7

It's just me and my boss in a start-up company. He sent out an email under my name to one of the companies we work with. I asked him to refrain from doing that in the future, because it wasn't right. His answer was that it's his money, his company and he can do what he wants.

I feel as if there is a case of identity theft here, and somewhat violated. Does he have the right to send out emails under my name?


Some details:

I'm the administrative assistant, and my emails are signed as such, with my name, title, etc., as if I wrote it. When something is sent out from my email, the recipient will think that I wrote the email, when in fact I had no knowledge of it until I saw the reply to it in my in-box.

My boss sent the mail at 1:00 am on Sunday morning using my laptop because his was not there.

closed as off-topic by Philip Kendall, paparazzo, Kent A., gnat, Adam V Apr 5 '16 at 14:13

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Questions seeking advice on company-specific regulations, agreements, or policies should be directed to your manager or HR department. Questions that address only a specific company or position are of limited use to future visitors. Questions seeking legal advice should be directed to legal professionals. For more information, click here." – Philip Kendall, paparazzo, Adam V
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  • 1
    As a legal matter, probably (it will depend on your location and the laws of your country but purely legal matters are off topic). Is it possible that you really ought to have a shared service account that multiple people can use (say support@yourcompany.com)? If multiple people are interacting with clients, it can be convenient to have everything in a single account. – Justin Cave Apr 4 '16 at 23:04
  • @JustinCave Convenient yes but this convenience comes at the cost of security. How will you be trace a specific email to an individual user if shared email accounts are used? – Anthony Apr 4 '16 at 23:28
  • @Anthony His company his problem – paparazzo Apr 5 '16 at 1:46
  • 6
    @Joe - Perhaps I should have been more clear. I'm the administrative assistant, and my emails are signed as such, with my name, title, etc., as if I wrote it. When something is sent out from my email, the recipient thinks that I wrote the email, when in fact I had no knowledge of it until I saw the reply to it in my in-box. His company, MY name! – Fern Apr 5 '16 at 3:26
  • What logic is your boss using to think this works? Why would he need to send an e-mail on your behalf? Doesn't he want the recipient to respond to him instead of you? If he wants you to see something, why not just forward it to you after he gets it? – Nelson Apr 5 '16 at 5:41
9

Aside from an legal matter, it is a bad idea from a security perspective to be using shared email accounts. When email accounts are shared, user accountability is lost. If a miscommunication were to happen, how will you be able to trace back to the individual responsible? Even worse, what happens in the case of a security breach and you need to rely on a email message as part of evidence?

Having said the above, it is your boss's company and he has the right to set the rules. If you do not feel comfortable with the current practice, A good first step would be to have a conversation with your manager.

Try to understand:

  1. Why your manager feels this practice is beneficial?
  2. Underlying business purpose - if any

Communicate your concerns:

  1. Lack of user accountability.
  2. Potential unauthorized use of this account
  3. Client confusion as to a central point of contact

Most managers are reasonable. Best of luck!

  • He sent this at 1 am Sunday morning using my laptop because his was not there. It wasn't anything that couldn't wait for me to send Monday morning. He didn't capitalize the name of the person he was sending it to, and wrote it in such a way that I never would have written it. – Fern Apr 5 '16 at 0:37
  • You can put someone else's email address in the "From:" part of a messagel without having access to their account. Usually, it's the other way around where an assistant is sending an email for the boss. – user8365 Apr 5 '16 at 8:15
  • @JeffO With Exchange at least you'd need to set that up explicitly: the sender has to have 'delegate' permission for the 'from' account. – Rup Apr 5 '16 at 8:40
  • @Rup: Yes, some email clients or servers may restrict modifying the "From:" header. However, you can always send using a client which allows it, and there is nothing (reliable & widespread) in the email protocols itself to stop this. Hence the whole phishing problem. – sleske Apr 5 '16 at 9:56
8

This is a bad idea, both for practical and legal reasons. It is also, in my opinion, rather disrespectful to impersonate an employee, but as your boss obviously sees this differently, it will probably not help to argue that personal point.

However, you could ask to talk to your boss in private, and point out the problems with his approach.

Practical reasons

Sending mail under someone elses name will look shady and questionable to many people, so there is a real risk the correspondent will take this badly if they find out. This could happen as easily as the correspondent phoning you to ask about the mail, and you saying "I did not send that".

In addition to that, the other side probably does not care who answers, as long as their problem is handled - so impersonating you creates a risk without a benefit.

Legal reasons

The details will of course depend on jurisdiction, but impersonating may even be a criminal offense. Just writing a mail under someone's name is probably not criminal, but signing a document (such as a letter with a binding offer), or convincing someone to do something because they trust the sender might well be considered forgery or fraud. While an actual criminal case does not seem likely, why take the risk?

Solutions

To reach a solution, it will probably help to understand why your boss did this.

  • Was it just for technical reasons? Maybe the mail was in your mailbox, and he did not realize he could copy/forward it to his own to answer it under his own name? Then resolve that. Maybe a shared customer service mailbox is the answer?
  • You write that your boss used your laptop to send, because his own was not available. This makes it sound like a practical problem. Try addressing that. It might be as simple as giving him an account on your laptop, with his own mail configuration.
  • Did he not want the correspondent to know you are currently not available? Then try to find a solution for how to communicate this.
  • Something else entirely?

