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    Wisconsin's Free Fill-ups Ignite Investigation

    After complaints of docked pay and firing employees, the state asks who is responsible to pay the bill for drive-offs.

    MILWAUKEE -- Repeated complaints from former gas station employees ranging from pay cuts to employment termination has pushed Wisconsin's government investigators to check out if "negligent" employees have to foot the bill for customers looking for free gas.

    Under current law, employers can deduct losses from employees' wages only when the employee has consented in writing, or if the employer and the employee's designated representative agree that the loss is due to the employee's negligence, carelessness or willful intentional conduct.

    Rachel Breit, a former gas station employee in the state, plans to file a claim against her former employer, Lakeshore Mobil owner Heino Omdahl. Breit states that her last paycheck was docked due to a drive off, costing her $58.40. Later, Breit's employer asked her to sign a form authorizing her to cover any drive-off expenses. When she declined, Breit lost her job.

    "I had to decide then if I was going to let this keep happening or not, and I handed them my key and he told me I was fired," Breit told WISN 12.

    Breit is not the only one to see a lower paycheck due to drive-offs. Her three roommates -- all co-workers -- also reported docked pay due to drive-offs. When they also refused to sign an authorization form, they lost their jobs as well.

    Breit told WISN 12 that at her current pay rate, she couldn't afford it.

    "It's an incentive to do your job. That's all. Cause it got really sloppy," Heino Omdahl, owner of Lakeshore Mobil, told WISN 12. When employees are paid to watch the pumps, and it wasn't being done, they started docking their pay, the owners said.

    "I guess what it comes down to is people were not taking responsibility, and we're just trying to limit the losses these days," Omdahl told WISN 12.

    But watching pumps and taking down license plates are difficult "if we have a line of customers, and we're multi-tasking, answering the phone and printing off lottery," Breit said.

    The former employees intend to file a claim with the state, which plans to investigate both sides of the issue. If the station cannot prove that the employees were negligent, Breit and others will be entitled to double what was withheld.

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