Can an employer throw out employee personal belongings?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer throw out employee personal belongings?

I went to work and discovered that my employer had emptied my locker, She said that there was a notice posted for all lockers to be cleaned out last week. I did not see a notice nor was I notified. She discarded my work pants, belt and shirts. She did not throw out my shoes. She sent me home saying I was not dressed for work. I work fast food in Chicago,IL. Do I have any recourse?
Thank you.

Asked on September 6, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If she did post a notice and can prove she did (e.g. with photographs, or credible testimony, including the testimony of your coworkers who may have seen that notice) that lockers would be emptied, then even if you personally did not see it, she could still legally empty your locker: the issue is whether she *provided* notice, not whether you were aware of it. If she provided it, she did nothing wrong and you dont' have any recourse for your belongings.
If she did not post a notice, then you could sue her for the value oof your belongings which, since they were used, would be less than their purchase price (e.g. for the value of used workpants, belt, and shoes). It might not be worthwhile suing for this, however, given the time and cost of a lawsuit, and that suing your employer is a drastic thing to do.
If you don't have an employment contract limiting the reasons you could be sent home, then you could legally be sent home (and lose pay) for *any* reason, including not being dressed adequately in the employer's eyes.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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