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What happens if you leave your job and don’t give back the company laptop? What if they never ask for it back and you just keep it, is this stealing? Can they call the police on you? Technically, no, here’s why – Scorpion Legal Protection explains.
First, the main purpose of having authorised access to the employer’s property is to further the interests of the employer and to allow employees to do their jobs. Unlawfully keeping someone else’s property is never right, and the company can take action to get the item back. Technically, it’s not considered stealing – which is a criminal act – since you initially had consent from the company to lend the items in order to do your job. When you leave the company, the agreement to lend company property to do your job also ends. What this means is that keeping an item that belongs to the company will not be considered stealing per se, but it will be considered as you (the former employee) being in unlawful possession of property owned by the employer if you refuse to return the item without any justifiable reason.
Since it’s not technically theft, the company can bring a civil case against you, not a criminal one. The employer could bring a rei vindicatio action against you. This is a legal action through which an owner of an item sues you to recover possession of his/her property. This will allow the employer, as the lawful owner of the item, to claim restoration. The employer will not be able to ‘call the police’ on you but could take you to court.
When you resign, you must return all company property in your possession. This includes laptops, cell phones, tools and uniforms, company car, any company credit cards, access cards, all confidential information and documents (including copies) as well as all computer programmes.
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* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 2 August 2022
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