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buffalow 02-12-2013 9:31 AM

Employee Negligance - Thoughts
Got an interesting one for you business/legal guys. One of my employees stayed out of town for a job for me last night. They stay out of town a night or two a week due to the distances we cover. We of course pay for his meals, hotel, travel, etc.. We also provide him a truck with locking truck boxes. Last night he leaves his bag of tools ($1500 worth) on the floor board of the truck because it was a nice hotel and he felt it to be safe. Of course burglar sees work truck, checks all boxes which are locked, seems a bag of tools on the floor board and smashes the window. We have it on video from the hotel and filed a police report. Now I am really torn on how to handle. He goes into home depot and drops $1500 on my home depot account and expects me to fix the window. He thinks it should just go to my insurance. He is a long time very good employee so this is not standard procedure for him. He works 70-80 hours per week going on 3 years straight.

So... His negligence is going to cost me $1800ish. Do I hold him accountable for the tools since we provide him the ability to lock them and he chose not too? Do I write him up even though there is not a protocol for this in our employee handbook, or am I just SOL. I have dealt with these things on a mild scale previously, but not from one of my top guys in one of my best trucks with locking box. Maybe we force him to use his auto insurance for the recovery?

This concerns me at a deeper level as to how he is handling other things, but that's for a different day.

Your thoughts?

psudy 02-12-2013 10:01 AM


flackpack 02-12-2013 10:07 AM

Did you explicitly tell him where and how he had to manage the company tools? Is there a company written policy that company tools are to be locked up at night in the tool boxes, and not just locked in the cab of the truck?

If not, you should eat the deductible and tools costs. Place a policy and memo to the whole company and admonish this employee in private for not making a wise decision. From what you write, he is a good employee, so re-setting his travel policy is in both of your best interests. By charging him for the deductible or the tools, you will lose more money in the long run. You will likely lose a good employee, need to train someone new, and lower company morale.It is a short term loss, but better in the long run for keeping employees happy, and overall costs lower.

load 02-12-2013 10:13 AM

I agree with Flack.

If there had been a policy written then you could discipline them but I still don't think you could require them to pay for the tools.

Hope it wasn't a Marriott, LOL

buffalow 02-12-2013 10:19 AM

Yhea Kind of figured as much. We also don't write in our company policy "don't be a dumb a$%" just to cover ourselves. As a craftsman that has always bought my own tools, I would NEVER leave my tools in a car like that. Why would I jeopardize my potential income by being stupid. GRRRRRRR The frustrations of a business owner. Our company policy/handbook used to be like 3 pages, now it is 35 and apparently needs to be closer to 50.

ottog1979 02-12-2013 10:22 AM

Just part of doing business. Sounds like he's a good employee who made a mistake. (We all do now & then.) Use the experience to write it into your protocol and state that employees will be responsible for tools not locked up in the box going forward if you want to.

poser007 02-12-2013 10:35 AM

Doesn't the Hotel have insurance for something like this? I would check there first. It sounds like the employee has been a faithful hard worker the past 3 years. This is just one of those unfortunate things all of you are going to have to learn from. I once left 500.00 in my car glove compartment. When I went to bed I realized I had left it in there. I thought, ehhh I will get it in the morning. That night someone smashed in my window stole my daughters brand new ipod and got the cash. I was thinking to myself, out of all the nights for someone to break into my car it was like winning the lottery for them. I mean seriously any other night they would have gotten nothing. You never know when a criminal will strike. Always be on the safe side.

norcalrider 02-12-2013 11:04 AM

My dad's construction company has had some bad thefts lately (worst was a 25' flatbed stolen from the yard overnight after cutting the fence down).

Similar situation on an out of town trip but the guys placed the portable generator (honda) in the cab, trusting that more than chain and lock in the bed.

That being said his crews use his tools and trucks so I'm not sure it's similar.

Tough situation and it sounds like a loyal employee who suffered a loss. I'd take the hit on this one but work on some guidelines with your crews on how to properly secure tools during overnight stays.

Will your insurance cover anything? Might ask what his insurance will do on the window and make a decision from there. Someone tried to break into my truck and my insurance covered the window and door lock with no deductible.

meathead65 02-12-2013 12:14 PM

I'm curios to see the answers here. Were the tools company property or the guy's personal property?

