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What Would You Do? The case of the demanding Notary boss

A person pointing at someone in blame, while the person being blamed covers their face.

The NNA Notary Hotline takes calls from Notaries across the country every day asking about tricky and difficult notarization situations. To boost your knowledge of Notary standards of practice, the NNA presents a situation based on a real-life Notary case and asks the question: What would you do?

Imagine you’re a Notary getting ready to leave your current place of employment. As you are taking care of the final details of your departure, your boss calls you into his office.

“You’ve worked for us as a Notary, but since you are leaving, you need to turn over your journal, Notary seal and bond to us,” your boss tells you. “We paid for you to become a Notary, so those items belong to us by rights. If you won’t do it, we’re not going to provide you with your final paycheck.”

What would you do?

Do you think the employer has the right to demand your tools if someone else paid for you to become a Notary? What do you think about the employer threatening to withhold a paycheck if the tools aren’t turned over to him? How would you handle this situation?

Share your answers in the comments section below. We may mention your response in an upcoming July 2024 Bulletin article when we offer the recommended solution to this difficult Notary situation.

David Thun is the Editorial Manager at the National Notary Association.

View All: Best Practices

25 Comments

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Kenneth Burke

24 Jun 2024

I would remind the boss that nonpayment of wages is illegal.

Tabatha Tuskey

25 Jun 2024

I have all of documentation together for my notary, including the information that states that the notary belongs to the person whose name is on the seal. I would produce that information and remind them that it is illegal to withhold a paycheck, but I would me more than will to contact the board of labor and get them involved if necessary.

Heidi

26 Jun 2024

I would inform my boss that, as a notary, my duty is to my state, not my employer. Regardless of whether an employer pays for a notary's supplies and commission, the notary is personally responsible for safeguarding their records. If pressed, I would offer to resign my commission, destroy my stamp, and surrender my journal to the state authority (if appropriate in that jurisdiction) at the employer's request in order to prove that I would not continue to benefit from anything the employer paid for on my behalf during my employment, but under no circumstances would I turn anything over to them. (I could then reapply later for a new commission on my own, or if needed by a new employer.) If the threat to withhold wages continued, I would inform them I would be contacting an attorney, and then do so.

Debra

27 Jun 2024

Well, I am required to be a notary at work, but paid dearly for all the courses, the bond, the stamp, the log book...myself. So, I would take it with me. Not sure I would say too much else though. I don't believe my boss would say that, but may be surprised.

Miranda

08 Jul 2024

My former employer actually attempted this aside from threatening to withhold my wages. They actually threatened to make me repay them for the courses, stamp, book bond and exam. I verified that everything did in fact belong to me and they had no legal claim to my stamp, book or bond and told them bluntly that per notary regulations/laws everything was my property, and I would be taking it all with me.

Ruth

08 Jul 2024

Even though my employer paid for my classes and the stamp, they are mine if I choose to leave the place. That is what they taught us in class (NC). It is my property.

J.D. Walker (Virginia/Maryland)

08 Jul 2024

I'm with Heidi on this one. If the employer is adamant about the notary turning over the seal and journal, who knows what they intend to do with it? They may order another employee to use it illegally and then the departing notary is on the hook. So yeah, I'd offer to resign my commission, destroy the stamp, and surrender the journal to the Secretary of the Commonwealth/State's notary office. I'd tell the boss, that's my offer, take it or leave it, and if you continue to threaten to withhold my final paycheck I'll take it to the labor board.

PG

08 Jul 2024

If I was the party that financed my own education and supplies, they are my personal property. UNLESS something about my work method was suspected to be unethical or unlawful and the management was conducting an investigation about my practices, then a proper procedure would be to suspend me from my duties temporarily until facts were discovered and a choice of discipline was made. Otherwise, I should keep my duties and supplies as assigned.

PATRICK G HUDSON JR

08 Jul 2024

If an employer trained me for a certain job and I then left the company to a parallel position I don't owe the company anything...it was part of their human resources expenses and I should be free to go. So this Notary should take his or her supplies, especially the stamp with personal information on it and move on. ULESS there was some confidentiality or other agreement signed at hiring that precludes the employee from taking their tools with them.

Dee

08 Jul 2024

My Notary Commission was obtained long before joining the company currently employed with. Current employer has paid for very little towards my commission renewals, seal and other needs. There is no way I would relinquish anything. As far as stating they would withhold my last paycheck, I would make it known that is illegal. I trust my employer and do not anticipate experiencing this scenario.

