Wht are y rights to property as an ex-employee?

I have been terminated from employment for being absent as I’m on long term disability. The employer wants their property returned at once (laptop, cell phone, tools, etc.) The company also has my personal property and will not allow me access to my office to obtain it. I’m holding their property as chattel until my tools and other personal belonging are returned to or I can gain access to recover them. Is this legal for me to do?

Asked on August 15, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, one thing has nothing to do with the other. The fact is that you need to return your employer's property; you could find yourself in legal trouble if you don't. Then, if you still are not allowed to retrieve your personal possessions, you will need to sue (if the amount is small enough, in small claims court).

However, you can consult with an attorney. Possibly they can suggest to your former employer that at the time you return it's property you can retrieve your belongings. Sometimes, just having a communication directly on a lawyer's letterhead is all that is needed to get things moving in the right direction.

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