Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee



  • When a remote employee is terminated how do you handle the collection of the hardware (laptop, docking station, printer, etc..)? In the new company I work for, almost 60% of the workforce is working from home throughout the US. Our HR department is out-sourced, but we have 1 main in-house employee that does HR tasks to help bridge the gap between the out-sourced HR service and internal employees. Employees are typically terminated over the phone by their managers. The IT department is then tasked with the collection of the hardware. This includes contacting the terminated employee over a personal email, or personal cell phone number. We are also tasked with working with the shipping manager to prepare a pre-paid shipping label and box to ship the equipment to the employee’s residence to send back the hardware.

    It’s been a major challenge getting hardware back from the terminated employees. For obvious reasons, the fired employees are hard to get ahold of, and are difficult to work with. We are sending 1,2, 3 emails and/or calling the employee multiple times.

    When the IT department proposed the holding the paycheck to VP’s until the hardware is returned, we were told it’s illegal. In all my previous companies I’ve never had to worry about this. This was always handled by HR or the fired managers employee. Is this normal? How can I get this task off our plate and worry about more important IT related tasks?



  • File police reports for theft.



  • @JaredBusch said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    File police reports for theft.

    Yep. Jared's right.

    It's really the only legal and safe option for a corporation when you consider all the pros and cons of any other option you are considering. Besides, it works VERY quickly and without much additional effort. When they get notified by the detective or the prosecutor, the stuff just shows up really fast 🙂

    Oh, and file it THEIR home town.



  • I second what Jared said, you have one one real option.

    If they are across state lines from the main office, it's even more trouble.

    You can hold any severance (contract depending) but it may not be worth it.



  • you could make the costs of the equipment part of the hiring contract - you're talking what - $2000? I mean it's not nothing, but is it enough to be wasting much time over? and it's only $2000 when you first send it to them... half that at 1 year old, etc.



  • @JaredBusch said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    File police reports for theft.

    Try a strong worded letter from legal first and give them 7 days to reply.



  • @Dashrender said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    you could make the costs of the equipment part of the hiring contract - you're talking what - $2000? I mean it's not nothing, but is it enough to be wasting much time over? and it's only $2000 when you first send it to them... half that at 1 year old, etc.

    Eh, yes and no,
    Hardware is of course one thing, but what of the data on that hardware?
    It could be design specifications, HIPPA records, financials,.. all things that are owned by the company.

    You must have some action in place to address this.



  • @gjacobse said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @Dashrender said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    you could make the costs of the equipment part of the hiring contract - you're talking what - $2000? I mean it's not nothing, but is it enough to be wasting much time over? and it's only $2000 when you first send it to them... half that at 1 year old, etc.

    Eh, yes and no,
    Hardware is of course one thing, but what of the data on that hardware?
    It could be design specifications, HIPPA records, financials,.. all things that are owned by the company.

    You must have some action in place to address this.

    Of course - if the data is that critical, then it shouldn't be on their device at all.



  • We just dealt with this - we withheld the last paycheck until all equipment was returned. Non-compliance would have resulted in us deducting the cost of all the equipment from said last check.



  • This is why you use MDM Solutions for mobile devices. You remote wipe the device,disable accounts, etc. Then offer a buyout option, file police report in their local or just cut your loss.

    Is there actually anything in the company policy signed by the user regarding company owned hardware?



  • @gjacobse said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @Dashrender said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    you could make the costs of the equipment part of the hiring contract - you're talking what - $2000? I mean it's not nothing, but is it enough to be wasting much time over? and it's only $2000 when you first send it to them... half that at 1 year old, etc.

    Eh, yes and no,
    Hardware is of course one thing, but what of the data on that hardware?
    It could be design specifications, HIPPA records, financials,.. all things that are owned by the company.

    You must have some action in place to address this.

    OneDrive and Intune would solve this issue.



  • @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    The IT department is then tasked with the collection of the hardware.

    Why is IT doing an HR task? Nothing in that is in any way IT related, but is 100% HR related. Ugh.

    There isn't much you can do other than just asking for it.



