Returning a Terminated Employee’s Personal Belongings

Q: How should we handle returning personal belongings to a terminated employee? Can we pack them up for the employee?

A: You may pack personal belonging for the employee or ask that they come in and collect their items. My preference is to let the employee gather their things so that you avoid any disputes about missing personal items, but either way is fine. As long as the items are not harmed or discarded, you should be in good shape to collect their personal belongings for them; and given COVID-19, this option may be preferable.

If you go this route, explain to the employee that you have packed up their personal items and will arrange to have these items returned to them. You have a few options here as well. You and the employee can schedule a time for them to collect the items at the worksite, you can offer to meet them at an agreed-upon location, or you can mail them to the employee’s address.

If you and the employee choose to have them come to the worksite, establish a reasonable deadline for the collection of personal property and make it clear that after that date, personal items left at the workplace will be considered abandoned and disposed of or donated. I also recommend maintaining documentation of your efforts to contact the individual regarding these items.

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