Terminated worker won’t return property

The problem: A terminated employee fails to return company equipment, such as a laptop. How do you get it back? You have different options to consider, depending on your state’s laws.

1. Deduct the cost of the item from the employee’s final paycheck. Be careful here. Most states require employees to authorize such paycheck deductions in advance. You may be able to make signing such an authorization a condition of employment when the employee starts working for you. Check your state’s laws before going this route.

2. Do not pay out accrued vacation time until after the item has been returned. Again, check state law on vacation pay upon termination first.

3. Require the employee to come to the office to pick up his final paycheck, at which time he is to return the item. Note: If the employee does not show up, you can’t hold onto the check.

4. Send a letter requesting return of the item or a check for the amount of the item by a specific date. Warn that you will go to local authorities or to small claims court if necessary.

Final tip: When employees are hired or given company equipment, create a checklist to review. Have employees sign it as an acknowledgment of receiving the property and of their duty to return it upon their termination.