Metz Lewis Brodman Must O'Keefe

Metz Lewis Brodman Must O'Keefe

Posted on February 5, 2003

Imagine this.  Your local company has had it with employee X. Missing too much work and being a general pain in the rear, you have told him that his employment with your company is done effective immediately.  The  dismissal was accomplished via email, however, as he was off work claiming that his car would not start.

Later you recall that X still has a company-issued cell phone and you want it back. So, you have your HR person call X and advise him that until the cell phone is returned, his final pay will be withheld.  Do you have the legal right to behave in this fashion?

No!  You have run afoul of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection law.  While that law allows you to assert “a good faith counterclaim or offset”, this must be done in writing and you may not withhold more than the value of what it is you seek to have returned. In the above scenario, the proper course would have been to send a letter to X in which the situation is spelled out with specificity, ie. “you have my cell phone valued at $150 – your final pay is $450 – you will receive a final pay of $300, the $150 value being withheld until the return of the cell phone after which you will receive the $150 which has been offset.”

As to the value of things not returned, a key or keycard may have imputed to it the value of changing locks or codes.  A computer may only be worth several hundred dollars but the information it contains may have immense value.

Did you know?

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