Is an employer allowed to confiscate property?

At my workplace cellphones have been permitted, although we are forbidden from using them during the shift. Today we were told that someone had been seen using a phone and so they would no longer be allowed. Unfortunate but fair enough. However, the manager then pulled out a box and demanded that we all place our cellphones inside, people argued with him for a few minutes, citing the cost of the devices before we relented. A few hours later he changed his mind and returned the phones. So my question is does a manager have the right to confiscate property without a prior policy in place? Is this something I would have cause to complain to HR about?

Asked on March 5, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon


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

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unless this action violated the terms of an employment contract or union agreement it was legal. The fact is that most employment is "at will" which means that a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). Bottom line, you have no claim here.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.