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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 117369
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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Ive been suspended from work pending further investigation

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I've been suspended from work pending further investigation regarding a 'stolen' laptop. I took the laptop home at lunch in June hoping to use it for work (don't need it for personal use; already have one). In order to connect to my company's information properly, one must log in from the company network for the first time. I brought it back to the office after lunch (the same day), never got around to setting it up properly, and stored it in a cabinet where other laptops are stored. Never did any work on it or anything at all, and never had it at home more than the lunch hour. It was reported as stolen about 6 weeks later. I asked the IT guy if he'd checked the cabinet where I put the laptop, he said yes, I assumed it was another one entirely. About 2 weeks ago the IT guy discovered the laptop in the cabinet, logged in, and saw my home wireless network as having been connected. I was sent home on suspension and told HR would call me after further investigation. I was asked to e-mail my report of what happened and I did. Should I expect to be terminated? Prosecuted?
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

As far as prosecuted, they would have to prove you did not return the laptop to the storage where it belongs. They would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you never returned it and if you put it in the cabinet then the chances of them claiming 6 weeks later it was missing amounting to enough evidence against you would be slim to none.

If you followed company procedures with the laptop and checking it out, then you should not be terminated for good cause for this either, since they did not discover it missing for 6 weeks and anyone could have taken it in that time. AS employment in AZ is at will, meaning the employer could terminate you for no good cause, they could still terminate you, but they would be hard pressed to prove good cause of you taking the laptop because of the time frame between when you borrowed and returned it and the time it ended up missing means there is no way to connect you to it being missing.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry...wasn't too clear on things...I did NOT request permission to use the laptop. It was in a storage closet so I knew it didn't have 'engineer' configuration. That's why I took it---I didn't want to use one with information the other associates would need. I wanted one solely for the purpose of working on presentations and expense reports. I purposely took this laptop because I knew it hadn't been configured. All I did was bring it home and activate Windows, then realized I couldn't access my work information or log in to the network without doing so from the office first. So I brought it back but never got around to doing that as I went on vacation about a week later. So it wouldn't be confused with the other engineer 'loaner' laptops kept in a cabinet by my desk (for which I was responsible), I stored it in another cabinet where other laptops are often stored for use during conferences or when visitors need. My mistake was in taking the asset home, but since I returned it the same day, without having used it for anything, and it wasn't missed or even noticed, am I still likely to be terminated?


Thank you for your response.

It is quit possible that you can be still terminated if you took this laptop without permission or in violation of company policy. However, if you did return it and because it took them 6 weeks to find it was missing, they would likely not be able to prove you actually stole it, but merely violated a company rule which could still be cause for termination.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I'm supposed to hear from HR tomorrow (Monday) with further instructions or an update on my suspension. Do you have any suggestions on how I should handle this? I'll still have to return to the office as my personal articles are still there. I still have my ID security badges. I have other company property (not real assets but table cloths and dish rags I took home to launder which is not unusual) and have e-mailed my manager with the list. None of these things have real value but I've let him know so I don't add to any problems. Have you ever heard of anyone returning to work after something like this?

Thank you for your reply.

Whether or not they return you to work depends on circumstances. Yes, I have heard of people returning to work after the company investigates and cannot prove someone took something. It sounds like they cannot prove that you took and kept this laptop, just that you may have taken it without permission and did not return it properly to the right place, which is a rule violation. You need to just impress on them that you did not steal anything and that it was returned and you have no idea what happened to it in the 6 weeks from when you returned it. That is really the best you can do with the employer.
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