Dee Harrison

08 Jul 2024

A Notary has the duty to protect their stamp a commission number. They should never be left idle, nor in the possession of anyone, even a buddy. The State has Commissioned you, not for a period of empty, but for the period that is on that stamp. If this is reports to the State that boss will be written a demand letter. Additionally, those are some of the company benefits and to the employer’s advantage while the Notary was hired. That has nothing to do with paycheck. All my staff that has left, I made sure they took their stamp. I would not want to be held responsible for any questionable activities including the stamp, being left I’m off it.

Jade Gable

08 Jul 2024

No, never would I turn the confidential notary records over to a boss. It is illegal to withhold a payroll check for ransom.

Daniel Lovejoy

08 Jul 2024

In my state, all journals and seals belong to the attorney general's office. I would send the journal and defaced seal to them, and give the boss the telephone number for the office so he can take it up with them. I would also provide the boss with the number for the labor department so he can proactively explain why he is violating the law.

Walter

08 Jul 2024

No, absolutely not.

Tina Laws

08 Jul 2024

In Florida the notary commission belongs to the notary regardless of who pays the necessary initial commission fees and subsequent renewals. The company has no rights to those notarial seals, commission, documents, etc.

Lauri

08 Jul 2024

Although my employer paid for the fees and supplies for me to become a notary for the company, it is still my (the notary) responsibility to protect my stamp and journal. If i leave the company, in Hawaii, it is still the notary's responsibility to inform the Attorney General's office of my departure and resignation of my commission. It is also still my responsibility to surrender my stamp and journal to the AG's office. I would definitely not hand it over to my employer and entrust them with submitting to AG on my behalf, because should they fail to do so, it will fall upon my fault should it not be turned over within the stated timeframes and I would then be responsible for any penalties due to the State. Always always CYA!

Gladys M. Roberts

08 Jul 2024

I would ask the boss to put that in writing and sign it. Then I would state to the boss it is illegal for me to turn my stamp and Notary journal to them. I would show them the law. Then I would walk out with the signed statement and report them to Labor and Industry.

davidnotarizes@gmail.com

09 Jul 2024

It is true that employers try to pull this move all too often. The key here is for notarial professionals to be informed, and know what their rights are and what laws apply. But one thing is consistent nationwide. The notary commission is awarded to a person...not to a company. And as one of the commenters above stated, be ready with this information (check with your Sec of State, Dept of Treas,, or whomever governs notary commissions in your state). Pretty certain the employer will back off if they realize a state entity would be involved in resolving this issue. And as for the pay hold, unless you signed some sort of employment agreement referencing a mandatory employment period you need to abide by....All employment is usually at will for both employee and employer.

Nona Ensley

09 Jul 2024

First I would advise the employer that it is illegal to withhold wages & then advise them that you can withhold the amounts that you provided for me to become a NOTARY but NOT my entire wages...

Andrea

09 Jul 2024

No way - I am commissioned by the State to perform notarial duties. My stamp and journal are mine, personally and my employer has no right to my notary journal/stamp.

Jen Faiz

09 Jul 2024

As I pay for my notary commission and all related materials, I would refuse to submit any notarial journals, stamps, etc. to any company I worked for. If there was ever a scenario where my commission was paid for by an employer, I would still refuse to submit any notarial resources or journals, since they need to ultimately be turned in to the Secretary of State whenever I decide not to renew my commission.

Suzanne

09 Jul 2024

Absolutely not! It doesn’t matter who paid for it, the commission is the responsibility of the person whose name is on it. This is a clear violation of our commission and the law regarding withholding the paychecks. Any written agreement with the employer stating a claim is invalid since the employer has no right to claim the commission, seal, book or bond.

James Holland

11 Jul 2024

It's a terrible thing to be confronted with such adversarial, and potentially illegal behavior. I would remind my boss of my State's regulations regarding Notary responsibilities which include the safeguarding of notary stamp and journal, and are only surrendered to the Secretary of State. If the employer paid for the bond, they can have it cancelled (or notary can reimburse). Regarding training, the notary could consider reimbursing the employer. Here is a thought -- should NNA consider creating a primer for supervisors of notaries?

Nellie

11 Jul 2024

As simpe as l WILL NOT leave any personal belongings behind - that's me, my identity. For my paycheck, I will get thru legal way- that's my money. Thank you.

WINSTON SWANN

11 Jul 2024

This boss has no legal authority to hold the notary’s tools as bargaining chips. The notary is the only person who can use those tools. Anyone who is not a notary and uses notary tools can face multiple fraud charges. I would offer to pay him back the money he spent and never speak to him again. Then I’ll take my tools and make back the money I spent.

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