Is it legal for an ex-employer to keep your work tools, etc.?

I was being trained in the flooring business, so I purchased tools and have all of the receipts. I got licensed and

insured the people who where training me. However, they decided to pick someone else to train without notice and now are refusing to allow me to get my tools and my LLC paperwork out of the work van. They are insisting on keeping my equipment and paperwork. What should I do?

Asked on June 5, 2017 under Business Law, Florida


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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Your employer has no right to keep your tools (or any other personal property) absent a written agreement/contract to the contrary. At this point, you can sue your employer in small claims court as this is your civil remedy. Additionally, you have criminal recourse in this situation as well. Your ex-employer has committed theft and accordingly you can file a complaint with the police. Based upon all of the facts of the incident, the state can then decide whether or not it will press charges.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) Contact the police: what they are doing is theft, and you can file a police report and look to press charges. They have no right to tools you paid for and bought yourself, or to any other belongings (e.g. the documentation) of yours. Taking another's property is theft.The police should help; but if they don't (and some police departments incorrectly consider this a "civil" dispute rather than criminal, even though it does meet the definition of theft), you can--
2) Sue the employer for the value of what was taken. If the value is less than or equal to the limit for small claims court, suing in small claims, as your own attorney or "pro se," is a very good option; small claims court is inexpensive, fast, and comparatively simple.

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