By now, you should have an electronic communications policy and know to block computer access to newly terminated employees.
But it’s also wise to prohibit current employees from forwarding e-mails from the company computer to their personal e-mail accounts outside the company.
Otherwise, it’s all too easy for people—whether they’re current or former employees—to use those forwarded e-mails to bolster a lawsuit, compete against your company or expose company trade secrets.
Recent case: Arizant Holdings terminated Gregory Gust for . It gave Gust a $70,000 severance payment and also allowed him to continue to use the company e-mail system for a few weeks, supposedly to let clients know he would no longer be working for the company.
Arizant sued Gust because he allegedly broke a noncompete agreement by forwarding e-mails from his company account to his home account and then on to a competitor.
But the court tossed out the case, saying that since Arizant didn’t have a no-forwarding policy, Gust hadn’t broken any promises. (Arizant v. Gust, No. 08-CV-1283, DC MN, 2009)
Final note: Always have an attorney review any severance package deals. In this case, the payment was in exchange for not suing Arizant. The settlement didn’t mention what would happen if the employee went into competition with the former employer.
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