A friend of mine was fired from her job (seriously asking for a friend here 😂) and asked me about what to do with her company issued computer equipment.

The company laid her off during a merger about a year ago, and never asked for a laptop, two monitors, and a printer they had issued her to be returned.

She asked me if she could sell it. She didn’t know if there was any policy requiring her to return it, as all the documents she had from them were electronic and she no longer has access to them (totally her fault).

I said no because it’s still the property of that company, but it got me thinking that may not be the right or whole answer.

I’m in Arizona and she’s in California, so the laws are probably different for both of us.

So my question is: how long does she have to keep the equipment before she can sell or dispose of it? If she has to return it, is the company required to pay to have it shipped back to them?

Just something I was curious about.

Edit: Everything here is pretty much what I told her. She said she had tried calling the company several times and no one has returned her call. I suggested that she drop it at the local office and let them deal with it.

Thanks all!

  • 1
    Sounds like your friend should consult a lawyer to determine if any applicable laws exist.
    – Donald
    Jan 21, 2019 at 19:36
  • 3
    Fired and laid off are two very different things. Legal standpoint aside, she may want to consider the moral implications.
    – Justin R.
    Jan 21, 2019 at 19:51
  • 10
    The stuff will be completely obsolete before you would ever be able to make an "adverse possession" claim on it. Tell her to get all her personal stuff off of it, and then send a certified+return receipt letter to her last contact and the public contact of the new "merged" company asking what to do with it. Wait 6 months, then dispose of it. DO NOT try to sell it. Jan 21, 2019 at 20:32
  • 3
    Anything that has a traceable ID, like the Dell service tag number, is something that could come back and bite the ex-employee if the item is sold. All it takes is for the employer to forget to write-off the equipment or even just mistakenly consider it stolen if ever shows up in queries in the future. Some re-sellers are cautious and will make phone calls if they suspect something might have be stolen.
    – teego1967
    Jan 21, 2019 at 22:46
  • @WesleyLong, I'm writing this on a 2012 MacBook Pro, that I inherited from the company before the last when my manager was told "there are four people in your team, and you're all five leaving". They told me to keep it, so it's legally fine. And it needs to keep working for a while :-)
    – gnasher729
    Sep 12, 2021 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


I always had contracts saying that any property if the employer has to be returned. So your friend first needs to check whatever contracts she has.

During mergers it often happens that not only employees but also equipment are not required anymore, so the value of this equipment to the company could be quite low. Nobody may have kept track which employee has what company equipment at home. A company might even do this as a kind of bribe - someone with company equipment at home might think twice about saying anything bad about the company.

Selling these items is legally very dangerous. Keeping them, even using them, is much less risky- as long as you can return everything when asked to. Or she can call the company and ask them what they want. Since she isn’t an employee anymore, she needs to allow them to pick items up at a convenient time.

  • 5
    I would say, contact the company to ask what to do with equipment and allow them to pick it up when she has time.In no way she should pay for shipping herself
    – Strader
    Jan 21, 2019 at 20:27
  • In the US, the policy manual frequently takes the place of what, in other places, would apparently be in the employment contract, and it isn't available to her. Jan 22, 2019 at 16:43

Step 1: Contact the company and ask.

Step 2: Contact an employee at the company who you still have contact info for and ask them to ask on your behalf.

Step 3: (If it's not too onerous) Take the stuff to the company and drop it on the receptionist's desk and have them deal with it.

Step 4: Consult legal counsel, or post on Law SE. Most likely outcome (IANAL): You are responsible for keeping it until such time as the company requests it back, or some statutory limit on when it becomes yours forever. Until then, keep the stuff in a box and use it as a TV stand.

  • 1
    Whatever method you use get a paper trail. They may at some point ask where the equipment is. Jan 24, 2019 at 23:52

It is not her property. Just bung the kit in a box and hand it over to her former emplorer (aka the new company)

Job done

  • 6
    It might be important to get some sort of receipt from someone with the authority to accept the equipment. It would be really annoying to return it, have the equipment get lost somehow, and get dunned to return it. Jan 22, 2019 at 23:08

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