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My most recent employer, a consulting company in the U.S., kept my email inbox open after I left the company. They delegated its use to the person now running that department. I had been at that company for over eight years.

Before leaving the company, I put an out-of-office message on my email inbox so that anyone sending it email would receive a notice to contact someone else at the company.

I'm not the only person to have left that company that has had this same situation occur.

I think the company's logic is that a past customer may email my old email address, and they don't want to risk missing that email. However, it seems to be abusive to me in that colleagues from other companies who might want to contact me may not be aware, and then the communication is obviously not private.

I know that when using a corporate email system one should have no expectation of privacy.

Is it okay for my past employer to do this?

EDIT: I've recently found out that besides reading mail addressed to me at this company email address, the person in control of this email account has also transmitted an "unsubscribe" email from this account to a website I had used to check my son's school grades. I evidently registered my work email account instead of my private email account.

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    yes it is, it's their email, they can do whatever they want with it in practical terms. – Kilisi Sep 19 '16 at 21:41
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    If your old role at that company is now being filled by someone else, why wouldn't they be reading 'your' email? Anything sent to that mailbox should be related to the work you performed while in that role and which is now being performed by this other person. They have a duty to be reading and acting on it. – brhans Sep 19 '16 at 21:42
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    It's not only okay, but it's normal. It's no different than routing your phone calls or mail to a replacement. I would honestly do the same thing (and have in several cases). What if a client sent an urgent message but didn't see your "talk to bob" response? The fact you'd been there 8 years makes it MORE likely they would do that because they have an interest in any clients who would have had a relationship with you. – Chris E Sep 19 '16 at 21:44
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    Our company does exactly this. In fact, I am the one who does it, usually. Any people at other companies are trying to contact your role, not you as a person. If it were personal, you'd have given them personal contact info along the way. – Wesley Long Sep 19 '16 at 22:46
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I think the company's logic is that a past customer may email my old email address, and they don't want to risk missing that email. However, it seems to be abusive to me in that colleagues from other companies who might want to contact me may not be aware, and then the communication is obviously not private.

I know that when using a corporate email system one should have no expectation of privacy.

Is it okay for my past employer to do this?

While not very nice, if you work in the US, that mailbox was not yours to begin with, and your former employer is within their rights to do whatever they choose with it.

Most employers would invalidate the account and route the email either to your former manager, or to a general "user not found" mailbox - at least for a while. In many (most?) cases your out-of-office message wouldn't last more than a day or so after your departure.

You may wish to contact these colleagues from other companies using your personal email account and tell them of your move. Other than that, there isn't much you can do.

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My experience is that typically, if your mail was by your title, they that mailbox would be given to whomever took over the position. If the box was by your name, then it would be forwarded for a period to allow for that catching of clients who are not aware of the change, and then after a period be closed down. Is there any real difference between the forwarding for a short time and then closing, and simply allowing access? No, not really. The corporation is the owner of the email and has complete right to cover it. If sensitive or personal information is transmitted or was left in inboxes or folders, well, first of all the company could have gotten that anytime through monitoring anyway, and they likely had rules in place saying the company email was not for personal use. Yes, most everyone does at least a bit, but that is at their own risk. They are completely within their rights both legally and morally, IMO.

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In my experience, whenever I (or someone else I've worked with) have left a position, they normally write a polite "farewell" email to any interested parties and included a personal email address (or social media identifier) so that people are invited to stay in touch.

The mailbox remains with the company.

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Your words:

However, it seems to be abusive to me in that colleagues from other companies who might want to contact me may not be aware, and then the communication is obviously not private.

If these are people you wish to stay in contact with, it's not your employer's responsibility to help you maintain those connections because they are YOUR personal connections. Truth be told, the employer could just as well delete your business e-mail account instead of having it forward to someone else's inbox, and there's not a single thing you can do about it.

Here's another way to look at this: if you change phone numbers (at least, with a land line), a phone company doesn't provide a "forwarding" message indefinitely, unless you're paying for them to not re-use that old telephone number. Just like with your employer - they're not obligated.

  • I think you may misunderstand - my inbox isn't just forwarded - the actual mailbox is being used by someone else. I found out today that they also evidently have sent out email from that account as though it were from me. I certainly don't expect them to notify anyone of my move, but I don't like them masquerading as me. – STLDev Sep 20 '16 at 16:48
  • Where the mail goes, and who checks it, is not that important. Your expectation is the concern here. Unless they're using your name to defraud or commit some criminal act, this complaint of yours really has no "teeth". – Xavier J Sep 20 '16 at 16:51

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