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West Virginia Employers Now Allowed to Recover Costs of Unreturned Property

Changes to the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act mean employers have a new option for recovering the cost of items not returned by employees upon separation of employment.

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Before House Bill 2546, which went into effect on May 15, restrictions on deductions from paychecks limited an employer’s options when a departing employee didn’t return employer-provided property, such as uniforms, cell phones, laptops, and tools. Employers were limited to requesting the return of the items or seeking relief in the judicial system.

The new law permits employers to withhold or deduct from an employee’s final wages an amount not to exceed the replacement costs of employer-provided property. Certain requirements must be satisfied before a payroll deduction can be made. The property at issue must have been provided to the employee in the course of and for use in the employer’s business. Also, the property must have a value in excess of $100.

A signed, written agreement must be in place at the time the property is provided (or a signed and ratified agreement if the property was previously provided). The agreement must, at a minimum, include:

  • A specific itemization of the employer-provided property with a specified replacement cost;
  • A clear statement that the items are to be returned immediately upon the conclusion of the employment relationship; and
  • A clear statement, with the employee’s acknowledgment and agreement, that if he fails to timely return the specified items, the replacement cost may be recovered from his final wages.

For more information on the new law, see the May 2018 issue of West Virginia Employment Law Letter.

Thomas S. Kleeh is an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia. He can be reached at thomas.kleeh@steptoe-johnson.com.