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Employee Liability for Stolen Property

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  • Employee Liability for Stolen Property

    I was issued a blackberry by my company and frequently take it with me through my travels. During the Thanksgiving holiday, a number of items were stolen from the bag that I checked with the airline, including my blackberry. Can my company deduct the replacement value of this item from my salary?

  • #2
    It depends.

    When you were issued the company provided equipment, did you sign paperwork that explained what would happen if you lost/damaged the equipment? Is there a written company policy that states what happens under these circumstances?

    The ideal situation would be for you to have signed a document upon receipt of the equipment which spelled out it's value and what happens should it become damaged or stolen. Most often agreements such as this do address how you'll need to repay.

    Article 6. Section 193. of NY code addresses deductions from pay checks. It does require a written authorization in order to deduct from your pay check. So if you did not sign anything that would specifically authorize the deduction, then recoup via payroll deduction would not be an option. This would not relieve you of your repay obligation. It would only eliminate the payroll deduction option. He could require you to reimburse directly of file against you in small claims court. [As an aside, you could be terminated for none payment. This is something to consider!]


    • #3
      Thanks for the quick response. I believe I may have signed some sort of waiver many moons ago. The irony of the situtation is that the blackberry that was stolen was just recently issued to me and I certainly did not sign any waiver for that item (the first blackberry which I was issued and subsequently returned was significantly cheaper). My company claims that I owe it $500 which is absurd, given that the product retails for less on the manufacturer's website. If I am responsible for reimbursing the company for the lost item, am I required to reimburse the company for the item's replacement value or fair market value? Also, if the company gets some kind of discount for buying the product in bulk, which it must, at worst, wouldn't I only be required to reimburse the company up to the company's cost? Finally, do you know whether there are states that have provisions which prohibit an employer from holding its employees financially liable where the employer's property has been stolen through no fault of the employee? Based on your response, I assume NY is not one of those states.


      • #4
        It is possible to claim the loss on your homeowner's or renter's insurance.
        Not everything that makes you mad, sad or uncomfortable is legally actionable.

        I am not now nor ever was an attorney.

        Any statements I make are based purely upon my personal experiences and research which may or may not be accurate in a court of law.


        • #5
          Yes I know, but unfortunately my deductible is too high to make it worthwile. I also checked the airline's website which contains a disclaimer stating that they refuse to reimburse passengers for electronic items which are stolen from checked luggage. I'm not sure whether the airline's disclaimer effectively protects it from tort liability resulting from the willful acts of its employees, but that's probably a subject for a different forum.


          • #6
            Actually that is a fairly accurate replacement value for a Blackberry. When you see them advertised, the catch is the equipment is discounted when purchased in combination with a service agreement. If the equipment is lost or stolen prior to the expiration of the agreement, replacement would be at the equipment's full value. If your company has a special sales arrangement with your service provider, it's possible that they receive equipment at a discount.

            Regarding your other questions:
            There are no hard and steadfast determinations on how a company must value it's equipment provided to employees. Fair market value or actual cost are common options. The problem is the equipment such as this are often defunct rather quickly. So any replacement most likely would not be "apples for apples".

            To the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any states the prohibits employers from requiring repayment for lost/stolen/damaged equipment.

            Also if you have homeowner/renters policy, the theft may be covered under your insurance policy. You may want to contact your insurance rep to see about making a claim. This may ease some of your burden.


            • #7
              I guess I did not post fast enough. I saw you guys already mentioning the insurance claim option.


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