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Can Employer Confiscate and Keep Personal Property?
My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: California
In an investigation of use of foul language/sexual language in the workplace a manager was directed to "confiscate" an adult novel that the employee was being accused of reading from. The manager was instructed to do this by the local H.R. Manager of the large company they work for. The manager firmly believed that this would constitute theft and was very unethical, and there were no policies that stated the company or any representative of it could take personal property from employees and they expressed their concerns with the HR manager. The H.R. manager stated that "she knew what she was doing" and that she needed that book for evidence and to get it. The manager agreed to follow her direction only after they felt that they would lose their job under insubordination if they did not follow her directive.
The manager returned to the employee and asked the employee for the book. The employee ripped it partly in half because the employee did not want to hand it over. Finally the employee gave up the book. The HR Manager kept it and refused to return it. The employee was terminated as a result of the investigation and book never returend even after it was requested to be returned. Does any employer have the right to do this?
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- 8 Comments
this almost sounds like it was a physical confrontation. That, if true, would be actionable but not as a wrongful termination.Quote:The employee ripped it partly in half because the employee did not want to hand it over. Finally the employee gave up the book.
Employer had no right to demand or take the book. Coercion to hand over the book could be seen as a tort or possibly a criminal action although doubtful it would be prosecuted. The only way to tell is contact the police and file a complaint. File another for the failure to return the book.
None of this will get the job back or money as compensation though.#1; Tue, 09 Sep 2008 19:56:00 GMT
I understand all this cbg, BUT she was NOT terminated until AFTER the book was confiscated, not before, was my direct legal point: cause/effect?
A wrongful discharge claim may be a slight stretch, but that is for an attorney to decide, but my analysis was based on the fact the termination FOLLOWED the confiscation, that's all.#2; Tue, 09 Sep 2008 02:57:00 GMT
- The poster expressly states that AS A RESULT OF THE INVESTIGATION the employee was terminated. I interpreted the poster as saying that the book was wanted to back up the findings of an investigation that had already taken place, which is an entirely different scenario than that the termination was due to the refusal to surrender the book.
The employee COULD have been fired simply for having the book in the workplace, and that would have been a legal firing.
The HR manager needs to go back to HR school without question, but I am very far from seeing a wrongful term here.#3; Mon, 08 Sep 2008 13:56:00 GMT
- I agree that the book should not have been seized; however, where are you seeing a wrongful discharge?#4; Mon, 08 Sep 2008 08:24:00 GMT
- I agree with the manager and NOT the HR person.
Item # 1, the book is NOT unlawful contraband such as drugs, illegal weapons etc. Item # 2, it is not something that can be harmful, even if legal, if exposed to other employees, such as incense burning.
I have never read any case law dealing with employment law which permitted the seizure of such, as a book, by an employer.
Let's assume, arguendo, the intial seizure was justified under tort law, the absolute refusal to return it, is, in my eyes, THEFT also.
Although it was so called "voluntarily" given to the manager, it was under coercion. Coercion is against public policy. The relinquishment of personal property under threat of termination is questionably illegal??
It may be beneficial to consult an employment law attorney to see if a wrongful discharge suit can be brought!!#5; Mon, 08 Sep 2008 03:12:00 GMT
- I agree with cbg. They were doing an investigation re foul/sexual language & needed the book to complete their investigation. They were apparently terminated after the investigation was complete & due to the investigation findings.
I would say if it was a wrongful discharge, it would certainly be a stretch.#6; Tue, 09 Sep 2008 16:24:00 GMT
- Even though the book should not have been seized, the employer did nothing wrong/illegal (based on the post) in terminating the employee.#7; Mon, 08 Sep 2008 10:30:00 GMT
QuotingI agree that the book should not have been seized; however, where are you seeing a wrongful discharge?
I say it is a "possibility". Any time an employer "orders" you to do something, it expressly implies "discipline" for failure to comply, as the facial definition of employment at will exudes.
Theft by coercion/threat etc. is against the law. The simple fact the book was not returned is theft, IMO. If it was returned after inspection, fine.
If the employee was fearful that she would be terminated if the book was not given up then this "could" lay a foundation for a COA??
A Plaintiff's employment attorney specializes in finding such actions.
As I am sure you know some lawyers ONLY represent planiff's and some ONLY represent defendant's.#8; Mon, 08 Sep 2008 13:37:00 GMT