Former Employee Won't Return Their Keys: What Can You Do?

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What can you do when a recently-fired employee refuses to return their set of keys? It's an annoyance, as well as being a potential security risk. Fortunately, you have several options to potentially get your property back and avoid the security risk to your business.

Electronic Entry

Electronic keys and entry codes are a minor problem. These can be deleted from the system, making them entirely useless. Of course, this isn't much reassurance when your employee has kept a physical key.

Reach Out to the Employee

You should try reaching out to the employee, using as many means as necessary. If they don't answer their phone when you call to request the keys, send a text (in addition to leaving a voicemail). You could also reach out via email, or even using the good old fashioned postal service. It's all about covering your bases and making sure that, one way or another, your former employee is aware that they must return the key.

Arrange an Alternative

When the circumstances of your employee's departure were not pleasant, they might want to avoid seeing their former employer and workplace. Although inconvenient, it's rather understandable. You could suggest another means of returning the keys, such as them nominating a family member or friend to drop off the key. Alternatively, you could arrange for them to drop off the key at a time when you won't be onsite. 

Withholding a Paycheck

If they're still unwilling to return the key, you can sometimes compel them to do so. In some states, you are able to withhold their final paycheck until all company property has been returned. Alternatively, you can withhold a certain amount of their final paycheck to cover the replacement cost of this property. This is not permitted in all states, and where possible, their payment cannot be reduced to below the federal minimum wage. Get legal advice before pursuing this option.

Changing or Rekeying the Locks

When all options are exhausted, or when the nature of your business means that an absent key is an unacceptable security risk, you can simply have the locks changed. In addition to changing the locks, commercial locksmith services can also quickly rekey your existing locks, changing their internal configuration so that the old key no longer works. Ask your chosen locksmith about whether rekeying will be sufficient, or if the locks need to be physically replaced.

Whether an outright changing of the locks is your first action or left to the end when nothing else has worked, you have a number of options when a former employee refuses to return your keys.