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So, I thought I hit the jackpot and was offered a full time and salaried position with a software company. This position was more customer focused with some back end responsibilities. I essentially took care of the support queue for local and external tickets and maintained current systems. I was hired for X, Y, and Z and I was capable of doing them. They had short and long term plans to bring new technology into the mix which was exciting. It would mean I would have to learn new things but I don't mind that at all.

It was a fun job for quite some time. Things started to rapidly slow down about a month after I started. The work for me was so simple that it took me an hour to accomplish even though they gave me a week. I came up with a few ideas for some projects since I needed something to do and I got the manager's approval. This involved setting up hosted instances of bug tracking software, creating troubleshooting media, etc. But I kept running into issue after issue.

They were using vastly outdated software, no one had any idea what systems were actually running in the background, and management seemed unaware of the work it takes to go from a 10+ year old piece of software to a modern one. Wall after wall caused me to slow down and lose motivation. During the time they kept dumping more work onto me (which I did ask for, to be fair) but this work required tech I didn't know how to use and wasn't required to be known from the job description. I was essentially self teaching myself how to use AWS and similar packages. As you can imagine, this certainly drained a lot of my time and them asking me to get X amount of servers on AWS that can do U, V, W, X, Y, and Z with each other wasn't an easy task. Most of the work came to a crawl and I explained to them that I had to learn everything before I dove head in. They seemed to be understand but called me into a meeting and told me that it was my last day. I didn't really say anything. Boss helped me gather my stuff and offered condolences. Told me they needed someone who could work faster and they would have to reevaluate what they are looking for.

I got my last paycheck and everything seemed to be OK. Told me he would help me network if needed and I should ask for help if I wanted it. We shook hands and went our ways. He texted me later asking for my Jira Site Admin Credentials and then my local laptop password. I found the text a few days after he sent it since I had a family emergency to attend to. I noticed a follow up text telling me they bypassed Jira but still needed my local laptop password. Now, that makes me highly uncomfortable. I don't know exactly how to respond so I decided to wait on a reply and ask some friends.

I got a letter in the mail from my employer (signed delivery) offering me a compensation package with some conditions. It says I can't do basic things like defame the company, harass the employees, etc. Stuff I am OK with agreeing to and stuff I never planned on doing. But I noticed a weird clause in the middle of the document stating I would have to relinquish my local computer password to them and won't be getting any compensation without it.

Is this normal practice? I'm confused and a bit worried on why they need my password so much. I don't think they're able to get into the laptop but can easily wipe it for the next person without a password. What reason do they need my password for? Should I give it to them?

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  • Is there a reason you don't want to give them the password? – dbeer Mar 23 '18 at 19:50
  • Every single job I've been in as a programmer made me sign a document that stated they are the owners of the computer that I was using and they could have access to it at any point. This is not uncommon. – Kevin Fischer Mar 23 '18 at 19:51
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    Uncommon, but that might just mean their IT team and policies are terrible (and/or you were putting things on places you weren't supposed to). That doesn't really change whether or not you should give them the password though. – Bernhard Barker Mar 23 '18 at 19:59
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    Except that access is usually through an admin account, not having the employee divulge their password, which would probably give them access to facebook, email, personal amazon profiles, all kinds of stuff we don't really think about when using our work computer casually for personal stuff – Bill Leeper Mar 23 '18 at 20:00
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    To the original poster - your question is pretty long and many of the details (ie second, third paragraph) aren't really relevant to your questions in the last paragraph. You may get more answers and more attention by editing for clarity and brevity. – dwizum Mar 23 '18 at 20:07
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  1. Sign nothing before you speak to a lawyer.
  2. Think SERIOUSLY before revealing any passwords.
  3. By giving them your password, you allow them to put your footprint on the system and could cast blame and even liability your way.

Given that they're offering money, they must have had a major OH CRAP! moment. What they're asking isn't particularly unusual, but it is unusual enough to warrant going to a lawyer and discussing your options.

Something is very odd too about the way they're doing this in promising a bonus if you agree to their terms. This raises a bunch of red flags.

See a lawyer and discuss your options.

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Is this normal practice?

This is normal in the sense that nothing on your work laptop is normally private, but it's abnormal in that the vast majority of companies have ways to access your work laptop without needing your password.

What reason do they need my password for? Should I give it to them?

I can't account for any special reasons you might have for not wanting to give it to them, but there are normal reasons they might want it. For example, they might've messed up their licensing and have paid for software that can only be used on that computer and could be lost if they wiped it, or they might want to recover data from something on that computer. These seem extra likely here because it seems like the IT department at this company dropped the ball a bit.

Other things to consider

  • If you used a common password that you don't want them to know, then you could ask them if you could change it to something you aren't using for other accounts and then give them that new password.
  • If you have personal data you want to remove from the computer (saved passwords, etc.) then you could discuss that with them before giving them the password, and you might be able to reach an agreement where you still get the money (companies are usually really touchy about this and you might have to be supervised).
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  • giving them his password allows them to login as him. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 23 '18 at 20:50
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    It would allow them to sign in as him, but he'd have a document proving he provided them with the password and further documentation showing that he was fired beforehand. I don't think they can meaningfully impersonate him, but it's good to be cautious so I'll update my answer. – dbeer Mar 23 '18 at 21:18
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Obviously you setup a quite a few things and they don't understand them. They think your computer might be of some help, or a lot of help it seems. So they want your password so they can login.

Downside is that you probably had a number of saved passwords there including personal email, google profiles, personal AWS.

It seems like a no sign to me. You could potentially offer to help them with some particular account access or something, but the computer access is too much of a blank check IMO.

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    But it is their PC. – Sandra K Mar 23 '18 at 19:56
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    Doesn't matter, it is your password, and you do not have to provide it. If they wanted access, they should have setup a back door (i.e. admin password) when they provided it. – Bill Leeper Mar 23 '18 at 19:56
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    They also did not realize the value you had to the company when they 'fired' you. They clearly did not think things through. – Bill Leeper Mar 23 '18 at 19:58
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    @dwizum former employer. OP has no obligation to them anymore. – Lumberjack Mar 23 '18 at 20:28
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    @SandraK it's their PC, not their password. Hell, with hacker tools like PC Unlock, you can get into a PC in 30 seconds, regardless of password. Ditto that with a boot disk. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 23 '18 at 20:39
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Is this normal practice?

Absolutely yes, It is completely normal. And based on your initial contract, if there was one when you started, if you don't provide them with the password (because the computer is theirs and not yours) you might go into legal matters with them.

You should have gave them what they own when they gave you what you own (manager helped you get your stuff). But nothing is too late, and they are asking for it, what you should do now is just give them the password. Unless there is a reason you don't want to?

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    I disagree. If the computer was setup right they would have the admin password and could access any files or such they needed, but still would not be able to get to your personal profiles for email or other accounts. Clearly they do not fully know what they are doing and I would not give them access. – Bill Leeper Mar 23 '18 at 19:56
  • If you disagree, that does not mean that my answer is not a useful and that you should downvote it ... – Sandra K Mar 23 '18 at 19:56
  • I hope this comment doesn't give offense, but I wanted to share a relevant link. If you believe an answer is incorrect, that is an appropriate reason to downvote. – Lumberjack Mar 23 '18 at 20:04
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    I think you are wrong. It is their PC and they have the PC. It is not their password. – paparazzo Mar 23 '18 at 20:22
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    Terrible advice here, never give away your password. If they pay you enough you might visit and change it. – Desmond Zhou Mar 24 '18 at 3:27

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