Companies today often employ contract workers who work remotely, either from home or other locations outside of the business’ property. If your business is among these and you recently had to let go of a contract employee, you may be wondering how to recover company property assigned to the employee, such as a company vehicle, a computer or other equipment. Fortunately, this task is likelier easier to do than you think.
Contact the employee to explain that the company needs to collect its property from him. Explain exactly what property must be returned. Ask the employee when and how he would like to return the company property. If he lives and works far away from your company’s physical location, you may have to help him arrange for shipping. If he lives nearby, you may be able to have him bring the company property to you or meet him nearby to collect the items.
Follow up with a letter so that you have something in writing if your initial contact in an attempt to recover the company property occurred over the phone. If necessary, remind her that failing to return the property is theft and can be prosecuted.
Hire a neutral third-party recovery consultant to collect the property if the employee seems recalcitrant. He may have ill feelings for your company for letting him go and may be more likely to cooperate with someone not directly associated with the company.
Provide the employee, or the recovery consultant if dealing with one, with a copy of the contract the former employee signed when she was hired by your company. Highlight any sections that have to do with company property and the former employee’s obligation to return the items to the company, including possible consequences of failing to return company property. If, at this point she still refuses to hand back the property, consider filing a police report, as the property has essentially been stolen.
Talk to your company’s legal counsel, or an outside attorney if no legal counsel is employed by your company, about the possibility of pursuing legal action if the employee does not return the company property. Remember, however, that in many cases, litigation can cost much more than any property you are trying to collect.
Provide the employee with a letter stating that the property has been received and noting the state of the items returned once he gives them back, either to you or to your third-party consultant.