Employee Who Does Not Return Property

Employers are prohibited from withholding an employee's final paycheck in most states if she does not return company property at the time employment ends. This may apply to the following items:

  • Keys to the building

  • Uniforms

  • Company credit card

  • Electronic equipment

  • Locker keys

  • Tools and equipment

Find out what the laws are in your state by contacting your labor board or employment office. If an employee doesn't return a locker key, cut the lock or call a locksmith to open it and mail the contents to the employee. It is unfortunate when an employer has to rekey an entire building because a former employee does not return a key, but this has been known to happen. Company credit cards can be cancelled to prevent unauthorized charges.

Do not withhold a former employee's paycheck as punishment or an incentive to return company property. This may work against you in accordance with laws in your state about paying employees in a timely manner. There are usually specific timeframes in which separating employees must be paid.

To collect valuable property such as laptop computers, tools, and equipment, check and see if the police department is able to help you. Since the items were taken to the employee's home with permission, they may not be able to assist you. The refusal to return items may be considered a civil issue. You can also send the employee a certified letter asking her to return the items by a specific date. If she does not return the property, send a second letter by certified mail and indicate that you will have no choice but to take her to court to get the items back or be reimbursed for the value. Give her a final deadline to return the property and follow through with your promise to sue if she does not return them.

If your company has a written cash-handling policy and the employee signed a receipt of acknowledgment, you may be able to deduct any discrepancies from the employee's cash drawer from the final paycheck. Someone who works as a cashier or other position where they are given a cash drawer to balance each day should be subject to a cash-handling policy. If her drawer is short when she turns it in at the time of termination, you can act according to what the policy dictates. The policy would need to specifically state that cash shortages will be deducted from final pay in order to do this.

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