Can you refuse to return a company van until paid?

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Can you refuse to return a company van until paid?

My husband works at will as a painter. He’s and his co-workers are owed 2 weeks pay as of today.

Would it be a criminal offense if he held the van as collateral?

Asked on June 30, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Kentucky

Answers:

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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No your husband cannot keep his employer's van. This is ture even though he is owed money, he cannot take this property as collateral for payment of his wages. If you do not return it, he can file a criminal complaint for theft or "conversion" (this is when a person lawfully obtains possession of another's property but then converts it for their own use without the owner's concent). What he needs to do in order to receive all compensation owed him is to sue his employer in small claims court and/or file a complaint with the state's department of labor.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it would be a criminal offense: theft. And being vehicular theft, it would be a felony (more than a year in jail.) You are not allowed to simply take another's property if they owe you money, or "hold it hostage" until you are paid. You can only hold property as collateral if there was a security agreement allowing you to hold it collateral--not otherwise.
The proper, legal way for your husband and co-workers to be paid is to sue the employer for the money.


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