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My company, after a relatively long period of dedicated work, gave me a company laptop for use during smartworking days and at a customer's office. During a holiday trip I left the laptop in my home's cellar, since I feared burglary and couldn't think of a "safer" place. However, when I returned home I found that the cellar was flooded during the trip. I managed to salvage the laptop, but it's obviously not going to work in the next days and I fear that the damage may be permanent.

Of course I'm responsible for it and will pay its value if needed, but how should I address this issue outside the "obvious" details?

I already called and e-mailed my boss and the tech and HR department (even if it's Sunday) and apologized (probably, I was mildly shocked during the call and can't remember exactly what I said). I followed "best practice" steps to keep the damage to a minimum without infringing warranties (whatever they may be).

I work in Europe, in a small and informal software company.

Edit: I finally retrieved the usage agreement that came with the laptop, and it says that "I shall take utmost care of the instrument and avoid losing it" and that "any damage coming from improper usage will be taken from my salary". I guess that accidental damage is not covered, then. How do I know for sure, though?

Edit #2: this morning I returned the PC to the company. The customer's company will provide me with a temporary workstation for this week, while my company tries to at least salvage the hard disk. So, productivity-wise, the situation is stable at least for a little while. The tech guys were not sure if the replacement cost was to be taken from my salary or not, I didn't bring up the issue with the boss or the HR department and they didn't either, so I guess that, unless I get explicit notice via mail or paperwork, I will find out with the next paycheck.

  • If you flooded the laptop the damage is likely permanent. They can save some parts. I you can then open it up an shine a lamp on it. – paparazzo Jun 10 '18 at 16:30
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    > 'how should I address this issue outside the "obvious" details?' Is this question about replacing the laptop, the loss on work which may not be backed up, the loss of productivity during the "no laptop" period, or somerhing else? – Ben Mz Jun 10 '18 at 21:18
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    Good questions Ben. I think I'm mostly concerned about how to handle the situation at an emotional (how do I deal with the feeling of guilt) and interpersonal level (how do I handle the boss and the co-workers). Here I expect to find mostly answers about the second topic. – phagio Jun 11 '18 at 5:40
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    ""I shall take utmost care of the instrument": well you did. A flooding cellar is not something you expect. Storing the laptop in plain sight in your car is something else. This is accidental and should always be covered! – RvdK Jun 11 '18 at 6:50
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    Please let us know how this turns out – Mawg Jun 11 '18 at 6:52
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You can damage or lose your laptop even if you're treating it as your most important possession, so don't worry yourself and others too much.

Most companies at least here, in Europe, just accept it. These are costs of doing business. Even if your laptop was in the office the whole time, it could have been stolen or distroyed.

Not sure who "all relevant colleagues" were. Don't go around telling people what happened. You should only contact the person responsible for buying laptops and maintenance, unless the practice in your company is different.

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    Yeah, I forgot to specify that. I work in Europe, and the "colleagues" were the boss, the DevOps / tech department boys and the HR personnel who relate with the customers. – phagio Jun 10 '18 at 20:20
  • Sorry to hear you had bad luck. If the employer is requiring you to replace the laptop out of your own pocket, an option could be to claim on any home insurance, should you have any. Alternatively the employer probably has their own insurance. – AdzzzUK Jun 11 '18 at 8:16
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"Of course I'm responsible and will pay for the damage" - slow down. If that damage was unforeseeable, then it's not your responsibility. It's the responsibility of the company, which ought to have insurance for that kind of thing. So don't let the words "I will pay" ever pass your lips.

  • Thank you, I read your answer and double checked the usage agreement. I didn't remember the clause was specifically for improper usage. – phagio Jun 11 '18 at 5:50
  • Insurance is a slippery slope and will depend on the jurisdiction. The employer's insurance may come after phagio for damages, and phagio could then file a claim with his own homeowner's insurance. – dwizum Jun 11 '18 at 12:55
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unless your basement was prone to flooding and you knew it, this is a simple accident and not foreseeable or negligence. Simply report it, take actions to mitigate the damage(put in a bag with rice, or another desiccant) and turn it in to your department and have your support people look at it.

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Was is allowed or even desired by you employer that you take the laptop home?

Was common that the basement was flooded (e.g. every year)?

If the answers are (yes,no) then it is - IMHO - your employers responsibility to pay from the professional viewpoint (I do not talk about legal/contractual obligations here, but what I think can be expected).

If the answers are (yes,yes), then it may be up to interpretation.

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    Yes and... I guess kind-of-yes, meaning that some parts of town may get flooded if bad luck strikes. It never happened in my block during the last 4 years so I (wrongly) assumed that the building were solid enough to resist a summer storm. – phagio Jun 10 '18 at 20:18
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    If it did not happen during 4 years, then I would hardly put it under intention or being totally careless. – Sascha Jun 11 '18 at 7:18

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