  • @RojoLoco said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    We just dealt with this - we withheld the last paycheck until all equipment was returned. Non-compliance would have resulted in us deducting the cost of all the equipment from said last check.

    Can't do that legally for US employees though, in most cases.

    We do this for non-US employees if they are somewhere where we can easily pick it up. If not, sometimes we just let them keep it. Not worth the cost and effort of shipping.



  • @gjacobse said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    Hardware is of course one thing, but what of the data on that hardware?

    Why would there be data on the hardware in this day and age? I guess there are cases, but super rare.



  • @gjacobse said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    It could be design specifications, HIPPA records, financials,.. all things that are owned by the company.

    If HIPAA records or financials are being downloaded to end points, that's a huge failing at a central IT level (unless the act of downloading is the beginning of the theft.)



  • @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    When the IT department proposed the holding the paycheck to VP’s until the hardware is returned, we were told it’s illegal.

    That is correct. Withholding a paycheck over equipment is completely illegal in the US. Pay is a higher level of sacrosanct than equipment is. Pay is protected. You can't withhold pay even if they outright steal the equipment or break it. You can fire for that, but not not pay them.

    Not paying someone is a criminal action. Not returning equipment is a civil action. There is a legal order of precedence. If you withhold their pay, they can and will win in court over that money, and they will use that to show that you have no claim to the equipment because you weren't a valid employer and any contract with you was abandoned voluntarily by you and that you have no claims. Mess with a paycheck and you have big problems.

    This is why BYOD is popular for work from home employees. In this day and age, little reason to send equipment out to American workers.



  • @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    This was always handled by HR or the fired managers employee. Is this normal? How can I get this task off our plate and worry about more important IT related tasks?

    So this is where semantics are helpful. This is an HR action, whoever does it, is HR. So what is actually happening is that staff hired to be IT are now acting as the HR staff. The issue isn't HR tasks to an IT department, it's an HR department being mislabeled as IT. If you are doing this job, you are HR. If you put HR on your resume, and someone checked your references, it would be a lie for them to claim you weren't at least part time HR.

    Other than explaining that having IT trained people doing HR tasks that they have no skills, desire, or knowledge to do and having HR not doing their job is a problem, there is nothing you can do to get it off of your plate.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @RojoLoco said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    We just dealt with this - we withheld the last paycheck until all equipment was returned. Non-compliance would have resulted in us deducting the cost of all the equipment from said last check.

    Can't do that legally for US employees though, in most cases.

    We do this for non-US employees if they are somewhere where we can easily pick it up. If not, sometimes we just let them keep it. Not worth the cost and effort of shipping.

    Well, people that are here on H1B work visas are more likely to comply to our return policy, whether technically legal or not. And this particular person only lives 15 min from the office.



  • @JasGot said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    Oh, and file it THEIR home town.

    If you even know where that is. Often you don't.



  • @Dashrender said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    you could make the costs of the equipment part of the hiring contract - you're talking what - $2000? I mean it's not nothing, but is it enough to be wasting much time over? and it's only $2000 when you first send it to them... half that at 1 year old, etc.

    Yeah, depreciation happens really quickly. For computers, we pretty much assume that they are a gift in most cases. For more business items like phones (we provide Yealink T41S to most staff with headsets) we try to get that back. We are a good employer (we like to think at least) and we've never had people give us a problem returning things. We try to have someone else in the region meet them for coffee or something and just collect stuff and hand them their final check.

    This is an advantage of working in jurisdictions where final paychecks are allowed an eight week hold. Offering to hand them the money on the spot means getting paid weeks earlier than they have to be, and possibly earlier than the normally would be.

    Example...

    Betty would normally be paid next Tuesday. Betty has a phone. Betty quits or is fired today. Mary offers to meet her for coffee tomorrow and hand her her final paycheck early in exchange for picking up the phone and headset that Betty had. Everyone wins. Mary gets coffee on the company. Betty gets paid early and a free coffee. We get our phone.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @gjacobse said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    Hardware is of course one thing, but what of the data on that hardware?

    Why would there be data on the hardware in this day and age? I guess there are cases, but super rare.

