A job can end when an employee quits, or when an employee is fired or laid off. Anytime a job ends, employees should return all company property.
Companies can be protective of their property, which can include supplies, inventory, computer devices, documents or digital information.
There can be severe consequences to keeping company property. For example, a company can sue former employees who take company property. In some cases, the police can bring charges against an employee for theft of company property.
When dealing with company property at the end of employment, employees should follow the law and company policies. Below are some suggestions for the cautious return of company property.
Company Property Don’ts
Unless you have express written permission from your employer:
- Don’t take hard copies of any company documents.
- Don’t take copies of any work that you did for the company.
- Don’t take any company materials, product or supplies.
- Don’t take client lists.
- Don’t take any precedents that you created.
- Don’t email any company documents to your personal email address. Companies can track emails an employee sends from a work computer or phone. Using computer experts, companies may be able to track emails sent through gmail/hotmail.
- Don’t delete information from company computers. Companies can track deletions and can usually retrieve deleted documents using computer experts.
Company Property Do’s
- Do check if the company has any written policy on property return. If so, follow the policy.
- Do search your house and car. Collect all company property, and return it to the company.
- Do search through your phone, home computer, and laptop for company files. Return any company files using a usb drive.
- Do ask your company if you want a copy of your work product to show potential new employers. Only take work product if you have company permission.
- Do take copies of personal information like family photos from your work computer. If you want the originals deleted, talk to your boss or IT department first.
- Do ask the company first before taking any company materials, product or supplies.
Emotions can run high when you’ve been fired, and it can be tempting to want to reach out and take work product and tools that you are most familiar with. Unfortunately an employee owns very little of their work product, and the penalties for making the assumption that an item or data is theirs can be very steep. When leaving a workplace for any reason, the best approach is to stay out of trouble and leave it all behind.
If you have questions or concerns about returning company property, contact the writer, Jonas McKay, or any of the HHBG Lawyers at 604.696.0556 to schedule an appointment.