Is it illegal to allow a terminated employee to come back and delete emails and files

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is it illegal to allow a terminated employee to come back and delete emails and files

A former Controller after 18 years is terminated. She was allowed to come back by
the CFO’s approval to come into her old office and delete files and emails from
her computer. Keep in mind, this person was heavily attempting to get the non-
profit to comply with her request. The allowed it to happen. The HR Director was
against it from the start and mentioned that ‘we don’t know of what is on her PC
and what and why she wants to delete, she won’t tell us.’ It was overruled and
she was allowed to come back. Meanwhile, the HR Director refused to assist in the
efforts to allow her to do so. This has to deal with a very large church non-
profit financial department.

Asked on August 1, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not illegal. Termination means you don't have the *right* to be there or use company equipment, etc., but it doesn't mean you are legally barred from being at work or doing anything with company files, equipment, etc.--if the employer wants to let the terminated employee come and site and delete things, it can.
It is, however, highly unwise to let a terminated employee come and delete files and emails--she may be deleting things the employer needs, or things which shows what happened to money, or things which show legal violations, etc. I cannnot imagine *why* they would let her do this--but they could.

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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