My workplace paid for my Microsoft Build ticket.

At Build, they gave every person an HP laptop as a give away.

Is this generally considered my laptop, or my employers laptop?

Edit from the comments
I have had the laptop for a long time, my employer knew about it. Almost exclusively used for personal use, but sometimes when I had to go into a clients office since I had no other laptop. They are now asking for it back and I'm not sure if I would be in the wrong to claim it's mine.

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    What does your employer say? If they say it is their's and there is nothing in the employee handbook or work contract that says otherwise, then they are right. – mikeazo Feb 9 '16 at 18:35
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    The general answer is of no value. You have to abide by your company's policies. This comes down to company policy on accepting gifts and the specifics of the purchase of the ticket to Build. Voting to close as company policy specific. – Myles Feb 9 '16 at 18:40
  • I would keep it quite. Don't bring it to work and treat it like a work computer. I don't think you have an obligation to disclose but if they ask for it you probably need to give it up. I have even heard of employers even say airline mileage is property of the company because they paid for the ticket. If it was a drawing at the end of the day that you presence was required that would be (maybe) different. – paparazzo Feb 9 '16 at 18:41
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    @djechlin, other things you own (your car, your house, your clothes) were purchased by you using (presumably) the money that they gave you in return for your work. Money they give you in return for your work is yours to do with as you please. – mikeazo Feb 9 '16 at 19:12
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    There is also a potential tax issue. In the United States you might have to declare this computer as income. The company paid money for it, and let you keep it. In fact the company that ran the event might have submitted a 1099 for the laptop to the employer and the IRS. – mhoran_psprep Feb 10 '16 at 13:14

Ask your manager. They'll probably agree it's yours (my hunch).

  • If they think it's theirs, it's maybe worth objecting to in conversation, but it's not worth formally contesting, or quitting your job over, or hiring a lawyer to sour your relationship and decide.
  • If they think it's yours, great.
  • If you don't tell them about it, you might not want to use it for personal use in case they find out about it in the future (or know about it already) and claim it. I think this is a terrible option.

I do think they should understand you want it, in case their policy is ambiguous. They'll see it as a cheap way to increase your satisfaction with the job. You should not need to be confrontational or belligerent to communicate this.

I really hope your relationship with your company is not so terrible that you can't have a straightforward conversation about this ambiguous situation and get an honest answer.

  • No idea why you'd get a thumbs down. Gonna balance that one for ya ;-) – AndreiROM Feb 9 '16 at 19:46
  • It looks like this comment is from the OP and may change your answer. – mikeazo Feb 10 '16 at 13:19

I saw this same scenario play out, once, at an old job. It was a videotape storage rack, "won" by an attendee who was my boss at the time, and a video engineer at a post production house (as was I).

It was a relatively inexpensive item, but the owner and the "winner" fought back-and-forth so childishly over the thing that it hardly seemed worth it. In the end, it left a lot of resentment between the two, and I believe was no small part in the engineer leaving the company.

In my opinion, the laptop belongs to your employer, because as AndreROIM said, it was a material part of the package your company purchased for you to attend.

My recommendation: Tell your employer it would really help you to work occasionally from home if you could have it.

Be honest, be prompt in being honest, and ask. It may be an easy pitch to your employer. The paperwork and hassle to integrate a non-standard system into the network through IT may be more headache than the laptop is worth to them.

  • I strongly agree that the laptop is not the OP's, its their employer's. The OP attended the event as a representative of the company, paid for by the company. The laptop clearly belongs to the company. The OP was merely presented with it to return to their employer after the event. – Jane S Feb 10 '16 at 1:14
  • It looks like this comment is from the OP and may change your answer. – mikeazo Feb 10 '16 at 13:20
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    @mikeazo It doesn't change the fact that the laptop belongs to the company, not to the OP, regardless of how long he was allowed to use it. – Jane S Feb 10 '16 at 13:34
  • @mikeazo - No, I would not change my answer. I don't believe you can make a case for "adverse possession." The company wrote the check(s), so the company owns the laptop. – Wesley Long Feb 10 '16 at 19:24

---Updated In Light Of Recent Comments---

Generally speaking it will depend on your company's policies. Not so generally speaking, however, if a manager walks up to you and claims that the laptop belongs to the company then you have to decide whether hanging on to it is worth your job or not.

Conference swag is, in my experience, each participant's to keep. I've never heard of the company demanding that their employees hand over their t-shirts, pens, or other such trinkets. That being said, a laptop is worth quite a bit more than a t-shirt.

On the Wikipedia page it lists every such convention that has taken place, and it mentions that in 2015:

  1. The ticket cost $2095 USD
  2. "Build attendees received a free HP Spectre x360 ultrabook"

Some managers may feel that since the company paid for the (pricey) ticket they are entitled to the "gift" - let's be serious, it was not so much a gift as a part of the package. This may especially be true if it's a smaller company and the price of a laptop is actually a significant expense to them.

Seeing how they've known about this machine yet allowed you to keep it for personal use makes the situation confusing. Had they immediately established that it was a work machine, that would have been fine (and I highly encourage anyone in a similar situation to hash this out with their employer as soon as they receive such a generous gift).

However, a year of personal use later I can see how you'd be upset at parting with it.

At the end of the say the most you can do is state your case:

With respect, I received this laptop as part of my convention gift package, and have been using it as a personal machine for almost a year. It's a little late in the game for you to claim it as a company resource.

That may (most likely will) not go over well. At that point you could simply quit and keep the laptop and they probably won't take legal action against you. Probably.

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    Ethics policies (if they exist) will often state what constitutes an acceptable/unacceptable gift. In my company a gift of greater than $75 in value is specifically forbidden and would need to be declined or given to charity. – Myles Feb 9 '16 at 19:04
  • @Myles has the right idea, check your employee handbook for the maximum value of what you can keep. I suspect this is something you need to give to the employer. It would be at every single employer I have ever had but they all had pretty strict ethics rules due to government contracting (even if I was not on the government contract that had the requirement, the rules apply to all employees). – HLGEM Feb 9 '16 at 20:38
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    @Myles I'm not sure that this would really be deemed a "gift", seems to me to be a purchase. $2095 buys you entrance into the Build conference and an HP ultrabook. – Carson63000 Feb 9 '16 at 23:25
  • I suppose that Microsoft could state in their contract that the ticket costs US$ 2,095 and includes a laptop that becomes the property of the attendee. So the company wouldn't pay for ticket + laptop, but for ticket + laptop owned by the company employee who attends. Maybe they even do state that. – gnasher729 Feb 10 '16 at 9:15
  • It looks like this comment is from the OP and may change your answer. – mikeazo Feb 10 '16 at 13:20

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