If I left some tools with my previous employer about a year ago is this considered “constructive abandonment”?

UPDATED: Feb 8, 2011

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If I left some tools with my previous employer about a year ago is this considered “constructive abandonment”?

About a year ago I left my tools at work with the on-site “warehouse man” in his locked storage unit. A few weeks later, I asked my former co-worker to retrieve my tools for me but he was told that they could only be released to me. Unfortunately, I had stressful and urgent family concerns arise and did not return back to work. A year later, I contacted the “warehouse man” regarding my tools but was only returned a portion of them. For the last 6 months the office manager has told me that they would look into the matter and now I’m being told that they aren’t responsible because of “constructive abandonment.” How can I get all of my tools returned?

Asked on February 8, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you probably can't get them back after so long. A business or a person is under no obligation to retain and keep safe someone else's property for an indefinite period. Certainly, for a reasonable period, such as 30 days; possibly longer, if there was a clear indication of when you'd be back (though it would also have been reasonable to have charged you a storage fee). However, a year is excessive; unless someone had committed in some fashion to keep them for that long and/or you had been paying something of value (e.g. money) for them to be stored, it is very unlikely that the previous employer would be liable or responsible for your tools.

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