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Tina, Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 33167
Experience:  JD, 17 years experience & recognized by ABA for excellence in employment law.
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I am a California small business owner. I recently terminated

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I am a California small business owner. I recently terminated an employee (he was out of state at the time due to a family emergency), therefore the termination was handled via email. At the time of his termination he had in his possession company owned property including a laptop computer. He was terminated on October 1, and to date we have still not heard from him after numerous email exchanges. Last Friday, I certified a letter informing him of his termination and letting him know that his final paycheck is available for him at our office, and we need back our company property. This is the same information emailed to him. Upon searching his office, I also found drug paraphanellia which is something I suspected when he was working with us. My question is, I'm concerned because of his lack of response, and I know that in California I must provide him with his last paycheck the day he is terminated (which we did make available to him). Keep in mind he was out of state at the time of his termination. Can I hold his check until I receive back my property? If not, do I just mail out the check? But if so, do I just lose the property? And, what do I do about the drug items found and his personal items left at our office? Please help!

Hello and welcome.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX my goal is to provide you with excellent service today. I am sorry to hear of your difficult situation. Before I can give you an accurate answer to your question, please provide the following additional information:

This was not prescription drugs you found in your former employee's office? What is the value of the company's property in his possession?

I look forward to assisting you as soon as I have received this information. Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Tina -


I found prescription drugs (Xanax), as well as a small vial filled with white residue and a straw. I also found a printed out sheet of doctors specializing in Opiate Addiction. The company laptop is valued at $2,000.00. His last check is less than that. He was only in our employment for 14 weeks, and we found him to be very difficult to manage and kind of a loose cannon. I have already had the office locks changed as I am concerned for the safety of my employees and myself. Also, he has a record of assault and (2) seperate drug charges from MA, which is where he lived before moving to California. Thank you!

I see. Thank you for clarifying the situation for me, Jennifer.

Since you are concerned about the safety of your employees and found a suspicious substance in his office, it would typically be best to file a police report about this former employee as you may need it as evidence to support a restraining order in the future if he makes threats against you or your employees. The local prosecutor may also pursue criminal charges against him with regard to the substance if it proves to be an illegal drug.

CA law does require that you pay him his wages though and the money owed cannot normally be withheld to cover the cost of the property in his possession unless he expressly authorizes that in writing. You should seek an address to mail the check to if he does not return to pick it up and send it to him promptly in order to avoid potentially significant penalties for not paying his final wages timely.

You may also include the loss of your company's property in the police report, but the police will likely inform you that recovering that is a civil matter for which you could file suit against the former employee seeking recovery of the property or a judgment for the value of the property. That would typically be the appropriate method for recovering your property rather than holding his check.

I hope this helps clarify the situation for you. My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have received anything less, please reply back as I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate my service when I have answered your questions so I will be compensated for my time assisting you. Thank you!


Tina and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Hello again Jennifer,
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you! I replied and gave you a rating.

Much appreciated Jennifer! Have a wonderful evening.