I was recently fired from my employer but they will not let me get my tools?

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I was recently fired from my employer but they will not let me get my tools?

I was fired via text message. It read, “We are going to have to let u go, effective immediately. We cannot afford to continue to pay you, we just can’t get out of the hole that were in.”. It was an automotive repair shop. I own my own tools and toolbox, roughly about $30,000 in tools. I had borrowed $1000 from the business and still owed it when I was fired 5 days ago. The business will not allow me to get my tools and without them I can’t work. They have never paid me overtime even though I worked 50 hours a week over the 2 years that I was there; I was paid by the hour. They’ve never taken enough taxes out of my checks. I always had to pay when I filed. What I need to know is if this is legal and what I can do?

Asked on October 25, 2013 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

1) Unless you had an employment contract, you could be fired at will.

2) They may NOT keep your tools, even if you did owe them money. While they do not have to let you on their property to retrieve the tools if they don't want to, they'd have to send the tools to you. If they do not, you may sue them for the value of the tools. (Note: they could sue you for the amount of the unpaid loan, if the money was due and you failed to pay it.)

3) If you were an hourly employee, they had to pay you overtime; you can sue them for the overtime you should have received.

4) They should have withheld taxes for you, and to the extent their failure to do so cost you any money--including depriving you of social security credits, eligibility for unemployment, etc.--you could sue them for that, too.

From what you write, it would be worthwhile to consult with an attorney about a lawsuit. Good luck.


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