What legal rights does an ex-employee have when he discovers that his old company email address is still active? We contacted an attorney for the answer to this question.


I received this email from a TechRepublic member:

I don’t know where to go to with this question. Please help me if you can.

After 2 years that I left my former employer, that company still receives emails at my old account (also my voice-mail still works apparently). This is amusing, perplexing, and somewhat annoying.

Can they keep the e-mail account and voice mail open forever?

Interesting question. I contacted Lawrence Graves, an attorney with Coolidge & Graves, PLLC. This is his reply:

The company/employer owns all data on its hardware, including e-mail archives. The employee has no rights at all in his e-mail identity. Ordinarily, as a courtesy, employers tend to keep old accounts active for a limited time in order to avoid rejecting business-related communications, and forward personal e-mails to the former employee. There would potentially be an issue if the employer used the former employee’s e-mail to perpetuate a false impression that the employee remained with the company, but simply mining the incoming traffic is certainly within the employer’s rights.

Of course, there’s always the chance that the people at your previous company have somehow forgotten to shut down your email address. You might want to contact someone there to let them know.