Can an employer ask for personal emails sent from my own computer?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can an employer ask for personal emails sent from my own computer?

My employer is trying to bring a lawsuit against a former employee. He is looking for anything he can find as it is frivolous at best. Some of us have been asked to supply copies of any communications we may have had from our personal emails and devices. I do not have anything to share as all my communications were through the company computer and phone. However, is it legal to make this demand without a subpoena and if there is a subpoena, must people comply?

Asked on April 14, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) Without a subpoena or other legal process, like a court order, it is a request, not a demand, and requests are legal: anyone can ask anything they like, but you don't have to comply unless subpoenaed or ordered.
2) If you were subpoenaed, you would have to comply, unless the information was privileged in some way (e.g. it would tend to criminally incriminate you, so you could invoke the 5th Amendment; it was part of a communication with your attorney, so you'd have attorney-client privilege; etc.) or was wholly irrelevant  to the case in which it was sought (in which case though, you'd have to make a motion to exclude the evidence due to irrelevance and have to convince a judge it was irrelevant). Other than as above, subpoenas for relevant, non-privileged information or documentaton must be complied with.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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