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I left my job for another job. My company that I had worked for decided, that they were going to reuse my email address. The email has my name, for example matt@company.com. It was used already for FedEx. I was told it was their email account and he can do what he wants to do with it.

I read that the company can monitor an email account after the person leaves for so many months because of business continuity. So how legal is reusing the email account after the person leaves their job?

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    I'm not a lawyer, but your company owns that domain, and therefore all the email addresses under that domain. They were letting you use it to do your job, so there shouldn't be anything personal ever tied to that email. As far as I know, they can monitor it indefinitely - they own it. – Undo Nov 2 '15 at 15:54
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    If anything, this illustrates why you shouldn't conduct personal business from an employer's account. – Aaron Hall Nov 2 '15 at 15:54
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    Aside from this question requiring a location tag to generate any useful replies, it's also a pure legal question and one that requires significant interpretation of case law and the specific situation. This is not on-topic here. – Lilienthal Nov 2 '15 at 16:23
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    I am at a loss as to why you should even care if the email address gets reused. That's like caring if they give your old work computer or desk to someone else. – HLGEM Nov 2 '15 at 19:25
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    "It was used already for FedEx" - if you (accidentally) used your work email address to sign up for a 3rd-party service, contact that service and tell them that you changed your email address. You'll usually have to verify some other information you gave them, like your password or your secret questions like "what is your mother's maiden name" or something like that. – Brandin Nov 3 '15 at 8:32
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Completely legal. Whoever controls the domain can do whatever they want with emails that come to that domain. They can read your email, delete it, send emails with false information to other people from that address, or do whatever they want with it. It's their email server. The courts have ruled that people can do whatever they want with their own email servers and you have no expectation of privacy.

For example, if you have an account on Google's email servers, like matt@gmail.com then Google can read your email, delete your account, or basically do whatever they want. Same goes for your old company.

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    I'm pretty sure that they are not allowed to impersonate you. Other than that, it's fair game. – nvoigt Nov 2 '15 at 16:05
  • @nvoigt Actually they can and absolutely will impersonate you if they have business reason to do so. As long as no tort is created they can legally impersonate you and conduct business in your name as it exists on their domain. – Socrates Nov 2 '15 at 16:13
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    I don't know where you live and if it's legal there, but I can tell you that impersonating another person is illegal in Europe. You can get their mail and write back telling your contact that the former owner has left, but you may not lie about who you are. You can use whatever email address you like, but claiming to be that person is a straight lie. – nvoigt Nov 2 '15 at 16:18
  • @nvoigt My answer applies to the United States. In the United States you can only successfully sue in this situation if the employer damages you. If an employer impersonates you for their own business purposes and does not damage you, there is no case. – Socrates Nov 2 '15 at 16:37
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    @Socrates "you can only successfully sue in this situation if the employer damages you" this is not true at all. If you can prove that the company benefited from impersonation as you, then that could be considered fraud. Regardless, this is a question for an attorney, not people on the internet. In the case that the person is sending email and pretending to be you, you can get an attorney to send a C&D letter to your employer. If they use it further, then you can pursue them in court if you have a case. – Christopher Nov 2 '15 at 18:40
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I read that the company can monitor an email account after the person leaves for so many months because of business continuity. So how legal is reusing the email account after the person leaves their job?

In general, email accounts at any company are not like a player’s number on a baseball team; it doesn’t get retired after you leave.

Your email address at any company is not—and never—your email address ever for any reason. The company can do whatever they want with that email address and you have 100% no say in the matter.

That said, you imply you still have access to that email account by stating this:

It was used already for FedEx.

How would you know they are using your email for FedEx? Do you still have the account on a phone or computer you personally own? If you are still using/accessing that email address, you should stop immediately. If you continue to access that account in any way for any reason after you leave you open yourself up to legal liability.

And on the offhand chance you have been using that company email for personal use, you should be unwind that as much as possible. Contact people you know and let them know you cannot be contacted at that address any more and if you have any accounts on websites connected to that email, change that email address immediately.

That said, if the company somehow decides to use that account address to impersonate you for some reason, that would then open up the company to legal liability. The problem there is how can you prove—or even suspect—something like that? It’s not easy to prove to say the least, and the practical reality is most people don’t want to impersonate other people via email and most companies don’t have the time or need to do so. So that is an edge case; so don’t really worry about it but it’s just something to keep in mind.

Past any of that the fact you still have access to that account is disconcerting. Most companies do the following when an employee leaves:

  • Disable the account by changing the password to something only the I.T. department knows.
  • They set a vacation/auto-reply message stating that the employee at that email address and any further business might need to be redirected to this other staffer at this other email address or phone number.
  • Leave the account dormant until a need arises for it to be reused. Such as if a new employee with the same name comes onboard and such. In many cases email accounts will just sit dormant and unused collecting mails until the system administrator decides to delete or purge the account.

So honestly if you still have access to the account, you might want to not only remove the account from your email programs but also—as a professional courtesy—contact someone at the company and give them a heads up about it. Be 100% honest that you still had access but don’t need it anymore and state something like, “I thought someone would have locked the account or at least changed the password after I left?” Be clear and transparent about this.

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I always advocate to never use your work email for personal reasons. I'm a developer. At my last company we had email accounts and yes, the manager would "inherit" the email to determine if there are any messages from scripts or otherwise that wouldn't get caught. This is to protect themselves from finding out way down the road that you wrote a script that does something important but nobody else remembered/knew.

So yes, it is legal for a company to monitor and inspect their systems. From what I remember post-Enron era is that companies have to keep emails stored for 5 years. Not sure if that is tied into every industry or just financials.

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