A question I’m commonly asked by credit unions is, if we have an employee who is leaving the credit union, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and they have not returned their laptop or other valuable credit union property, can we hold their final paycheck until we receive our property back? Can we take money out of their final paycheck to reimburse us?
Although it may seem like we would be justified in doing that because the property actually belongs to the credit union, and not returning property that doesn't belong to you could be viewed as theft, human resources laws and regulations, specifically in the state of Texas, has a different point of view.
Even if an employee is in possession of company property, the Texas Payday Law provides that in such a case, wages may be withheld only when the employer is authorized to do so by law, required to do so by a court or has written authorization from the employee for the deduction.
So, what could an employer do to get their property back? Simply put, you would need to attempt to recoup the property by some other means, such as civil remedies (i.e. lawsuit, small claims court, police report) or make arrangements with the employee outside of a wage deduction. It sounds idiotic to say that you have to negotiate for the return of your property, but that’s what you would need to do.
Also, if you do have a signed agreement in place to make deductions from wages for such items as cash or merchandise shortages, employer required uniforms, and tools of the trade, you must make sure that those deductions do not reduce the wages of employees below the minimum wage rate required by the Fair Labor Standards Act or reduce the amount of overtime pay due under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
With all the regulations involving human resource regulations and laws, many credit unions may not know what they are allowed and are not allowed to do when an employee terminates employment with the credit union. A good rule of thumb, when in question, before acting, just ask!