By Jason Edwards

Along with the tough hours, low pay, and difficult customers, servers in Halifax now have to worry about patrons checking out without paying their tabs.  A slew of dine-and-dashes has recently been reported, with some servers claiming to have been stuck with the bill.

In this article, Bruce Frisko writes:

With servers such as Paquette on the hook for unpaid bills, she says will be keeping a closer eye on customers from now on.

“Here I am, 24 years old, I live on my own, trying to pay my bills too, and she hits me with that,” Paquette said.

While the details of these instances are unclear, it is important that employees and employers know how the Labour Standards Code restricts deductions from wages for losses.

The Labour Standards Code

Section 79A was added to the Labour Standards Code in 2005.  It sets out the following restrictions on employer recovery of loss via deduction from pay:

Deductions for loss

79A       (1)        An employer shall not, directly or indirectly, withhold, deduct or require payment of all or part of the employee’s wages for the purpose of paying for a loss that occurs while the employee is working unless allowed by statute, court order or written authorization.

(2)     An employee’s written authorization is not lawful if the deduction is for a loss that is the result of a customer leaving the employer’s business without paying for the purchase of goods or services unless the employer can verify that the loss is the fault of the employee.

(3)     An employee’s written authorization is not lawful if the deduction is for a loss that brings the employee’s wages below the minimum wage.


The important takeaways from the Code are:

  1. An employer cannot deduct losses from an employee’s wages unless the employee has agreed, in writing, to the type of deduction being made.
  2. Even with written authorization, an employer cannot lawfully deduct a sum of money from an employee’s wages for a customer leaving the employer’s place of business without paying, unless the loss is the employee’s fault.
  3. Even with written authorization, deductions for loss cannot bring the employee’s wages below the minimum wage. (Tips do not count toward the minimum wage.)

Whether an employer may make a deduction from a server’s wages for a dine-and-dash will depend on whether or not the Employer can show that the dash was the employee’s fault.  In a dimly-lit, busy pub this might be difficult to prove.  Servers are not security guards: they are busy serving.

It is also likely that deducting the equivalent of an entire bill for a meal and a few drinks will bring a server’s wage below the Code minimum.


For more information, see the Guide to the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code or the Labour Standards Act.