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So I was sitting on campus near a snack bar area. A manager noticed that an employee had a cell phone out. So this employee goes to some people she knew and expressed how much she did not like that manager and explained the situation.

An individual told her that an employer cannot legally take a cellphone. Is this true? Can anyone cite a law for whatever state that can prove this? I looked online and cannot seem to find anything...

Here is my take on the situation:

Employers have the right to ban the use of cellphones, and they have the right to ban personal items from being on the premise.

Given those two an employer should have the right to ask you to put away a cellphone, or ask to take the cellphone away during working hours if it is not required for work. Of course if an employee refuses to hand over a cellphone, disciplinary action can be taken, including termination. Yet I cannot find laws to support this either way. So my question is, can someone find a credible source to support if it is legal or illegal for an employer to take a cellphone from an employee?

asked Mar 04 '13 at 12:06

trueb's gravatar image


edited Mar 04 '13 at 12:15

It is not a question of legality. When you're on the clock you're expected to do your job and follow the rules. That's policy and if someone doesn't want to follow it, then they don't have to work there. They can take your phone if you're not supposed to be on it. Simple as that. Sounds like someone is being immature and defiant because a manager was trying to do their job.

answered Mar 04 '13 at 22:01

IamTechCrazy's gravatar image


I 100% agree, but can you find a law on the books?

(Mar 04 '13 at 22:35) trueb trueb's gravatar image

You most likely won't find it.. It's the company rules you need to take a look at.

(Mar 05 '13 at 16:33) nitrocrime nitrocrime's gravatar image

Exactly, it's an agreement you get into with the employer. It's clearly stated in the companies policies and procedures. Just to clarify I agree with everyone on that nobody can "take" it from you but request you give it up. If they took it by force, that's a different story.

(Mar 05 '13 at 17:02) IamTechCrazy IamTechCrazy's gravatar image

I'm going to be 100% honest. I have no credible source for this, It's just a case I overheard while I was interning at my local courthouse (IT Intern)

Basically a case similar to this was being heard, now before you get your hopes up, the case was dropped (civil suit) and they worked it out. My understanding after talking with some of the lawyers/random staff was that an employee can ask you to hand over your phone and take disciplinary action against you if you don't. I'm not sure if they could fire you for it, that really didn't come up. That said, it seemed like based on the conversation I had, that it was similar to a concert/private setting. That being that they can ask you to leave (fire you, can claim you're not doing your job which will stand up in most states) or they can ask you to leave. That said they do not have the ability to forcibly take your property or force you to give it to them.

Short Version: Not based on the conversations I had while interning at a local (county) courthouse, they can terminate you, they can ask you to hand it over but they cannot under any circumstances force you to hand it over.

Again though, this is based on a singular experience I had while interning at a courthouse and talking with one lawyer (I think he was the employee's so maybe some bias). I know this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it seemed relevant.

answered Mar 04 '13 at 22:24

Zbob750's gravatar image


I agree with what you said, but I would also make the argument that if I was given the option between handing over my cellphone, or getting fired, I would hand over my cellphone. I have never found myself in that situation, and I don't think I ever will.

(Mar 04 '13 at 22:40) trueb trueb's gravatar image

Oh no, I agree. I'd much rather give up my phone. Like I said, I've never been in a situation like that. Just some court-drama I overheard about a year ago while I interned there.

(Mar 04 '13 at 23:34) Zbob750 Zbob750's gravatar image

Regardless of your job, the employer cannot take property that you own unless there is a contractual agreement. There are no specific government laws on what they can take from you since the standard theft laws apply.

basically, you are the owner of the property and while the boss or manager can ask for it, you can refuse and their only recourse will be to fire you, but they can never force you to give them the item (unless as I said before, you agreed to let them do that kind of stuff in a contract)

answered Mar 04 '13 at 23:40

Razor512's gravatar image


then is there a ruling that will support this?

(Mar 04 '13 at 23:47) trueb trueb's gravatar image

It will be different for each state and you will basically have to look up the state laws. When it comes to personal property, then state law applies. The issue has just never really been debated. Your property is your own and theft is basically the taking without permission of another individuals property.

If you have a cellphone and a manager just grabs it and walks away with it, then you can legally report that as a theft (it will likely get you fired, but it is well within your right to report it).

Restrictions of certain personal items are only legally binding if it is detailed in a contract, if it is not then you can bring in what ever is not restricted and the most they can do is fire you.

For example, in NY, your personal property will fall under the New York Penal code - 165, and if your employer did not detail the taking of your property in the contract, then they can be charged under that code.

(Mar 05 '13 at 00:47) Razor512 Razor512's gravatar image

He isn't really taking the phone, the employee is voluntarily giving it to him. She has the option to refuse, if she refused and he took it anyway, every state has a law against that; it's theft.

Of course he can always fire her for being an insubordinate little snotface. She could call it a character-building experience.

answered Mar 04 '13 at 23:42

TheRestlessMouse's gravatar image


He isn't really taking the phone, the employee is voluntarily giving it to him. She has the option to refuse, if she refused and he took it anyway, every state has a law against that; it's theft.

Of course he can always fire her for being an insubordinate little snotface. She could call it a character-building experience.

answered Mar 04 '13 at 23:43

TheRestlessMouse's gravatar image



Can an Employer LEGALLY?!?! take your cell phone or personal property away from you? - Yahoo! Answers


answered Mar 04 '13 at 12:15

hyderpotter's gravatar image


edited Mar 04 '13 at 12:16


not credible...

(Mar 04 '13 at 12:30) trueb trueb's gravatar image
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Asked: Mar 04 '13 at 12:06

Seen: 11,641 times

Last updated: Mar 05 '13 at 17:02