Q: Am I required to explain to an ex employer where to find documents on a company computer I no longer have access to?
My ex employer is saying that I did not properly save information to the company file sharing database, and they can't find something they think I know where it is. I no longer have access to the computer, the files in question are just somewhere on the computer (unless the computer was wiped already which they told me they would be doing). They are saying that I owe them an explanation of where to find the files since while employed I didn't save them to the proper location. I was wrongfully terminated and do not want to provide anything that I am not legally obligated to provide.
First, if you believe you were wrongfully terminated, then you should consult with an employment lawyer to discuss your options. Most employment lawyers provide free consultations. If you bring a wrongful termination claim, then you may be penalized for refusing to offer assistance to your former employer. I have personally seen that negatively affect the value of the employee's case.
Second, you are not legally obligated to provide an explanation, but the employer may try to use your refusal to do so as a means of contesting your unemployment benefits.
You have no legal duty to perform any more work for the company once you were terminated. The question you should be asking is whether you should do what is being requested of you anyway. There are many good reasons to assist a former employer with things like this. And no doubt you do not need access to the computer to at least give them a basic roadmap about how you organized and stored your files.
I represent wrongfully terminated employees for a living. It is always my advice to them that it is best for them to not let anger at the employer's conduct infect how a judge or jury may view the employee later.
Your best move right now would be to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
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