Holding Checks Hostage

November 2, 2023

Hello! This is Steve Ivester at Ideal HR, where you get to spend 5 minutes with a mess manager.

So today I want to talk about a client who came to me, called me, and said I have two employees that I just terminated. And I’ll only give them their checks back until I get my equipment and I told them that there's a right way to do that and what he's suggesting is not the correct way .But what he should do is to say that he has their checks and if they would please bring their equipment in when they come. He'll be glad to give them their checks back.

So, he told me that one of the employees actually was in a different state. So that one is a little different, that employee can't come in, of course. So, the intent there is to ask him, the employee, to send the equipment back and he will happily send the check. So, he has to remember that that check has a date on it and he needs to get it in the mail as quickly as possible. But he needs to make a point that he needs his equipment back.

Since he brought that up, I thought that or I remembered that there was actually several states involved here. South Carolina handles things differently than other states. In South Carolina, they have what is called treble laws. And I told him that whatever you hold out of an employee's check without authorization, you could be charged for three times that amount, plus court costs and attorney fees. And attorneys always love to have a jury trial. So, you have to be careful when you're in that position not to hold money out of employees checks without their authorization.

That also brought up an idea that when you have equipment, you really should have an equipment policy. Equipment policies protect you in a lot of different ways. One is that, you know, if you have computers, for example, and what you need to do in an equipment policy is to always put values in. Without dollar amounts, it really doesn't give you a lot of security. So ,my example is, if you've got a computer, put a value on it if it's brand new. That way, if they turn it into you two years later, you know, of course it's not going to have a new value. You should put the cost of what the charging cord, if that's has a value, you should put that on there. What happens if somebody loses your computer? Or drops it and breaks it? Think about those kind of things. Put values on keys, put values on other items that you allow people to use.

So, let's just review real quick what we've just been talking about. So, we cannot hold checks hostage. And it's actually the way you word it. So, it doesn't appear that you're holding a check hostage. Remember that other states have different requirements. Also remember that in South Carolina we have treble laws. That the equipment policy has to be signed off on, you have to have authorization that the employee understands that. I did mention that you should put a value on all the equipment and that could be a a phone, keys, whether it's charging equipment for computers and specify whether it's new or used.

If you have any further questions because I know you may have, you're welcome to call me at Ideal HR, 864-286-9009. This is Steve.