Austin: Employer Attempts Deducting Payments from Workers in Light of Government Stimulus Checks

By Sandra Harris

Last week, Oklahoma-based company ImageNet Consulting issued a memo to their employees based in Austin, Texas stating they would be preemptively deducting funds that had not yet been issued by the government through the CARES Act from their employees’ paychecks.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic, and Security Act (CARES Act), which was signed into law last week, is a $2.2 trillion stimulus expected to be injected into the failing US economy. Individuals making less than $75,000 might expect to receive a check for $1,200, while joint filers with incomes less than $150,000 will get $2,400. Another $500 will be issued to people for each dependent child.

A worker for ImageNet reported this to local news, but did not originally reveal the name of the company. Days later, a public relations firm reached out to the same news outlet with a statement, revealing the company as ImageNet, and that they had retracted its decision to redact their employees’ pay.

The worker said the company emailed a form titled “Employee Acknowledgement of ‘Government Assistance’ Pay Reduction” to some staffers on Wednesday last week. The agreement would put workers under a “temporary compensation reduction that is in line with the assistance that it receives from the federal government related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

By signing the agreement, ImageNet’s employees would have their paychecks between April 6 and April 20 cut by the amount of any money received under the stimulus bill. The company would also take half of the $500 stipend allotted for dependents under the bill. Mixed reports on the CARES Act state that stimulus checks will be sent out in three weeks, while others claim it could take up to 20 weeks for the checks to be distributed.

The worker source said “The company that I work for is a national company and they make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit a year and instead of making sacrifices at the higher levels, they’re passing it on down to everybody else.”

In 2019, the national median rent for a one bedroom apartment was $1,078. For two bedroom apartments, it was $1,343. These one-time payments that have yet to be released provide little to no relief, especially while employers fire or dock their employees’ pay while rent is still demanding to be paid.

While ImageNet rescinded their initial plan due to public pressure, more employers will likely use the government stimulus checks as an excuse to withhold money from their workers.  The ruling class will always and without fail find new ways to shift the burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of the poor and working people.