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  #21  
Old 22.11.2020, 04:07
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Re: Work laptop damage

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You're going to spend a few years at ETH and your best shot at getting good PhD with decent publication record is having a really good relationship with your supervisor, postdocs and colleagues in the group. Why take a chance of leaving a bad impression, in particular doing it just after taking the position?

The amount hurts, I get it as well as a PhD that started at Rate 1, but it's not worth continuing the arguments. Yes, you can win and convince them, but is it worth it?
I disagree with this mindset. No one is suggesting that the OP should take an aggressive and unreasonable stance. It's quite possible to enquire further about the legal position without upsetting anyone. From what I can see the terms of the contract are all important here. The best idea would be to get some independent advice. I don't mean going to a lawyer -- that would be overkill. But I presume there's an equivalent of a students union / student welfare service at ETH so perhaps the OP can talk to them as a domestic accident with a laptop is surely not a rare occurrence. The issue must have cropped up plenty of times before now.

If the advice is encouraging then yes, of course you make the renewed request diplomatically and in a goodnatured spirit. If that's done then I'd be shocked if a supervisor would be so upset by this that they'd harbour a grudge through the 3+ years of a PhD.

I tend to pay bills rather than contest small amounts but I can see that 600 or 1200 CHF for a student is a lot of money and has to be worth making a few more enquiries.
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  #22  
Old 22.11.2020, 08:40
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Re: Work laptop damage

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The issue must have cropped up plenty of times before now.
That company property gets damaged during a “communications error” with a third party.... pretty much a first I’d say. And we’re not talking about a student in this context, but an employee who was given a fairly valuable laptop.

Given that they are talking figures, I would expect that the circumstances have already been discussed, the damage already assessed and that the insurance company has been consulted. Suggesting to split the costs probably seems fair to his employer. That is a fair bit of admin for an academic, so expecting repercussions for making additional waves is certainly within the bounds of possibility.
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  #23  
Old 22.11.2020, 08:48
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Re: Work laptop damage

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Recently started my PhD at ETH.

I was given a beautiful new laptop (top of the range).

The lab has offered to pay half the repair cost, and is looking at getting insurance for any future incidents.

" Section 3: Other Services
Art. 43 Equipment
(Art. 18 para. 1 BPG)
1 The responsible bodies equip the employees as well as apprentices and interns with the necessary materials and Protective clothing.
2 In agreement with the competent authority, employees and
Employees use their own devices, materials and protective clothing. It can for that compensation can be agreed. "


600CHF is a lot for me to stomach, especially if the machine is still technically owned by my employer. But of course I don't want to create animosity at this early stage.

I am interested to see what are people's gut feelings on how to proceed - do I dig in my heals, or pay up and move on..?

Best wishes,

An ETH employee...

https://ethz.ch/services/en/employme.../contract.html
When you received the laptop did you have to sign any specific guardian or declaration form and If so do you have a copy of them? Did ETH communicate specifically to you during the handover that you were responsible for the damages of the laptop and advise you to have the relevant insurance in case of mishaps?

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The lab gave you the laptop and they accept the risk when they hand it over to you, hence them looking into insurance for future similar events. You had a duty of care to look after the laptop. However accidents happen and unless you acted negligently it's tough luck for the company. Whether you pay anything is up to you. 1200CHF would likely be the cost of a replacement laptop and it sounds like somebody is taking you for a ride. Like in the garage door post, unless the laptop is brand new it's likely part if not all of the capital value has already been written off. With 600CHF it could be that you're essentially paying all of it.
YI would agree with this. The fact that ETH, a famous university that gives out hundreds of laptops to peoples working long and tiring hours at a desk with food and drink around them, does not have the necessary insurance cover for accidents to their property is ridiculous and is negligence on their part (or their IT administrators). If the intention was for the OP to pay for damages it should be clearly communicated at the time of handover with the relevant forms signed.

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Pay and move on - best advise I can give you as this is "gross negligence" and every company has any right to let you go (terminate) for company equipment damage due to the above. So it's a thin ice...
This is not true. An accident involving spilling water on a notebook is not "gross negligence" and it's clear you have no clue what the term actually means. It's an accident that can occur despite best intentions. If you are issued the device by your employer, and your contract does not specifically state that you are liable for accidents, then you should not be liable for paying for the employer-issued device. That's why any large employer has insurance or other related policies to cover damages and replacements.

Last edited by Chuff; 22.11.2020 at 09:12.
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  #24  
Old 22.11.2020, 12:21
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Re: Work laptop damage

I'm bowled over by the number of replies. Thanks all.

