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If a company paid the money for goods/services, and a special extra was provided to the employee on the virtue of the employee's life outside the company, who owns that something extra? The employee or the employer?

As a trivial example, let's say the employee were a senior citizen. Furthermore, let's say that the employer has booked hotel rooms for a conference stay, and that that hotel offers a senior discount in the final booking price. In this case, it's straightforward to see that the company made a smart economic choice to get the most bang for the buck. These savings are the company's.

But what if, unbeknownst to the company, the hotel offers freebies of economic value to all senior citizens. Something like a day at the spa, or a gift certificate for a future stay. The company's choice was not motivated by the free gift, and so the company received full value for its money.

In the above case:

  • the employee would not have received the freebie without the company's money
  • but neither would the employee have qualified for the freebie without the employee's non-work-related status (i.e. age).

So they've both contributed something. Without each one's unique contribution, the new value would not have been unlocked.

So who "owns" the freebie?

  • Is the value all the company's? It paid the money.
  • Is the value all the employee's? The gift was given to the individual, for qualifying reasons which are wholly unrelated to their employment.
  • Is the value to be equally shared between the two? If so, is there precedent for how to split this value? (Let's pretend that the value were high enough for both the employer and the employee to care)

P.S. I think this is different from the question of frequent flier miles. It is well-established that the employer owns FF miles. IANAL so my opinion is on shaky ground, but I see some daylight between the above and FF miles. FF miles are given to anyone who has an account, and are part of standard carriage for all travelers. Anyone can sign up for an FF program. On the other hand, freebies like described above are given to specific and limited groups, and obv. not just anyone can sign up for senior citizen status.

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    in the US, it is legislated that employers do NOT own frequent flyer miles.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 12:59
  • Enjoy the spa day with your boss, because that would be fun…. ;) Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 14:28

1 Answer 1

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Everything you acquire in the course of your employment belongs to your employer

This is a well established principle of employment law. You are your employer’s agent so you must account to your employer for everything you receive in that role.

Whether the employer cares is another matter.

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    except frequent flyer miles
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 12:59
  • This makes sense, but if said hypothetical employee did not attain senior citizen status in the course of employment then this gift would seem to be something offered for meeting both qualifications, not an individual one. Wouldn't a gift of appreciation offered to an employee, such as a gift to POTUS for being POTUS, be materially different from a freebie offered to a class of individuals where that class is wholly separated from work? Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 13:00
  • @TigerGuy I might be wrong, but I'm fairly certain that FF miles are legally the employers'. Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 13:01
  • @KennSebesta As a simple example, most employers have a rule "Any gift under X is yours. Anything above you can't take unless you ask your superior." - usually X is some 10 bucks or something, so that the customary cheap pen with the business logo on itis ok, but you have to deny the gold-plated fountain pen.
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 13:27
  • @KennSebesta, you are right there is no US law for this, I tihnk I was remembering that the US gov't allows employees to keep their miles. As a practical matter, I have never heard of a company trying to keep freq flyer miles in the US, it would be a revolt.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 14:15

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