Good employees are the backbone when it comes to running a successful business. If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, however, you’ve probably lost an employee or two to a competitor. It’s not pretty, but it’s a business thing and does happens. Presumably, you have a non-solicitation agreement in place that protects your customer base from being lured away by any such employee (if you don’t, consult with an experienced business attorney). Even if you’re convinced that your former employee is not above sneaky tactics like soliciting your customers, however, it’s probably in your best business-interest not to go snooping for electronic clues.
The Stored Communications Act
Even if you have access to your former employee’s web-based emails from his or her term of employment, the Stored Communications Act probably precludes you from accessing them. In fact, a Maryland federal court has found that if a business accesses its former employee’s personal emails without that employee’s permission it could amount to a violation of the Stored Communications Act. This act is violated when someone intentionally accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided or intentionally exceeds an authorization to access that facility and thereby obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage in such system.
What Does That Even Mean?
The Stored Communications Act, though cumbersome, provides that emails that are stored either on a server like Gmail before they’ve been delivered to or retrieved by the intended recipient or that are stored for back-up purposes on a server like Gmail are off limits to employers.
Keep Your Employment Dealings Squeaky Clean
Even if you can access your former employees’ web-based emails (from their terms of employment) without their explicit permission, resist the urge. If a former employee were to prevail in court by proving that you accessed such email, that employee could be awarded attorney fees, equitable relief, and statutory damages. Keep your head in the game by nurturing your business and ignoring the siren song of your former employee’s emails.
If You Have Employment Concerns, Call 732 238-8686 Today
The Stored Communications Act can be confusing and cumbersome, but it probably protects your former employees’ emails. Protect your business and yourself by finding out how this act affects your business. If you have questions, Bowne Barry & Barry Attorneys at Law has answers. Our business attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and skill to help you navigate the Stored Communications Act and beyond. For more information, please contact or call the law office of Bowne Barry & Barry at 732 238-8686 today.