It is certainly a contentious issue!

Hopefully this thread can serve as some warning to anyone else using ETH equipment in a WFH setting, to discuss with their boss what the policy is.

I have been upfront with mine. My insurance will cover my half of the repair bill, and I will accept the department's offer to contribute the other half, with gratitude. I can move on with minimal expense and no hard feelings.

I agree that a massive organisation like ETH should have insurance in place. What happens when someone breaks a CNC machine or a piece of testing equipment for instance? I will gently push this issue with my lab to avoid any future issues.

Thanks again.
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  #25  
Old 23.11.2020, 10:31
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Re: Work laptop damage

I agree that this is a tricky issue and that you don't want to involve a lawyer. This looks like a perfect issue to discuss with an ETH Ombudsperson.

Quoted directly from the website (which is available in English):

The ombudspersons ... offer advice to members of ETH Zurich who find themselves in difficult situations:
The ombudspersons are a general contact point for conflicts that cannot be solved by direct communication ...
[The ombudspersons] are independent and treat all information they receive confidentially. They involve further persons or units only if required by the case and observing confidentiality. While they cannot issue instructions, they may point out solutions, establish contacts, and initiate processes...
The ombuds office offers advice on the following topics:
- Workplace conflicts and conflicts involving instructors
...
- The ombudspersons carry out their mandate in accordance with the ethical standards of the International Ombudsman Association.
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  #26  
Old 23.11.2020, 10:38
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Re: Work laptop damage

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YI would agree with this. The fact that ETH, a famous university that gives out hundreds of laptops to peoples working long and tiring hours at a desk with food and drink around them, does not have the necessary insurance cover for accidents to their property is ridiculous and is negligence on their part (or their IT administrators). If the intention was for the OP to pay for damages it should be clearly communicated at the time of handover with the relevant forms signed.

.
Actually there would be little point of insurance as they can pool the risk themselves. Especially if they can split the costs. Insurance would always have an excess so losses would never be fully covered.
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  #27  
Old 23.11.2020, 10:48
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Re: Work laptop damage

I moved a book one inch to the left, it resulted in a chain reaction resulting in a full glass of water falling on top of my desktop PC (top fan opening). There were drops of water falling inside the PC, like rain.

Luckily the only damage was a fried GPU. My home insurance refused to cover it, they said that if it was a burst water pipe then they would have covered it
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  #28  
Old 23.11.2020, 12:31
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Re: Work laptop damage

I'm glad that my "life lesson" about not keeping open drinks close to electronic equipment happened with an easy to replace keyboard over a decade ago. However, it left enough of an impression that I not only never keep an open drink that can be tipped over near electronic equipment, but have a habit of moving those of other people away from where they can do harm. We briefly discussed getting taller glasses for our conference room at work but I vetoed that on the grounds of the table being small and people being careless.

While I do think that employers should have a certain duty to replace damaged equipment, it is also up to staff to do their utmost to prevent any damage or loss. So the 50/50 solution in this particular case seems absolutely fair to me and I would expect it to apply regardless of working location.
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Old 23.11.2020, 12:50
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Re: Work laptop damage

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While I do think that employers should have a certain duty to replace damaged equipment, it is also up to staff to do their utmost to prevent any damage or loss. So the 50/50 solution in this particular case seems absolutely fair to me and I would expect it to apply regardless of working location.
So would you expect an employee to be 50% liable if they damaged their computer in the office? Or someone else's? What about if they tripped over and damaged say, a printer, or a telephone? Or sat down heavily and broke their office chair? Dropping a plate in the office canteen? Breaking a pen or pencil and needing it replacing?

Clearly, that way lies madness, but I can't see why damage at home to an expensive work-issued laptop should be any different from those examples. The principle is exactly the same, only the order of magnitude differs.

And as I've mentioned, I know that most employers simply replace or repair broken equipment - the worst they might do would be to reprimand the culprit if it's happening frequently, but breaking a phone or an ipad every yar or three is almost the norm and no-one would bat an eyelid.
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Old 23.11.2020, 13:58
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Re: Work laptop damage

OR Art 321a states only that the employee must take "due care" of company equipment.

https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classifi...dex.html#a321a

Unless the company has banned drinking at desks, then it is reasonable to assume the company accounted for the risk of spillage in its plans and financial assumptions.

They cannot build a plan based on employees paying for normal situations that they have not prevented.

