Employers, employees and even equity holders should be mindful of company property ownership interests upon the employee or stakeholder’s separation from the company.

A typical provision in a separation agreement is one in which the departing individual represents and affirms that all company property has been returned. Yes, this means the stapler, the company car, the laptop…but consider that laptop: did the individual during his/her course of employment sync that laptop with a smart phone, a home computer or other electronic?

Here’s where it can get tricky – that laptop and those other devices probably have electronically stored information that “belongs” to the company. And if that information is not “returned”, there is probably a breach of the separation agreement (the promise that all company property has been returned) and with the breach, potentially devastating and unexpected consequences. Both company and individual are advised to engage in a computer forensic process to satisfy all involved that everything that should be returned at separation has been returned pursuant to a process that all agree upon in advance.

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