Navigating the Return of Company Equipment: A Guide for Remote Employees and Employers

In today’s digital age, it’s common for companies to provide employees with the necessary equipment to perform their duties efficiently. This often includes laptops, smartphones, and other devices. However, what happens if you don’t return these items when your employment ends? This question is particularly relevant in the current remote working environment where a remote employee not returning equipment has become a common issue.
Company Equipment A Guide for Remote Employees and Employers
The Consequences of Not Returning Company Equipment
When you receive a company laptop or any other piece of equipment, it remains the property of the organization. It’s given to you under an implied or explicit agreement that you’ll return it when your employment ends. Failure to do so can lead to several consequences.
Legal Action: If you fail to return company property after repeated requests, your employer might resort to legal action. They could file a lawsuit against you for theft or conversion (unauthorized use of personal property). The severity of the legal consequences would depend on the value of the item and local laws.

Financial Liability: In some cases, companies may deduct the cost of unreturned equipment from your final paycheck. However, this practice is subject to labor laws that vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Damage to Professional Reputation: Not returning company property could harm your professional reputation. Future employers may be hesitant to hire someone who has been accused of stealing or misusing company property. Sites like LinkedIn can reflect such reputational damage, impacting your career prospects.

How Employers Can Handle Remote Employee Not Returning Equipment

To prevent issues related to unreturned equipment, employers should have clear policies in place regarding company property. Here are some strategies they can employ:

Clear Communication: Clear policies, as exemplified by companies like Google and Microsoft, should be communicated through employee handbooks and exit interviews.

Security Deposits: Some companies require employees to pay a security deposit for expensive equipment which is refunded when the item is returned.

Legal Agreements: Employers can have employees sign a legal agreement stating they will return all company property upon termination of employment. This provides a legal recourse if the employee fails to return the equipment.

What You Should Do If You Have Company Equipment

If you’re a remote employee with company equipment, it’s important to understand your responsibilities. Here are some steps you should take:

Understand the Policy: Make sure you’re aware of your company’s policy regarding equipment. If it’s not clear, ask your HR department for clarification.

Return Items Promptly: As soon as your employment ends, arrange to return all company property. This may involve shipping items back to the office or dropping them off at a designated location.

Document Everything: Keep records of all interactions related to returning company property. If you ship items back, keep the tracking number and receipt as proof.


The issue of a remote employee not returning equipment is one that both employers and employees need to handle responsibly. For employees, failing to return company property can lead to legal trouble, financial liability, and damage to their professional reputation. For employers, it’s crucial to have clear policies in place and communicate them effectively.

Remember that while you may have possession of a company laptop or other equipment, it remains the property of your employer. Always treat such items with respect and ensure they are returned promptly at the end of your employment.