I'm currently in a discussion with my insurance broker regarding my lead mechanics tools and equipment. Granted all his stuff is kept in our shop, but his stuff alone is probably worth 50k. My insurance guy says "my" policy would not cover his stuff in the event of a loss. He said my tech needs to provide his own insurance for his property. Doesn't seem right to me.

magic 02-12-2013 12:22 PM


Originally Posted by meathead65 (Post 1806326)
I'm curios to see the answers here. Were the tools company property or the guy's personal property?

I'm currently in a discussion with my insurance broker regarding my lead mechanics tools and equipment. Granted all his stuff is kept in our shop, but his stuff alone is probably worth 50k. My insurance guy says "my" policy would not cover his stuff in the event of a loss. He said my tech needs to provide his own insurance for his property. Doesn't seem right to me.

I've run into this before too. His property very well may not be covered. You should find out for sure.

Might be surprised just how little insurance actually covers when you dig into it. Heck, I had my boat at the dealer in their gated lot and it was broken into. Stereo stuff gone, ripped up cover, cut seating, bit of a mess. His insurance would not cover the damage since due diligence of putting the boat in a secure location was made. I dug into things, turns out there had been a series of thefts from his and other near by business. Since he knew this and failed to take further corrective actions, did not inform me... I could possibly have a case against him for negligence. That would have been a PITA, we worked out a deal where I got things covered at cost which avoided the insurance claim.

BCPMike0663 02-12-2013 12:29 PM

Sucks. But as business owner I think you just got to eat the cost. Like mentioned above I would write this into your policy. We have over 90 employees and it is amazing how many times we just have to eat it.

meathead65 02-12-2013 12:33 PM

In the meantime I'll learn to spell "curious"..... :)

ttrigo 02-12-2013 1:04 PM

what flack said is pretty good advice.

most hotels dont have to cover theft in their parking lots. most have signage stating they are not responsible for lost items or vehicle damages, etc, unless it was one of their employees.
and keep in mind, most hotel thefts occur at nice hotels. theres no money to be had at crappy establishments.

sorry you have to deal with this, but admonishing him in private, and jokingly calling him a dumb ass is probably the best course of action. I am sure he already feels dumb enough, but if he is as good and longstanding of an employee, I am sure he can handle a little ridicule from the boss and coworkers.

wakeworld 02-12-2013 10:15 PM

A good employee is hard to find. Sounds like this guy has made you way more than $1,800 over the years and trying to make a winner and a loser out of a gray area will end up helping nobody. I think he was in the wrong, but I can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing. Just make it a policy going forward and make it clear that if he chooses not to use the provided lockers in the future, it's on him.

Anaru 02-12-2013 11:33 PM

It isn't up to your employee to pay for the lost tools. It was locked in the car and the window was smashed! Not his fault. Plus they are the companies property. if he smashed the car would he have to pay for it? If a 'drill' or something broke when he was using it, should he be liable for it? In short, no! Lol
The company i work for spends in excess off 100k a year replacing lost and stolen tools and fixing **** employees have broken. Sure the bosses are pissed when it happens but not much they can do other then tell every1 off when it happens.
The best thing to do is employ your guys as sub contractors who supply their own tools. That way they lose their tools they pay to replace them.

cwb4me 02-13-2013 3:56 AM

Your a betting man.Fix the odds and write in your employee manual where to store tools.Also tell employees to call you first before using your accounts at suppliers.At least you have a say in where and what they buy.

jeff_mn 02-13-2013 7:33 AM

Same as everyone..

1. Eat it
2. Make it part of your SOP moving forward
3. Sit down with the guy and have a heart to heart personal with him and just say "listen - I'm taking care of this but this coming from our bottom line, we appreciate you being more thoughtful, etc"

buffalow 02-13-2013 8:43 AM

Yhea my mind set is the same as most of you all. This is the same guy that has been busting my chomps to get another raise (4 in 3 years), so I pretty much going to let him pay for half or not see a raise for a few years. Really it was his attitude about the whole thing that is the problem. These are his tools. When he was hired, he bought all the tools he needed on my account, which he than paid off (this is in our company policy). So they are his responsibility to replace/repair them. So when this happens he calls here and pretty much tells us call our insurance to replace his window and tools and does not accept any blame. When all he had to do is carry the bag into the hotel with him. He told us that when he goes into the job he takes the bag in, when he goes into his own home he takes it and when he stays anywhere "sketchy" he takes it. Bottom line is that he was just too lazy or tired to take it this one night. Just freak'n ridiculous. Heck if I help a buddy at a house and bring my tools I eagle eye the hell out them and make sure they end up in my tool bag before I leave. Anything I leave there I consider lost for good even though it is my fault. Just can't imagine leaving the tools that you own and make you money every day anywhere that someone cou,d have grabbed them. if the tools were in the lock boxes and someone drilled out the locks, than that is a different story.

