What are my rights if my previous employer fired me and is now withholding my passport and mail until I return the laptop that was bought with the proceeds from a loan that they made me?

They purchased the laptop for me via a loan for school. The laptop has never been used for business, It was purchased under my own personal apple id with the company card. The loan was to be paid back by deducting 1 hour of pay a day from my time card before it was applied to my paycheck and taxed. There was no official documentation of the loan and the terms of how I was to pay back the loan were changed without my consent. They also told me that if I told any one anything bad about the company they would tell the community why I was fired.

Asked on October 23, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) It doesn't matter if there was official documentation of the loan or not--if it was a loan (i.e. not a gift) and you were expected to repay it, you must repay it (oral loans, or loans without paperwork, are enforceable); if you don't (e.g., they can longer take payroll deductions to repay, since you are no longer employed there), they could sue you for the money you owe.
2) Even if you owe the employer money, they may not withhold your property (e.g. your passport) to make you pay, and you could sue them for its return; you could also try going to the police and seeing if they will help, but they often will not, when the matter is one which they consider a "civil" dispute, not a criminal case.
Before suing, bear in mind that if you do sue them, they will presumably countersue for the balance of the loan. You probably are best off trying to work something out--e.g. a payment plan to pay off the loan.
3) The reaon why you are fired is not confidential unless the company signed a confidentiality agreement. They can tell the community why you were fired if they want, and so can do this if you defame (say anything bad about) the company.

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