Friday Feb 03, 2023

Dear Littler: Our Wandering Workers Have Wandered Off With Our Equipment – Employment and HR – United States – Mondaq News Alerts

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Dear Littler: We are a multi-state
employer that allowed a large percentage of our employees to work
remotely during the pandemic. To help facilitate the transition to
home offices, we provided our remote workers with office equipment,
cell phones, laptops, monitors-you name it. Some of these employees
have now returned to the workplace as their primary office but have
yet to return these items. We have the same problem with those who
have quit. Can we deduct the cost of unreturned property from their
paychecks?

-No Good Deed in Decatur

Dear Decatur,

We hear your frustration and you are certainly not alone.
Employers had to adapt to a changing work environment in a short
period of time and invested significant sums in the process. Trying
to recoup that investment can be challenging as workers wandered to
different cities, states, and even countries from their
employer’s physical location. Employees may be enjoying having
a full home office for the time they spend working at home or
performing personal projects. Ex-employees might be reluctant to
return company property out of spite, particularly if they left on
bad terms. Or they just might not have gotten around to it, or not
realized the items were not theirs to keep. While withholding a
final paycheck or deducting the amount from a current
employee’s pay might be tempting, there are significant
restrictions on this approach depending on the jurisdiction. But
that does not mean there is nothing you can do. First, we will
explain why deductions might be problematic for you, then we will
address steps you can take to get your equipment back.

Deducting from Paychecks

Many states have laws in place that govern how, when, and how
much an employer can deduct from an employee’s paycheck. In
most instances, simply deducting the entire value of the unreturned
property from the employee’s paycheck, or withholding the
paycheck entirely, is unlawful. In some states such as Indiana, for
example, deductions for unreturned company property are not
included within the express list of permitted purposes for payroll
deductions. In other states, including Arizona and Illinois,
employers may deduct the amount of the unreturned property only
pursuant to a written agreement between the employer and employee.
In your question you do not indicate whether you received a deposit
upon issuance of the equipment, but some states, including Alaska
and Delaware, allow employers to require a reasonable deposit as
security for the return of equipment. That said, in many instances,
such a deposit cannot be deducted from employee wages unless the
employee provides written consent to do so. Lastly, if you are
moving forward with making a deduction from a current
employee’s paycheck, ensure the employee’s post-deduction
pay is above the applicable minimum wage.

Deducting from Final Paycheck

Whether you can deduct these amounts from an employee’s
final paycheck is also highly regulated by state law.
Several states have laws stipulating how an employer must
distribute the employee’s final paycheck. For example, in your
home state of Illinois, an employer cannot withhold any part of an
employee’s final pay while awaiting return of employer property
unless the employee freely gives express written consent when the
deduction is made. A handful of states do allow employers to offset
the value of unreturned property from an employee’s final
paycheck, but outline specific steps an employer must take to
recoup the amount of any unreturned property after the employees
separate from employment. In Colorado, for example, an employer has
ten calendar days after employment …….

Source: https://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/employee-rights-labour-relations/1163062/dear-littler-our-wandering-workers-have-wandered-off-with-our-equipment

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