stephan 02-13-2013 9:11 AM

I think you have to eat the cost. But at the same time let this be a lesson to you and to all the employees. There should be a written protocol and everyone should be made aware that this was a unique circumstance and that as a whole the company has learned its lesson on this type thing. Next time an employee makes this mistake, the written guidelines dictate that this is the responsibility of the employee. I promise you, it will never happen again. Good luck with getting it all sorted out.

meathead65 02-13-2013 11:58 AM

The fact that they are his property changes things in my view. If he had left his wallet in the truck and some one broke in and stole it would you be liable for it?

I dunno.... Tough one. I'm guessing that your insurance is like most, and your deductable and/or potential policy increases are higher than the claim amount, so you're eating every penny out of pocket.

shawndoggy 02-13-2013 12:05 PM

yeah if they are his tools, it's his problem.

Seems like you'd absolutely want a "when it's appropriate to use the company card" policy. If his ipod had been stolen would he have run to best buy and charged a new one on the company card?

Laker1234 02-13-2013 3:16 PM

If you want to keep a good employee, I agree with Stephan. However, for future reference, you may consider having all employees sign a waiver stating all tools should be locked up in their proper boxes. Failing to do so shall make the employee responsible for any loss.

grant_west 02-14-2013 8:17 AM

Ron T is on the right Track most company's have an employee hand book. If you don't have one you should, each year you should add items, like what happened here add that into the hand book,

The first step in avoiding problems is to point to something in writing that the employee signs that show he pretty much went against what he or she agreed NOT to do.

Itís so lame that you have spell out every possible thing that may or may not happen.

Example this happened to me 3 months ago: I caught the Guy punching in and out of work and he didnít even show up to work. So I fired him and of Corse he files for UN employment and says he got let go because work was slow (lie) and I end up in a phone conversation with EED. I tell them my side and they say Well did the employee Know he couldnít what he was doing? I said yes, she said do you have it in writing? If so send it to me! OMG I needed a piece of paper saying the guy couldnít steel from me LOL

deneng 02-16-2013 10:58 AM

Stollen tool
Do an investigation without pointing blame. Points you must consider are working out of town. Was he tired and why? Sick, long hours without breaks. Did something happen during the day? Short handed staff. After the investigation come up with a policy and proceedure for securing tools. Give the P&P to all employees yearly with a short quiz. Quarterly post up loss and equipt. repair and maintainence costs. You might even have a employee team come up with a plan for maintainence . One less job for you.

jesse1983 02-16-2013 9:21 PM

I've been in a similar situation.

I'm a mechanic for a large forklift and equipment dealer. I drive a company supplied van with my personal tools in the back of it. About 4 years ago I got home late one night and being tired, didn't double check everything before I went in the house. I left my company supplied laptop (toughbook) between the seats, a toll bag in the back full of about $1700 worth of stuff on the floor of the van (not locked in my tool box that is bolted to the floor of the van), ipod and Oakleys on the passenger seat. I live in a nice neighborhood and didn't think much of it. The next morning I walked outside to a broken window, missing tool bag, missing sunglasses, ipod, and worst of all- missing Toughbook. My company has insurance for all our tools, but was pissed about the computer. Tools got replaced and I got three days off without pay, which was pretty fair in my eyes. I was tired, got lazy, screwed up, whatever you want to call it. The next day they sent out an email that if anybody else left a computer in a vehicle and it got stolen they would be terminated.

buffalow 02-19-2013 7:19 AM

So I met with both employees independently about 4 days after the occurrence. I listened to them with an open mind and open eyes. Hoping to hear responsibility and regret. What I got was pretty much nothing. The employees both did not have a legit excuse like they were tired or something to that affect. They basically chose to leave it there. They did not want to carry it to the room or move it from the bags to the locking truck box. I asked why we should be responsible and they cited basically they were out of town for work so it's our deal. Once I asked them if they would leave their wallet, ipod, ipad or similar on the seat and it was stolen, would I be responsible, of course not. Than in the same context put to them in the scenario with the tools and they both were dumb founded at their negligence. Once they looked at it from a different angle, the reality set in. I left it that I am not responsible for their tools and they will be. I offered to pay for the window at a minimum. I told them I would consider pitching in for a portion of this as they are great solid employees. The upside is they will never do it again and the rest of the staff will catch wind of this and know how we stand. Now we need to modify our company policy...again.

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