I was let go from a department of health services case worker job because the location was closed down. The entire staff was informed last Friday evening after we had left the office that we did not have to come back on Tuesday. (Monday was July 4th)

Now, we are being told to send an itemized list of our belongings to the hiring agency so that they may retrieve them because the former staff is no longer allowed on the premises.

I have two questions:

  • Is there precedent for this? Not allowing employees to actually retrieve their personal effects upon termination?
  • If by any chance all of my possessions are not returned to me, what can I do?

EDIT: USA, South Carolina

  • Country? State? – Pete B. Jul 5 '16 at 21:14
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    First, sorry that you lost your job, everything about this sucks. Unfortunately this question will likely be closed as a "you need to consult a lawyer" question. Don't bother with a lawyer unless you left items of significant monetary value. Do your best to come up with best itemized list you can and you are likely SOL if they miss anything. – Myles Jul 5 '16 at 21:15
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    That's horrible, but not unprecedented. I would again say that you should never bring anything personal or sentimental to your office. Personal pictures - get copies made and bring the copies. Anything valuable - leave home or take with you every night. – Wesley Long Jul 5 '16 at 21:18
  • @PeteB. I edited the info in – TsSkTo Jul 5 '16 at 21:22
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    Why does this need to be closed if the answer is "Sorry, but there is no recourse." – Brandin Jul 6 '16 at 0:07

Sorry to hear that as it is a horrible way to get laid off. Doesn't treat you with any respect and ruins your holiday weekend.

You don't mention how many people are in the office but assuming a decent number and everyone got laid off I'm not sure what else they could do as you mention Health Services which I assume means you deal with PHI(Protected Health Information). They have an obligation to protect that information and can't simply let people come in and gather things from their desks. They'd have to have you escorted and supervised the entire time which would be impractical for any sizable office that was laid off all at once.

At a previous job when someone was getting fired they'd go to a meeting and never come back to their desk. The company would have two people go through their desk and gather up everything that looked personal and bring it up front so it could be given to the employee as they were being escorted out the door.


Yes there is precedent. I have seen people marched out the door in a firing or layoff and asked to provide a list.

I worked for a company that went under and gave 3 days notice. The place got ransacked.

If everything is not returned then file with the state employment commission.

And file for unemployment ASAP.

  • Can you change "precedence" to "precedent"? I know the error was originally, the OP's, but hopefully they will correct it. – Amy Blankenship Jul 5 '16 at 23:07
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    @AmyBlankenship You have rep to edit – paparazzo Jul 5 '16 at 23:09
  • Maybe they changed the policy, but I got a not very encouraging message back one time when I was editing a typo, so I don't do that anymore :) – Amy Blankenship Jul 5 '16 at 23:52
  • Don't let that discourage you, multiple people get to approve edits - I'd certainly have approved yours. Editing typos is a really easy way to help posters and contribute positively to the site. – TrueDub Jul 6 '16 at 9:37

The office is private property. Unless you are the owner or lessor (or are the police or fire department on an active call) you have no inherent right to enter that property.

They should be willing to return anything that is clearly yours -- there is no business advantage to denying you that, though there are often good reasons for marching someone off the property after they have been fired.

Draw up a complete list of what you care about that is clearly yours, and where it is located. Submit that list. See what happens. Then decide whether anything they couldn't find is really worth worrying about.

Sufficient unto each day are the problems thereof.

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    You may also be able to get permission to go back onto the property under supervision to help select and carry yourself. – keshlam Jul 6 '16 at 0:19
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    Most people don't have a list of all their private property in the company, and some don't remember everything. So at the very least the company should empty your desk and return what's not the company's property, instead of keeping anything the owner doesn't remember. – gnasher729 Jul 6 '16 at 7:55
  • A car is private property, but if I leave my wallet in your car, you cannot keep my wallet. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jul 6 '16 at 13:48
  • @richardu You still can't trespass to retrieve the wallet. Take that to Law SE if you want deeper understanding. – keshlam Jul 6 '16 at 14:14
  • @gnasher: Agreed, that's what I would expect. But preparing the list may help expedite, may help make sure nothing is overlooked ("Yes, I want that rock; it has personal meaning"), and for anything really important sets you up in case you need to make a formal demand/claim later. I really don't expect a problem here, just some delay. – keshlam Jul 6 '16 at 14:18

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