiers, this part of the law would seem to prevent the employer from passing along costs like the ones you describe, unless the costs were exceedingly small, like a few dollars.
Passing along larger costs would likely put the employer at risk of paying the employee less than the minimum wage.
Merchants must train employees on accepting cards
What if the employer can’t afford to absorb a charge on a card that should not have been swiped in the first place?
The law applies even if an employer would suffer an economic loss by not passing along these costs. And employers are not allowed to circumvent the law by having an employer reimburse them in cash, rather than a payroll deduction.
It’s incumbent on the employer to train employees properly, so that they don’t swipe cards the merchant doesn’t accept.
If you have questions about the specifics of your situation, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division runs a hotline you can call at 1-866-4USWage (487-9243).
There are also laws in individual states that govern situation like this, so I encourage you to check your state labor department’s website to see if there are additional rules that apply, as well.
See related: I suspect return fraud from one of my employees. What should I do?
Pay attention to what cards you swipe
That said, given that your employer is concerned about certain cards being improperly accepted, I’d encourage you to pay very close attention to which credit cards you are swiping. Many merchants are hanging on for dear life during COVID-19 and can’t sustain even the smallest losses right now.
Post a reminder near the point of sale terminal if you’re likely to forget and accidentally swipe a card you’re not supposed to accept. Remind your colleagues. And make sure there are signs that clearly state which cards you do accept, so consumers reach for other cards.
If someone accidentally swipes a card the merchant does not accept and you have the customer’s name and contact information available, it would be worthwhile to call them to see if they will provide you with another card number to run through the point of sale system.
Sometimes, all it takes is a few minutes to rectify a situation like this.