I started a job in industry after a postdoctoral position in a university. A few months later, I received an email from an administrator (with whom I had issues) regarding some official paperwork. When I replied, my email signature was still the old one exactly as:

John Doe

Postdoctoral Fellow

University X

In my previous job, I used the personal email, but now I have to use the corporate email. This is why I did not use my personal email for months after the move.

However, the administrator in question replied that I am illegally using the employer name, and she will forward the case to the disciplinary committee.

What should I do? Does this honest mistake put me in a legal trouble?

closed as off-topic by Philip Kendall, Masked Man, Mister Positive, carrdelling, Retired Codger Apr 30 '18 at 17:46

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  • 4
    Why are you worried about the disciplinary committee of a former employer, what are you concerned that they might do? – JeffUK Apr 30 '18 at 8:35
  • 4
    If she wants to waste her time over such a silly issue, let her do so. Why do want to worry about it? This kind of case will be thrown out of court for being frivolous and wasting the court's time. – Masked Man Apr 30 '18 at 9:08
  • @JeffUK I got my current position by the recommendation letter of the previous employer. Can't the previous employer send a second letter? Nobody likes people with a history of trouble. – Kumar Apr 30 '18 at 9:30
  • 1
    @kumar they can, and you can sue them for defamation of character/ libel/ etc. depending on your jurisdiction (a question for legal.stackexchange). Just tell the administrator "I have done no such thing" and move on – JeffUK Apr 30 '18 at 9:54
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    Why have you not been using your personal email for "several months?" You should only be using your corporate email for official company business, and use your personal email for everything else. Corporate policies & legal issues aside, tying your personal email address to something that can change easily (employer, internet provider, etc.) is just going to make things difficult in the future. – alroc Apr 30 '18 at 11:40

the administrator in question replied that I am illegally using the employer name, and she will forward the case to the disciplinary committee


She is being very silly and her "threat" is fairly immature, but she has pointed out that you have made a mistake. Easy to fix, remove it from your footer, will not lead to legal issues so don't worry about it!

The longer version:

This question has fairly legal connotations and therefore depends on the jurisdiction you are in. I can only speak for the UK but you would need to prove the act occurred (which they can from the email - the "actus reus") and the actual intent to commit the act (the mental intent to commit the act or "mens rea" - which they would have a pretty hard time proving here).

Even after actus reus and mens rea, in the UK you cannot just take someone to court and expect a large lump of cash to come from it, you also need to prove loss or damage, otherwise you are going to "win" technically but actually lose because you just went through a court case and got nothing in return for your "win" except a hefty legal bill (which the court can actually decide you have to pay if you lose but that is assuming this would get to court, which it wouldn't - EVER).

All of the above is totally moot though since this person is suggesting sending this to some disciplinary committee that surely has no bearing on your current employment and even if they did, should have the competence to see that this was an honest oversight on your part, not some criminal mastermind trying to use an email footer for nefarious means.

I would however take the time to respond (after ensuring you have removed the footer message) and let her for know you've fixed your mistake and that you have removed the email footer from future email.

  • 2
    I agree that informing them that you've updated your email signature would be wise. They should have simply reminded you to change it. – Glen Pierce Apr 30 '18 at 14:53

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