Q. Many of our executives use their personal laptops for business purposes. We don’t have a policy governing this practice. We will be terminating our COO and want to know how we can legally go about transferring or deleting all work-related files from his personal computer.
A. It depends on what your company policies and any employment agreements say. Does the company have a policy that any personal property brought on to the company’s premises would be subject to search? As a condition to using personal laptops for business purposes, do employees authorize the company to access company information on the laptops? If so, you should be able to search the computer’s hard drive for company information and documents.
If you do not have policies that authorize you to access and delete files from the employee’s laptop, you can still ask for permission to do so. If the employee refuses, you might have him sign a document attesting that he has transferred or deleted all work-related files and that no work-related files remain on his personal computer.
If he signed a confidentiality agreement during his employment, you should also remind him that the provisions of that agreement continue in force and that they cover any company documents or emails that resided on his laptop.
In the future, consider developing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy to address these issues.