This paper has been developed to provide University employees some guidelines regarding the use of personally owned property at work and the potential for reimbursement should that property be damaged or stolen.
It has become common practice for University employees to bring personal items to the work- place for a variety of reasons including enhancing their work environment or making the job easier. Theft or damage to this property by fellow employees, cleaning personnel, work related conditions, and outside parties is not unusual. These losses have resulted in a number of inquiries directed toward risk management regarding how loss of personal property might be compensable.
In general, the University takes no responsibility for loss of, or damage to, personal property of employees. It is expected that these items are insured through the individuals home-owners insurance policy which is a primary source of compensation for all losses. There are, however, a number of secondary avenues that employees may take in pursuing compensation for loss of their personal property while at work. These potential sources of compensation have been outlined below. Specific questions regarding these sources and this policy, in general, should be addressed to UW System Risk Management.
III. Reimbursement Sources
A. Personal Homeowners or Renters Policy
As stated above, the primary and most logical source of recovery for loss of personal property, whether it be at work, at home, or at other locations, is the individual’s homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy. Most personal insurance policies provide the options of a lump sum blanket coverage for personal property or a scheduled amount for special or valuable property. These policies can usually be afforded for a $100-$250 annual premium and cover items at many locations with respect to a variety of perils. These policies may exclude property used in a business or profession, but this exclusion can be removed.
B. State Self-Funded Property Program
The State Self-Funded Property Program (SSPP), as described in Section 2, A of this manual, provides protection for losses to University-owned or leased property. The only other type of non-owned property which may be covered by this program is exhibited property which is covered through a special art exhibit policy.
An employee who is using personal property as an integral part of his or her job (such as a computer or special instrument) may attempt to gain coverage through the SSPP either by leasing the equipment to the University or by listing the equipment on the University’s inventory listing. Written documentation from the department head must be procured stating that the equipment is necessary and no alternative sources of equipment exist. These techniques have been used in the past but typically only apply to items which are necessary for the performance of the job, and coverage will only apply to loss which occurs in the course of University business.
When property is listed in this way, it is seen as property of the University and losses will be reimbursed through the typical claims procedure with State Risk Management. It should be noted that State Risk Management will not provide reimbursement for claims where written documentation of the use agreement does not exist or where property is being used to meet personal needs.
Finally, a $1000 deductible applies to most property losses with a $2500 deductible for those theft losses which occur with no sign of forced exit, entry, or removal. This deductible will be paid by the department where the loss occurred.
C. Claims Board
The State Claims Board is a mechanism which was set up through Wisconsin State Statute 16.007 for reimbursement of claims based on legal liability, negligence, or on principles of equity that the State should in good conscience pay. Claims settlement through the claims board is based on the dollar amount. Claims less than $1,000 may be paid through a majority vote of the board. Claims which are greater than $1,000 are submitted to the legislature.
In settling the claim, the claims board will most often designate a specific fund to which the claim is chargeable. Quite often, claim settlements end up being charged back to the department from which the loss originated or at least back to the campus of origination. For this reason, a great deal of time, paper, and ultimately money may be saved by petitioning directly to the department for reimbursement.
D. Departmental Funds
As part of the 1989-91 Compensation Plan and UW System Administrative Policy 610 (SYS 610), the University may reimburse its employees for the cost of repairing or replacing personal property of employees. This paper was initially developed to apply to clothing, watches, and eyeglasses where damage is not caused by the employee’s carelessness or simple wear and tear. Coverage has been extended to other personal articles which are lost or damaged in the course of work.
Compensation under this policy is contingent upon the approval of the departmental head who has the final authority for such payments. Reimbursement should be obtained through the use of a travel voucher and is limited to a maximum of $500.
E. State Self-Funded Liability Program
A final source of recovery for an employee for lost or stolen property is through the State Self-Funded Liability Program. Under this program an employee, as a third party claimant, must file a claim against the University for loss. In order to successfully charge the University through this venue, negligence must be proven on the part of an employee, officer, or agent of the University. This negligence, or failure to act prudently, must be the proximate cause of the loss.
The details on filing a liability claim are included in the System Risk Management Manual under the State Self-Funded Liability Program and are available from your campus risk manager.