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Can former employer hack into gmail account?


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#1 brickne3

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 12:10 AM

Hi, this whole situation has become a real mess. I was terminated by my former employer a month and a half ago, for reporting sexual harassment by the former employer himself. He has since taken this very personally, as have I. There are a number of issues at hand here.

Anyway, I received a notice in the mail today that he (it is a small business, and run essentially by one man) is appealing my unemployment insurance. At the same time, my mother called to tell me they had received a package of evidence for his claim at their home (at an address on the other side of the state, and specifically not the one I told him to send important correspondence to, and also not the one on file with UI) from him that will apparently be used in the hearing. I do not yet know its contents, but among them, she tells me he is demanding back not only the UI already paid, but also vacation pay which he agreed to pay out in writing, and which I had already reported to UI as income.

After receiving the notification of the hearing, I attempted to log into the gmail account in my name through which we generally conducted business, but was also used for personal reasons. I found out that my password had been changed on March 19th. This was a generic email account in my name that was originally linked to the business account (that link, of course, was severed upon termination, and with it being a gmail account with no official business link, I saw it as my record as to what happened). Anyway, I was able to regain access somehow. Once I had, I saw (but unfortunately did not screenshot because I was in a panic) that the information on the login screen for phone number and email had been changed to my former employers. I do not know how he hacked the account, but saw this as a clear attempt to restrict my access to important information for court which was registered in my name. I was able to confirm it was him, or one of the other two employees that work on-site, by checking the IP addresses of the last 10 logins; 5 matched the IP on March 19th.

Obviously, this has become emotional for all parties, as it often does in small businesses. I am wondering if what he did here was illegal. I have already backed up my evidence, but I would like to know more about the legality of the situation. Any help would be appreciated.

#2 adjusterjack

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 07:58 AM

If the gmail account was used at all for the employer's business then he has a right to the account. Nothing illegal there. Sorry.


Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#3 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 02:17 PM

I disagree with adjusterjack's answer. As he worded it, he's clearly wrong on this one. It is NOT the case that the employer has a right to access ANY e-mail account that was used in any way for business. If an employee uses his own personal e-mail account (one not set up by, maintained by, or otherwise not in the control of the business) to do some work for the employer, the employer does not have the right to access the account, make changes to it, etc. It's not clear who set up the account or what the details were, but if it was your personal account and not one that was set up by the business, he should not have accessed it. If that access caused you any financial damages, you may have a lawsuit for that.

The extent to which it may actually be a crime, however, depends on exactly what the employer did and what state's law applies. Federal law doesn't make it illegal simply to access it in circumstances like this. Federal law bars identity theft and other hacking which is done for fraudulent or other criminal purposes. Some state laws may make simply accessing an account, without more, a crime of some sort perhaps.

#4 adjusterjack

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 04:39 PM

"originally linked to the business account" tells me that the employer had access to and control of the employee's gmail account and retained that control after the employee's termination.

 

My conclusion is still that the employer did nothing illegal by taking back the account.


Warning: Legal issues are complicated. Explanations and comments here are simplified and might not fully explain the ramifications of your particular issue. I am not a lawyer. I do not give legal advice. I make comments based on my knowledge and experience. I guarantee nothing. If you act on my comments without the advice of an attorney, you do so at your own risk.


#5 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 08:53 AM

Was this your personal email account or your employer's account?






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