    I won’t really disagree with you there. But even with all the security the state has in place, there is still data on the device here.

    And it is difficult to say how much and to what level- I mean- there are still Access Databases here,...

    So many of the agencies just can’t afford to have there needs integrated into the infrastructure needed to limit access.

    Looking at the building I am in, an it’s twin across town, it’s five floors of cubes, nearly 1,500 people each. And each have staff that are across the entirety of the state, or on the case of forestry and building inspections, are in areas that have absolutely no connectivity.

    How can they access a web app if the only option is a Sat phone? Yea- can you see the state getting and paying for those,.. yea, not going to happen



  • @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    When a remote employee is terminated how do you handle the collection of the hardware (laptop, docking station, printer, etc..)? In the new company I work for, almost 60% of the workforce is working from home throughout the US. Our HR department is out-sourced, but we have 1 main in-house employee that does HR tasks to help bridge the gap between the out-sourced HR service and internal employees. Employees are typically terminated over the phone by their managers. The IT department is then tasked with the collection of the hardware. This includes contacting the terminated employee over a personal email, or personal cell phone number. We are also tasked with working with the shipping manager to prepare a pre-paid shipping label and box to ship the equipment to the employee’s residence to send back the hardware.

    It’s been a major challenge getting hardware back from the terminated employees. For obvious reasons, the fired employees are hard to get ahold of, and are difficult to work with. We are sending 1,2, 3 emails and/or calling the employee multiple times.

    When the IT department proposed the holding the paycheck to VP’s until the hardware is returned, we were told it’s illegal. In all my previous companies I’ve never had to worry about this. This was always handled by HR or the fired managers employee. Is this normal? How can I get this task off our plate and worry about more important IT related tasks?

    It's really easy. You should just follow the company's written procedure how to handle the equipment of terminated employees.

    If the procedure isn't working, management needs to change it or just accept that they wont get the equipment back.

    Because why should the fired employee even bother with packing and shipping back the company's used equipment? They don't work there anymore. You need either a stick or a carrot to convince them and right now it's neither.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    This was always handled by HR or the fired managers employee. Is this normal? How can I get this task off our plate and worry about more important IT related tasks?

    So this is where semantics are helpful. This is an HR action, whoever does it, is HR. So what is actually happening is that staff hired to be IT are now acting as the HR staff. The issue isn't HR tasks to an IT department, it's an HR department being mislabeled as IT. If you are doing this job, you are HR. If you put HR on your resume, and someone checked your references, it would be a lie for them to claim you weren't at least part time HR.

    Other than explaining that having IT trained people doing HR tasks that they have no skills, desire, or knowledge to do and having HR not doing their job is a problem, there is nothing you can do to get it off of your plate.

    Love this comment. Yes, I worked part-time in the HR department goes on my resume.



  • @Pete-S said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    When a remote employee is terminated how do you handle the collection of the hardware (laptop, docking station, printer, etc..)? In the new company I work for, almost 60% of the workforce is working from home throughout the US. Our HR department is out-sourced, but we have 1 main in-house employee that does HR tasks to help bridge the gap between the out-sourced HR service and internal employees. Employees are typically terminated over the phone by their managers. The IT department is then tasked with the collection of the hardware. This includes contacting the terminated employee over a personal email, or personal cell phone number. We are also tasked with working with the shipping manager to prepare a pre-paid shipping label and box to ship the equipment to the employee’s residence to send back the hardware.

    It’s been a major challenge getting hardware back from the terminated employees. For obvious reasons, the fired employees are hard to get ahold of, and are difficult to work with. We are sending 1,2, 3 emails and/or calling the employee multiple times.

    When the IT department proposed the holding the paycheck to VP’s until the hardware is returned, we were told it’s illegal. In all my previous companies I’ve never had to worry about this. This was always handled by HR or the fired managers employee. Is this normal? How can I get this task off our plate and worry about more important IT related tasks?

    It's really easy. You should just follow the company's written procedure how to handle the equipment of terminated employees.

    If the procedure isn't working, management needs to change it or just accept that they wont get the equipment back.