Finally, if your boss does not show any signs of wanting to work differently, you'll have to weigh your options. Finding a different job may be your only option.

Also, you might consider explicitly forbidding your boss from sending mails in your name, if your jurisdiction allows for that (in Germany, for example, this is your right, BGB §12). However, you will have to consider how that will impact the relationship to your boss.

4

I'd like to give you another perspective on this one. Your boss was in the office at 1am on a Sunday. That's not really normal. It may be at your firm, but it isn't anywhere else. What's more, he probably hadn't planned to be, because he didn't have his laptop with him.

Something came up that he felt he had to solve immediately by sending an email. It didn't have to be from him but it had to be sent right then and there. It couldn't wait till he got to his laptop. So he signed on to your computer and sent the mail. That's not normal either.

In the midst of all this, your reaction isn't "why did this person panic? What's going on that couldn't wait? Is the company in trouble or is my boss a panicker who is losing control?" It isn't even "hm, my boss can sign on to this computer any time and look at stuff or imitate me." Those are reactions I would expect. Instead, you rebuke him and tell him not to do it again. He clearly didn't plan to do it this time. Despite your phrasing in your question title "is sending", this sounds like a one-time thing to me.

If your boss has a good reason to be all "it doesn't matter whose computer or email it was, they are all mine anyway and it was a crisis!" then your bigger question is "was it really?" If it was, evaluate whether the company is likely to survive it and how you can help, including removing your disapproval of emergency measures like sending emails from the nearest handy account. If it wasn't, think about whether you want to work for someone who panics, takes emergency measures when there is no crisis, and gets all defensive and gruff when you call him on it.

  • The OP posted in another comment that: "He sent this at 1 am Sunday morning using my laptop because his was not there. It wasn't anything that couldn't wait for me to send Monday morning." – Erik Apr 5 '16 at 11:56
3

You may find that it's difficult to present a case against your CEO other than "I object to this action, please don't do it again." At that, his response was "my way, no highway option," and so depending on this outlook you may want to consider how much you value your job at this start-up.

At your own peril, you can also respond to your own emails to these recipients and state that you were not the one involved.

This would be a much different situation if it were your personal email, but at this point the CEO can just as well claim he was simply sending business correspondence mail as it's his company, and his rules.

  • I disagree that there are no good arguments against doing this. The other answers list a few. – sleske Apr 5 '16 at 9:57
  • @sleske I agree that there are good arguments in a normal case. However, this: "It's just me and my boss in a start-up company..", to me, is an extraordinary situation where the normal rules wont apply. – CKM Apr 5 '16 at 13:42
2

There are two issues here. Separating them:

1) The boss used your email address to send an email.

2) The boss signed the email as if he was you.

It is fairly easy to change the "from" to whatever one would like. Spammers do this all the time. The use of one's name in an email address from field by no means is an accurate mechanism by which to securely identify the person for sure. It's up to you to decide if you're okay with him using your email address/laptop after hours. While this is a bit strange, he is the boss and he's made it clear that he calls the shots.

However, the bigger issue here is that the boss impersonated you. Consider if the boss had sent the email at 1am from the your email address, but had signed it as himself. There would be no impersonation, the your name wouldn't be tied to the email because the sign-off would have been the boss. This would have been much less of an issue.

I would recommend requesting that if the boss does decide to use your email address at 1am for convenience (since he seems to want to be able to do this), he signs the emails with his own name. This way, it is clear from exactly whom the email originates. If he refuses this request, then that is a much bigger reason to be concerned since now he is blatantly requiring that he may impersonate you. At this point, it's a matter of deciding if he is the kind of boss you want to have.

-2

Does he have the right to send out emails under my name?

If it's a company email account he can do whatever he wants. It's not unusual for email accounts in some companies to have fake (ish) names on them or even just job titles eg information.officer@whatever.com

One of my guys emails is steve@mydomain.com because his real firstname is over 25 letters long` It doesn't sound anything like 'Steve' either. But makes no difference.

Bottom line is, his company, his email, his choice.

  • 3
    As this isn't tagged with any country, you are right, it's his choice, but his choice is illegal in Europe. Impersonating other people is a crime, regardless of who pays for the email server. – nvoigt Apr 5 '16 at 4:42
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    pretty much my point, I don't understand how you see this as a serious attempt at impersonation. But I'll let it be. – Kilisi Apr 5 '16 at 5:01
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    @Migz we talking 'real life' or fantasy, I just can't see that happening very often (at all), plus it's NOT his email address, it's one belonging to the company... – Kilisi Apr 5 '16 at 11:20
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    @Kilisi It may not be his e-mail, but he still represents it and is responsible for it unless it is stated otherwise. Whether things are fantasy or not, other uncomfortable events may happen. Yes, the company can do with your email address what they want, as long as it doesn't violate any fundamental laws. Which in Europe, this action does. If it didn't it'd still raise too many red flags. – Migz Apr 5 '16 at 11:50
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    Just to add some more information, he hired me as a 1099 Independent Contractor, not as an employee. I took it because I needed the money and I'm saving aside 10% of my pay for taxes, and for those outside the US there are no liabilities on his part this way and my income is not covered by Social Security and I'm not eligible for unemployment this way. – Fern Apr 5 '16 at 14:57

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