Thank you for using JustAnswer. I am researching your issue and will respond shortly.
What is the property and the value of the property that is being held by the ex-employer?
It is a tool box and tools valued at about $3500 that we purchased ourselves
Legally speaking, no, they cannot do this, unless there is a mechanics or materialmans' lien on it (which there almost certainly is not). Otherwise, them retaining your personal property would constitute "conversion" (civil theft) and would be actionable. Now whether or not you can get the police involved depends on their willingness to be a part of it. In my experience, 99% of the time, the police will say it's a civil matter and that they're not going to get involved.
Do a search on the web for your county and "small claims court." You should find either a website or phone number to the small claims clerk. Ask them what you need to do to bring such a lawsuit. The small claims clerk will give you guidance on how to file this suit and how to get the other party served with notice. You will receive a hearing date, at which you should present your evidence and ask for a judgment for the return of the tools, plus your fees and costs.
Since this is a tort, Texas law does not allow for the recovery of attorney's fees should you use an attorney, which is why I would suggest filing this on your own.
You can, in an attempt to avoid going to court, send a demand letter hoping they'll return the tools to you. Send a demand letter demanding payment within 30 days, otherwise you will pursue legal action against him, seeking that amount plus any additional damages as allowed by law. Send this letter certified, return receipt requested, as well as a copy sent regular mail. Keep a copy for yourself, as well as the return receipt number so that you can show the court that you made a demand for the unreturned tools.
Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please select the "accept" button. If you have already clicked "accept", or if you will in the future, please let me know so I can track these for my own reports and customer satisfaction stats. Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX good luck to you!
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).