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I recently gave notice that I was quitting my job and my boss told me not to return to work. I left all of my hardware on my desk. The next day my boss texts me and says "X is missing." I know for a fact that I was not given this item, but my boss insists one was checked out to me.

My boss has now informed me that my final paycheck will be withheld until I return the item, but I don't actually have the item to return. I have made this fact clear to my boss but she does not seem to care: she will not pay me until she gets back this item I supposedly have. I don't have an employee contract and have never signed a legal document, let alone one regarding anything to do with hardware and hardware returns.

What is my next course of action?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., jcmeloni, Michael Grubey, Simon O'Doherty, gnat Apr 30 '14 at 21:06

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking legal advice are off-topic as they require answers by legal professionals. See: What is asking for legal advice?" – Jim G., jcmeloni, Michael Grubey, Simon O'Doherty, gnat
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This question may be closed because you're asking a legal question (although not all of your questions are legal questions). Some related reading material: money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2012/10/29/… and askamanager.org/2010/08/… – thursdaysgeek Apr 29 '14 at 22:59
  • Ugh, how annoying. We can't answer the "can she?" questions, but your final question (what is your next course of action) is a good question for this site. I'm going to edit accordingly to fend off close votes. (She said you have this "checked out"; could you edit the question to describe how check-outs are tracked? How does she "know" you have this, officially speaking?) – Monica Cellio Apr 30 '14 at 3:51
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    Check your options with the Labor Department of your state. Your check is legally due you for work you already performed, as stated in your timesheet. Your boss's claim that the item was checked out to you is so much hogwash if she can't produce a document with your signature. with said document stating that the item was checked out to you. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 30 '14 at 3:57
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Do not communicate, in any fashion (phone, text, email, in person... NONE) any further with your ex-boss. All communication regarding this matter should be directed to your former company's HR and Legal departments. Let them do the legwork about the checked-out item. If what you say is true, your boss won't be able to generate any proof regarding the item, and "magically" Legal will make sure you get your paycheck promptly to dissuade you from taking further legal action against the company.

Sidenote: you probably want to inquire (to Legal or HR only!) about your official status -- were you officially terminated (because the boss told you not to return), or are you classified as a resignation, or "job eliminated"? This may affect things like whether you are entitled to accrued vacation pay, 2 weeks notice, continuing health benefits, unemployment eligibility, etc.

  • In some states, such as Alabama, whether you've been fired or not doesn't have any bearing on employment benefits. In Alabama, somebody can legally fire you without cause, so they just look directly at whose fault it was, whether you quit, got laid off, or got fired. – Panzercrisis May 1 '14 at 16:58
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What is my next course of action?

  1. Check your local employment laws/meet with a local employment lawyer. Some of what your boss is doing may be illegal, and you should make sure you know your rights/entitlements. For instance:

    • Since you gave proper notice and your boss decided to request that you leave immediately, you may be entitled to receive payment and benefits for your entire notice period.
    • It may not be legal for the company to withhold any funds from your final paycheck (as in, the company may be required to deal with the issue of the "missing" hardware through some other means).
    • The company may be legally obliged to include all of 1) payment for hours worked, 2) payment for your notice period, and 3) payment of any accrued leave and other entitlements in full as part of your final paycheck.
    • There may be a legally imposed deadline specifying when your final paycheck must be paid.
  2. Reiterate to your boss that you do not have the disputed item, you never had the item, and request that she show you what actual proof (i.e. written documentation) she has to the contrary, and also what proof she has that you agreed to have hardware costs deducted from your pay. Consider bringing HR and/or her supervisor into the matter if necessary.

  3. If you find that the local employment laws are strongly in your favor, calmly but firmly let your boss (or HR/her supervisor) know that what she is doing is illegal (print out the relevant statutes so that you can cite them, as well), and request that she pay your final paycheck in accordance with the applicable local law(s).

  4. You say you "don't have an employee contract". That seems a bit odd. You may also want to do research to determine what, if any, default workplace agreement applies to you. For instance, in Australia there are Award agreements that specify the minimum conditions of employment for various jobs. If a comparable system exists in your location, determine what terms apply in your specific case. This is another thing that a local employment lawyer could likely assist you with. Or your company's HR department, if you consider them trustworthy.

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    "I don't have an employee contract and have never signed a legal document" And never ever do that again. – Jan Doggen Apr 30 '14 at 9:21
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    #3 is a really really bad Idea. If you are willing to go legal let your lawyer do it. Playing ametuer lawyer is a bad idea. The saying goes that a man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 30 '14 at 14:37
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    @Chad - Pointing out to the boss that she can't do what she's doing is a far cry from "going legal". If the OP wants to actually take the matter to court then of course having a lawyer handle it is a good idea. But often simply pointing out that you're aware of your rights and entitlements is sufficient to get an unscrupulous individual (or employer) to straighten up their act. That doesn't take a lawyer, and may avoid a lengthy and costly civil case in which the lawyer pockets most of the disputed amount. – aroth Apr 30 '14 at 15:05
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    @Chad - The "boss" here could be a 28-year old low-level manager who is experiencing her first termination and otherwise knows zero about the law. Most employees (including employees who are also someone's boss) know nothing about labor laws. Based on her actions, I seriously doubt she knows she's on "shaky legal ground," or she'd be apologizing to the OP as we speak. – ExactaBox Apr 30 '14 at 21:12
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    comments removed If you want to continue this discussion, please take it to The Workplace Chat. – jmac May 1 '14 at 13:46
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For the next quitting in your life:

Ask (or Force them) for a regular checklist for giving in all the properties what the company has and it is in your hands. They should check all the items one by one to ensure you gave them everything. In case if you both signed this paper, they have no legal demands on you. If something missed from the list: that is their problem, you can prove your good attitude with the paper which is signed by you and your former employer. If they hold back your last salary just say them you gave everything they stated, so please send the paycheck or get a lawyer, since it is rightfully yours.

Sadly in this situation you don't have this kind of paper, if you have nerves to fight with them outside a courthouse, you can, but I would say it is futile over a certain amount. What you can do, whenever your friends applying a job there, tell them your story. At normal places these documents are just natural and part of the regular practice.

In case if you legally didn't work there (is it the case?) then the situation is clear: just walk away, don't recommend the workplace for your friends, and never do the same again.

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