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My company’s HR ghosted me after giving birth. I had to announce the birth of my baby and sent them some paperwork and they never replied or congratulated me. Before that, while on sick leave due to a high risk pregnancy, they locked me out of my work email and “forgot” to pay me for a month. I had to chase them. They finally paid me but the CEO told me I was supposed to continue working during my medical leave.

Now that I’m on maternity leave, the HR manager invited me for a meeting where he informed me I was fired since the only option for me to continue working for them would be to move to another continent. Bear in mind, we all work remotely.

Now, here’s the situation. I know what they’re doing is illegal but after firing me, they immediately started contacting me by email and WhatsApp, trying to get me to return my office equipment at my own expense. I don’t remember signing anything saying it’s my responsibility for things to be returned. They locked me out of the work email so I can’t really confirm if I ever signed anything. They’ve now hired a lawyer to get me to return stuff. They’re accusing me of corporate theft. I will return everything but I need them to pay me what they’re due and also give me some paperwork so I can send it to social security. Am I being stubborn and should I just return the computer? I’m not returning it swiftly as I know they’ll immediately ghost both me and the lawyer I hired once I return things. The CEO has moved to South America and thinks he’s untouchable. Should I return the computer and have peace of mind?

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    You've already hired a lawyer. Talk to them, not randoms on the Internet. Dec 16, 2021 at 6:32
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    Can you please clarify what outcome you are looking for. You said they paid you, but you need them to pay you what you are due. What are you due? Dec 16, 2021 at 6:48
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    You need to get a lawyer. If your office had something like a union representative, I would suggest that first, but no company behaving this way has a union representative or workers council. So there is nothing we can do for you here. You need a lawyer. Or comply with their demands. That is an economic calculation we cannot make for you, since we don't know what lawyers or oversea deliveries or your personal pride costs or is worth to you.
    – nvoigt
    Dec 16, 2021 at 8:18
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    "They locked me out of the work email so I can’t really confirm if I ever signed anything." Do not tie your recordkeeping to a mailbox that the other party has control over. You're literally giving them the key to your evidence locker. Always keep a private copy of everything you might one day need when conflicts occur.
    – Flater
    Dec 16, 2021 at 9:01
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    Send back the equipment back as soon as you can. Don't use it as leverage. Just email them from your personal email and ask them for a FedEx account/UPS account/DHL account you can use to return the equipment. Ask them if they want expedited delivery, which will probably cost extra. Ask them how much insurance you should include for the delivery. And ask them about custom and duties you should prepay with their account if any. If they respond that they're not willing to pay for the shipping, respond that you can not ship it back to them and that you will be charging them for ongoing storage. Dec 16, 2021 at 10:16

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For the legal side, you need to get a lawyer. You canot go unarmed into a gunfight. They already have a lawyer.

I will assume some things here: the equipment is indeed their equipment. There is no doubt, they sent it to you in the first place. And it is a laptop or computer or other technical devices, not just a bunch of pencils and a notebook.

That said, you have to find out, if hiring a lawyer is worth it. What are the shipping costs? If the shipping costs are 100$ and a lawyer costs 200$ an hour just for a first consultation, maybe the better way is to give in and pay it and be done with it. Legal battles can be long and if you pay 1000$ to win and not have to pay 100$ shipping fees, that is a phyrric victory.

So far I would (actually did) vote to close your question, because you need a real life actual law professional with a letterhead in communication and a law degree in your country or theirs. However, I would like to offer one last chance to get out of it, because it occurred to me just when I went to grab a coffee after voting to close:

Assuming their equipment to be returned is indeed a computer or part that uses a lithium-ion battery, go to the post office and read the customs guidelines for your country. In my country, private persons cannot ship lithium ion bateries overseas. They cannot. It's not allowed. Customs/Security won't let you. They would flat out reject the package. The only way as a private person to ship a lithiom ion battery is to prove that it is company equipment (for example showing the delivery documents) and then have a company ordered courier service pick it up from you. In other words, where I live, due to customs and safety concerns, you, the employee cannot, I repeat cannot ship this equipment. The company has to pay someone to pick it up.

This is not just paperwork, I actually tried 3 years ago to sent a computer from Europe back to the US and I had the package returned, even when the post office lady was fine with it and it was clearly labelled containing lithium ion batteries, it came back as customs/safety inspections wouldn't allow it on board a plane. Not from a private person.

So... check if that applies in your country (I would assume it's some global safety standard for cargo aircraft, we don't make up our own local rules what we put into other countries transport planes I hope). If it does, write them a neutral letter saying you will give them their equipment when they sent a courier, but they need to pay the pickup service, because it just won't work any other way legally.


Otherwise, the smart choice is still to get a lawyer. This is a fringe edge case. It might not apply to you, your country or the equipment in question.

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    You're going to need a lawyer anyway to deal with the illegal firing. Getting advice about the equipment is a very small additional cost. Dec 16, 2021 at 15:43
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    The reason is they have to fly the package. Lithium is banned from shipping via flight. In the USA, ground shipping is fine to ship batteries but you can't ship it overnight, for example, as it will go on an airplane. Most likely the battery is safe but since it has a potential of being unstable if hit or dropped, it's better they just didn't include it at all.
    – Dan
    Dec 16, 2021 at 20:57

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