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I have switched my job and now I am working in an multinational company. But, prior to that I was in a startup. There was a government project, which I almost did it by myself. I had a full day of knowledge transfer about the project before my last working day, and I had kept all necessary personnel in an email loop.

Now, the client for that project has approached me to ask for some information about the source code, the hosting server details, the website link, the progress made and so on. When I informed that I have left that company, the client said that he would ask me should he have more questions. I told him that I am no longer authorized to do anything related to that project. And I no longer have access to any information regarding the project, including any source code. I also told them to contact the respective people associated with the project.

But the client kept insisting that the people associated and the server management team, etc. are not helping them and that I would help them.

I have already informed some colleagues of my past company (whom I am in touch with), to inform the HR about this, but should I inform the HR of my current company as well? What should be my actions now?

Update:- I sent the client an email as follows, following @gnasher729's advice.

The officials from the <client> approached me in regards 
to the details of the <project>.Please note that I, 
<my name>,  am no longer working on that project, 
and am no longer employed with my previous employer.
 
In addition, I have transferred all the details 
of the project, including the source code, to the concerned people, 
as per the agreement with my former employer. 
I do not own/have knowledge on anything related to the project.

 So, the <project> is now the responsibility 
of <old employer>. Therefore, I request you <client> 
to contact <old employer> with queries related to 
the project (source code, the progress made, 
the login credentials and so on).  

Thanks and Regards 

<name>

Now, I got another call from client again, 2-3 days after sending this email, and he was asking me about the login credentials again. So, I informed my previous employer again. Then, I got a call from one of the employees from previous company, who is like an assistant to the old manager, who was asking me, if I remember the login credentials, the database table, the structure, etc. I told him that I don't remember, but he (the employee who asked me the database table and all) told me that he would ask me again, should he have more doubts. I seriously don't know what is going on, and I don't know how to answer that. I have done everything that was advised here, but I wasn't expecting my old employer to ask me details about the project, even when I had completed knowledge transfer , with 3-4 people.

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  • 12
    The correct answer here is "No". See gnasher729's answer on how to make it stick.
    – Hilmar
    Aug 3 at 11:44
  • 3
    If you've told them "no" in any of the ways suggested here, maybe it's time to block them from contacting you? Most email services allow you to do this
    – ThaRobster
    Aug 3 at 12:56
  • 1
    @ThaRobster They are calling me.
    – Asish
    Aug 3 at 14:24
  • 3
    @Asish All modern mobile operating systems allow you to block numbers, some service providers will do this for you as well
    – ThaRobster
    Aug 3 at 15:00
  • 36
    @Asish: "They are calling me." Learn from that mistake and never ever again give a client your private phone number.
    – Heinzi
    Aug 3 at 16:41

5 Answers 5

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Send an email to the client and CC'd to your old employer, stating that you don't work for the old employer anymore, that according to the old company's guidelines you retained no relevant information, and that even if you did it would be a huge violation of the old company's confidence to pass any such information on.

Add that you do not know what the relationship between the client and the old employer is, and that as far as you are concerned, the client might not be entitled to any of that information at all. Then add that you will send any further correspondence directly to the old company's legal department.

PS. You definitely wouldn’t have any login credentials unless your employer explicitly told you to take that kind of information with you. In writing, obviously. If you had, you wouldn’t admit to it. (I did though have the phone once that was used for two-factor authentication for a forgotten account. To recover the account, the company had to enter all kinds of information that was stored in a safe place, then a six digit code was sent to my phone, which I gave over the phone to an ex-colleague, who was then able to change the number for 2FA. )

