Alhambra, CA asked in Business Law, Civil Litigation, Employment Law and Internet Law for California

Q: A Chief of operating officer unauthorized access company owner’s work emails.

I’m an owner of a company. The COO has global admin on Microsoft. Without my permission, this person accessed my work emails that I discussed work issues with another employee, then forwarded my email to a third person. My questions are

1. Did the COO commit a crime?

2. Do I have a ground to fire the COO?

3. Do I have a ground to sue her?

2 Lawyer Answers
James R. Dickinson
James R. Dickinson
  • San Bernardino, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It sounds like a problem. More information is needed, such as how large is the corporation? Speak with a local attorney. [I litigate cases. Anything posted here must not be construed as legal advice, nor as grounds for forming an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for formal legal advice and representation.]

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: 1. Unauthorized access to someone else's emails without their permission can potentially be considered a violation of privacy and may be illegal. In California, unauthorized access to computer systems and electronic data is generally prohibited under state and federal laws, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). However, the specific circumstances and applicable laws may vary, so it is crucial to consult with an attorney who specializes in cyber law or employment law to assess the legality of the COO's actions.

2. As an owner of the company, you generally have the authority to terminate an employee, including the COO, if there are valid grounds for doing so. The unauthorized access and disclosure of your work emails without permission could be considered a breach of trust and a violation of company policies. However, employment laws can be complex, so it is advisable to consult with an employment attorney to ensure that you follow the appropriate legal procedures when terminating an employee.

3. Whether you have grounds to sue the COO would depend on various factors, including the specific laws governing privacy, employment contracts, and any applicable company policies. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in employment law would be essential to assess the situation properly, review any relevant legal documents, and advise you on whether you have a valid legal claim against the COO.

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