Employees are liable for wilful or negligent acts, NOT accidents that are not negligent.

https://www.admin.ch/opc/en/classifi...dex.html#a321e
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  #31  
Old 23.11.2020, 14:14
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Re: Work laptop damage

A few years ago, I briefly worked for a company where they tried to make me sign an agreement that the work laptop was my full responsibility, even while in the office.
I noped out of there very quickly after a few laptops were stolen out of company backpacks during a company-wide presentation by the CEO (backpacks were aligned along the back wall, people were sitting in chairs 5m in front of them, and the employees had the price of a brand new laptop deducted from their next pay.
And luckily I never signed that agreement as they tried to make me pay for several items which "were missing" but which they never even gave me (external mouse, 2 chargers, etc).
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  #32  
Old 23.11.2020, 14:51
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Re: Work laptop damage

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So would you expect an employee to be 50% liable if they damaged their computer in the office? Or someone else's? What about if they tripped over and damaged say, a printer, or a telephone? Or sat down heavily and broke their office chair? Dropping a plate in the office canteen? Breaking a pen or pencil and needing it replacing?
I wrote "in this scenario", so it would be great if you responded to what I said rather than launching into a whataboutism rant... The OP mentions some miscommunication with the GF causing the spillage. He was therefore engaged in something not directly related to his work and the laptop was damaged as a consequence. That would go against the concept of "taking due care", no?

As for tripping over a printer - if that happens, the person in charge of maintaining a safe working environment should have to answer for it, especially since most modern office printers are rather large and hard to overlook...
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Old 23.11.2020, 14:52
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Re: Work laptop damage

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. That would go against the concept of "taking due care", no?
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I don't think so.
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Old 23.11.2020, 16:10
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Re: Work laptop damage

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I wrote "in this scenario", so it would be great if you responded to what I said rather than launching into a whataboutism rant... The OP mentions some miscommunication with the GF causing the spillage. He was therefore engaged in something not directly related to his work and the laptop was damaged as a consequence. That would go against the concept of "taking due care", no?

As for tripping over a printer - if that happens, the person in charge of maintaining a safe working environment should have to answer for it, especially since most modern office printers are rather large and hard to overlook...
No, since drinking water while working is a normal practice at every office I've worked in, and therefore inevitable spillage cannot be considered as being against due care.

We used to have drinks bans when computers were unusual, but I haven't seen that anywhere for maybe 20 years. I think if anywhere did do that due to "expensive laptops" we would be reading about it in 20minuten and have a incredulous thread on EF ripping the employers old-fashioned ways.
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  #35  
Old 23.11.2020, 16:34
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Re: Work laptop damage

Fair enough, I simply feel that if someone entrusts their property to me, I have to be extra careful with it. Mind you, I have never broken or lost a mobile phone in 20 years of having one, not even a cracked screen. I'm careful with everything and I expect others to be too.
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  #36  
Old 23.11.2020, 16:38
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Re: Work laptop damage

*** happens take it back to the employer get a replacement free of charge. It might be careless but it's not as if you put it on the tram tracks. Otherwise it stays under their custody in ETH.

What happens if it had occurred on site? Would they have charged then?

As long as it's not the 3rd time it happened why would the employer charge you?

Say the dog ate it.

If ETH is anything like my company it's cheaper to pay for a replacement than pay an insurance, tech equipment is always getting lost, stolen or broken.
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Old 23.11.2020, 16:42
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Re: Work laptop damage

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Fair enough, I simply feel that if someone entrusts their property to me, I have to be extra careful with it. Mind you, I have never broken or lost a mobile phone in 20 years of having one, not even a cracked screen. I'm careful with everything and I expect others to be too.
Same here

I had never spilled water either, until that fateful day when water travelled from one end of a very long table all the way to the other end, then fell like a waterfall on to my PC
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Old 23.11.2020, 16:48
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Re: Work laptop damage

Any chance of the laptop magically working again and then getting stolen?
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Old 23.11.2020, 16:54
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Re: Work laptop damage

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Fair enough, I simply feel that if someone entrusts their property to me, I have to be extra careful with it. Mind you, I have never broken or lost a mobile phone in 20 years of having one, not even a cracked screen. I'm careful with everything and I expect others to be too.
I assume that most people are careful. That's why we call it an accident
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Old 23.11.2020, 23:25
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Re: Work laptop damage

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I assume that most people are careful. That's why we call it an accident
Is getting hit by a car when crossing the street without looking first an accident? Is getting burned when you use the dishcloth to take something out of the oven because you can't be bothered to use the oven gloves? What about having your dog who has eaten shoes in the past chew through your friend's Louboutins after you failed to warn her?

There are accidents and then there are logical or highly probable outcomes of a chosen course of action.
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