Can my former employerinsist onthe return of my laptop?

UPDATED: Mar 1, 2011

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Can my former employerinsist onthe return of my laptop?

I was let go from my job back on about 3 weeks ago. A few months before that I was given a brand new unopened laptop from them. I’ve never signed anything stating that it’s their property or anything. They did purchase them for our use, but again nothing other than a receipt states that it’s theirs. They are now asking for it back. I’ve already received my last check and vacation. They sent a box for me to send the laptop back, but it literally was unopened and was setup by me. Do they have a lawsuit? They are threatening. I will send it back if you advise to do so.

Asked on March 1, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You have to think back and review with yourself the terms under which the laptop was given.  If it was given as a bonus or prize of some sort then I would say no, you do not have to return it.  But if they bought the laptops so that you could do work for them and in furtherance of your employment and with the understanding that they would provide the equipment for you to do your job then I would say you have to send it back.  The fact that you "set it up" was nothing more than an action that was part of your employment, even if it was a little extra work.  I think that it was probably an implied understanding that they retained ownership of the laptop even if you were permitted t take it home.  Send it back.  Don't create bad blood with people you may need as references somewhere down the road on an issue that you will probably lose in court.  Good luck. 

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