What to do if I downloaded my work computer files from my computer after I was terminated and my former emloyer has threatened to take action against me?

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What to do if I downloaded my work computer files from my computer after I was terminated and my former emloyer has threatened to take action against me?

The company I was working for was paying it employee’s improperly; you name it they were guilty of it. Being in accounting, I brought it to the Office Manager’s attention and then I started getting written up for anything and everything. I finally got terminated. Later that evening, I downloaded some the of the evident files (being undecided) if I wanted to go to the Labor Board. Then 3 days after my termination, I received a call from an attorney stating that they know that I accessed my company and downloaded files and that they will not press charges if I bring my computer in.

Asked on May 25, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Return the files, if you are not willing to take the chance of lawsuit and/or criminal charges--what you did is stealing. The computer files are the property of your employer and you have no legal right to them, even if you think they would be useful to you or contain evidence of wrongdoing.

In addition to returning them, what you can and should do if you feel you have grounds for a lawsuit and that these files are necessary is to file a lawsuit quickly, as you are returning them, and have your attoreny bring a motion for an injunction (court order) barring the employer from destroying these files, and also asking for copies of the files as part of "discovery" (e.g. as part of a request for the production of documents).

Or if you do not want to bring your own lawsuit, contact the department of labor IMMEDIATELY, explain the sitaution to them, and see if they will take some legal action to preserve the files.

But remember: withoiut some court order or the like requiring that the files be turned over to you or the court, you have no right to them. Therefore, what you have done by uniilaterally taking them is wrongful, and you could suffer liability for it.


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