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    I think this answer is slightly better than Philip's because you protect yourself better if you alert your former employer about this. For all you know, the client is in a dispute of some kind with the former employer, and if you provide them with any information at all the former employer could claim that you misused (or even stole) confidential and proprietary information. Bringing the former employer into the loop forestalls that possibility.
    – tbrookside
    Aug 3 at 18:25
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    Just on the last Monday I did just that - I needed to reply "I'm sorry to inform you that I no longer work for the company X and I thoroughly deleted all information about projects I did there the day my contract expired. Even if I didn't, any information would no longer be current. Please remove my contact info as a person related to company X from your records, with exception of archival data." It seems it worked.
    – Mołot
    Aug 3 at 22:39
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    A startup with a legal department?
    – usr1234567
    Aug 4 at 6:25
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    @usr1234567 If there is no legal department, then the boss is the legal department :-)
    – gnasher729
    Aug 4 at 9:27
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    @RonJohn years ago their govt decided that "iF yOu HaVe TwO jObS, sOmEoNe ElSe Is BeInG uNeMpLoYeD". If you're thinking that's paving the road to hell with good intentions, it is, just look at the [relieving letter] tag for how it gets abused. Aug 4 at 13:57
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You've done everything right. Personally, I would send one last mail to the client along the lines of

As I have previously stated, I cannot help you with this project - you should contact some.person@your.previous.company

Please do not contact me about this again.

but the other option would just be to ignore them.

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  • Okay, but do I need to inform my current company that the client was approaching me?
    – Asish
    Aug 3 at 8:47
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    Not really, as long as you don't do anything for that client. If you have a nice legal department, some people in legal departments would really enjoy writing the letter that you send to that old client, just for fun.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 3 at 9:12
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    This. I had a similar situation (that I suspect was set up) where a client emailed me asking for help on something. Now, how they wound up finding my personal email address aside, I directed them to the former employer. Had they not immediately stopped, this would have been my next step. Aug 3 at 15:18
  • 3
    @Asish You might need to inform your current company if you did help the client. Why would you need to tell them anything about something you're not doing? Do you think they care that the client is bothering you -- that's not their problem.
    – Barmar
    Aug 3 at 19:34
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    -1 because this is missing the very important point made in gnasher729's answer: this needs to be done by including the previous employer in the loop.
    – laszlok
    Aug 4 at 11:09
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But, the client kept insisting that the people associated & server management team, etc. are not helping them and that I would help them.

Well, to look at it from a professional angle - not your problem.

The client is not of yours, but to the organisation. If the organisation is not capable enough to handle their own problem (in terms of client questions), the client should find a new vendor. You really cannot do anything about it.

Even with all the good intentions, if you try to communicate with the client on the technical side of the work/ project, you might be very well violating some form of NDA or confidentiality clause (yes, even if you do not have access to the code / design / deployment and you know them by heart), and you do not have the authority anymore (example - you don't know the status of the contract, or whether they even have a running contract at all).

Do not engage.

Just keep repeating the refusal statement, along the lines what Philip said in the other answer.

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I am not sure what you think about the past project. You explain that you don't have any right to do anything on this project, but if there were no such problem, would you be inclined to help the past client? If yes, then maybe you could tell the client that you might help him if (1) you have authorization from your previous company and (2) if you are paid - by the client or by the company. If the client cannot get the authorization for you from the company, it's his problem.

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You have good answers already on what to do if you do not want to help.

But if, for your own personal reasons, would like to help out?

Stop one would be to inform your new employer about the situation (you are loyal to them) and ask for guidance.

In the larger picture there are four parties involved that need to be aware of each other and in agreement:

  1. The client should contact your old company as the work has to go through them or at a minimum be allowed. This is the only way you can get a release to actually work on the product (as you have signed agreements to not do it). The client needs to be clear on how to compensate you and/or the old company and/or your new company.

  2. The old company should give you an assignment / contract work or at a minimum a written release to do the work.

  3. Your new company will have to give you a permit to work "on the side" on your own time, or if you do consulting time they could charge for your time. Asking for guidance from them is probably a plus for you as it shows that you are willing to help your old company as well as abiding by your agreements both with your old and your new employer.

  4. You will do anything only if both the old company and your new employer are happy and has expressed this in writing. And if you feel that you get the compensation (monetary or other) that makes it worth doing.

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    Agree in principal but I suggest you put the 4 parties in a different order - 1) talk to new company (as you say this is first step), 2) talk to old company 3) tell customer you will only work on it with approval/compensation from old company, 4) let them sort it out & only work on it if everything aligns.
    – Dragonel
    Aug 4 at 14:03

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