Q. A departing employee has failed to return certain company equipment. Can we deduct the value of this equipment from her final expense reimbursement check? — Margaret, Arizona
A. An employer can deduct the cost of unreturned company property fromif it has the employee’s prior written authorization. Getting authorization is a good practice whenever you plan to keep money from someone you otherwise expect to pay, whether characterized as wages or expense reimbursements.
With luck, you have obtained her consent to withhold from expenses the value of any unreturned property. If you don’t have a written agreement, check with a local attorney to determine whether you have a reasonable basis to withhold the expense reimbursement in settlement of the debt. If the value of the property exceeds the value of the expense reimbursement, you may be better served by pursuing the return of the property or its value separately.