    Because why should the fired employee even bother with packing and shipping back the company's used equipment? They don't work there anymore. You need either a stick or a carrot to convince them and right now it's neither.

    The company has no written procedure. Can anyone point me to where I can find a template for this?



  • At this point, calling the police seems to be a good option.

    We don't currently deploy any remote wipe software on home users pc's. After thinking about this, we will be blocking apps and disabling the USB ports on the laptop's with Sophos Central in our off-boarding process. When they can't open IE, Chrome, Firefox, or Office apps the laptop becomes pretty useless. Along with disabling USB that can't transfer files to their jump drives. It may motivate them to ship back the laptop since it becomes a big paper weight as long as they are not smart enough to slave the drive.



  • @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @Pete-S said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    @magicmarker said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    When a remote employee is terminated how do you handle the collection of the hardware (laptop, docking station, printer, etc..)? In the new company I work for, almost 60% of the workforce is working from home throughout the US. Our HR department is out-sourced, but we have 1 main in-house employee that does HR tasks to help bridge the gap between the out-sourced HR service and internal employees. Employees are typically terminated over the phone by their managers. The IT department is then tasked with the collection of the hardware. This includes contacting the terminated employee over a personal email, or personal cell phone number. We are also tasked with working with the shipping manager to prepare a pre-paid shipping label and box to ship the equipment to the employee’s residence to send back the hardware.

    It’s been a major challenge getting hardware back from the terminated employees. For obvious reasons, the fired employees are hard to get ahold of, and are difficult to work with. We are sending 1,2, 3 emails and/or calling the employee multiple times.

    When the IT department proposed the holding the paycheck to VP’s until the hardware is returned, we were told it’s illegal. In all my previous companies I’ve never had to worry about this. This was always handled by HR or the fired managers employee. Is this normal? How can I get this task off our plate and worry about more important IT related tasks?

    It's really easy. You should just follow the company's written procedure how to handle the equipment of terminated employees.

    If the procedure isn't working, management needs to change it or just accept that they wont get the equipment back.

    Because why should the fired employee even bother with packing and shipping back the company's used equipment? They don't work there anymore. You need either a stick or a carrot to convince them and right now it's neither.

    The company has no written procedure. Can anyone point me to where I can find a template for this?

    Rather than a template on this it might be worth understanding the rules regarding this.

    Sorry that may be a paywall, it loaded one minute and now that I'm relooking at it. . .

     An employer cannot withhold a terminated employee's paycheck until equipment is returned. ... An employer might be able to deduct the cost of the equipment from the final pay of non-exempt employees. The specific circumstances of the situation and state wage deduction laws will determine whether an employer can do this.`


  • We have our employees (office-based and home-based) sign a company equipment agreement upon their hire. It states along the lines that they agree to care for all company equipment they are issued and return in proper working condition upon termination of employment. Failure to do so will be considered theft and lead to criminal prosecution. On the employee's last day they are informed that any vacation accrual they have will be held for payout until the equipment is returned. This usually does the trick for us. I've only had to threaten police action with a former employee once before the laptop magically showed up a couple of days later.



  • @sully93 that's not a bad process/policy but it very much is dependent on where you live and work. It may be completely illegal to withhold any pay or benefits at termination, regardless of the reasons.



  • @sully93 said in Obtaining hardware from terminated remote employee:

    We have our employees (office-based and home-based) sign a company equipment agreement upon their hire. It states along the lines that they agree to care for all company equipment they are issued and return in proper working condition upon termination of employment. Failure to do so will be considered theft and lead to criminal prosecution. On the employee's last day they are informed that any vacation accrual they have will be held for payout until the equipment is returned. This usually does the trick for us. I've only had to threaten police action with a former employee once before the laptop magically showed up a couple of days later.

    @sully93 I like this approach. I'll leave the whole vacation accrual up to HR and accounting, but I like the failure to return equipment can lead to criminal prosecution company equipment agreement.



  • @magicmarker Unless you are your companies decision maker, make the suggestion, don't make the policy.

    It's the businesses choice to have to draft and possibly enforce any policy.


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