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Can my old boss read my Facebook messages

Discussion in 'Termination: Firing & Resignation' started by jneely77, Aug 8, 2014.

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  1. jneely77

    jneely77 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My position was recently terminated, and as a result of that I had to turn in my company phone. I had the Facebook app installed on my phone, and since the firing came as a complete surprise, I did not think to either delete the app of log out prior to turning in my phone. Another ex-employee of the company heard from someone still at the company that I had been let go and messaged me via Facebook to have a bit of a "gripe session" about the boss. The boss saw all of the conversation on the company phone and is now contacting me saying that I am defaming the company. He also responded to the other ex-employee through the Facebook messenger on my phone. I've heard that the boss is also planning on firing the person who told the other ex-employee that I was let go. Since the Facebook app was on my work phone, does that mean that the boss has a right to read and respond to messages that came in? Or do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy since I never gave him permission to access my Facebook messages?
     
  2. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    Don't put anything on your work phone, or your work computer, or your work anything, that you don't want the employer to see. They own it; they get to see what's on it.
     
  3. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    It's a good question and it's also a reason why it's a good idea to never put anything personal on work devices. Sure it's inconvenient but you're better off having a second phone, even if you have a written agreement stating that you have the option of purchasing your work device even if terminated. The following is just an impression based upon the limited set of facts provided about your Facebook app issue at work and answers will be best provided by an attorney who has all the complete set of facts and circumstances.

    Question - why did you not change your Facebook password to solve this problem? This would have eliminated the need to delete the Facebook app since the autologin procedure would have been stalled.

    Here is the problem you have regarding an "expectation of privacy." There have been cases questioning an employee's rights of privacy concerning web based logins to email accounts. There isn't a question with regard to work email accounts. And in this instance, your Facebook app doesn't provide any outward indication that it's a personal account. A company will certainly want to see what you may have done using the company phone. And if they discovered that you used it to post messages to Facebook while on the job, using their phone and their network and without hacking into your account, your expectation of privacy argument begins to fall apart as it would seem you don't have an expectation of privacy, just an error of judgment and negligence.

    Did the boss violate a law in reading your Facebook communications clearly made after your termination? Maybe but what is there to be done about any of this? And with regard to defamation, it's likely a non-issue, especially if what was stated is true. If true, your words may be "disparaging" to the company and embarrasses them. But unless it is an actual false statement that causes the company pecuniary / financial damages, it is unlikely that this may result in a defamation claim or any court of law. The only time this usually comes into play is with regard to an employment or severance agreement, which may contain a "non-disparagement" clause.

    Others here who work in Human Resources and employment law will likely chime in.
     
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  4. KatDini

    KatDini Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to add one bit of technical advice: Before handing your phone/piece o' tech over, if you have a chance, reset the darn thing back to factory, especially if you have loaded any kind of personal information/programs/apps on it.
     
  5. jneely77

    jneely77 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The reason why I didn't change my password was because I didn't even think about it until after everything happened. Having just lost my job it wasn't where my focus was.

    Nothing that was said in the conversation was untrue. The company had been struggling this year, with much lower sales than usual, and in the conversation the other ex-employee brought up the sales numbers as an example of why it was a good thing that I was gone. I'm not sure where the person I was speaking with got the sales numbers, but they did and they put them in the message. The boss must have assumed that the current employee must have told the person I was speaking with about the numbers (she did not), and subsequently fired her for it.
     
  6. Betty3

    Betty3 Super Moderator

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    The bottom line is kind of if you want privacy, buy & use your own phone. (per a HR pamphlet)
     
  7. jneely77

    jneely77 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I understand that putting Facebook on my phone was a dumb decision, and one that I won't make at my next job. I'm just wondering about the legality of what the boss did.
     
  8. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    The legality of what one does with ones property is often determined to be anything one wishes.
    That said, I'm certain you could hire yourself an attorney, sue your former big, bad bossman and find out if my premise applies in your case.

    My guess, OP, the law doesn't care. You'd be out $10,000 (or more); so would your boss, as he'd have to hire a lawyer to defend your lawsuit. In the end, the boss wins again. The big, bad bossman rarely loses. This is the big bad bossman's (and the big, bad bosswoman's) world.

    She who holds the gold, gets to make the rules.
    One more of life's little, dirty secrets.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  9. jneely77

    jneely77 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Would the messages be his property, though? I'm not worried about myself at all, but can he fire someone based on information that he found in someone else's email?
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    The big, bad bosswoman (or man) isn't required to even say why.
    She can fire you because her tummy hurts, her dog ran away, or because the day of the week ends in Y.

    It's a common misperception that you must be given a valid reason when terminated.
    The smarter big, bad bossmen simply say, "You're fired!" (credit The Don For making that phrase famous)

    If he said, I'm firing you because you insulted my tie. That lie would work, too.
    Life is based on being the best liar, too. That's why lying is spoken of so harshly.
    I recall a sitting president lying about NOT having sexual relations with Mrs. Lewinsky.
    Actually, he was telling the truth. His detractors didn't pick up on the Mrs. Lewinsky part.
    Seriously, being fired can suck.
    But, you ain't lived till you've been fired, sued, and lost at love.
    I could add in spent months in a war zone, but that's not that bad these days.

    I say forget it, show your detractor (and bully) how good you are by finding a better job, or founding your own business.
    You sound like you'll do much better next time. I wish you continued success and great prosperity.
     
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  11. jneely77

    jneely77 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    He's also saying that he is withholding my last paycheck until he "consults with counsel". Is that legal?
     
  12. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Probably not, but in IL state you must be paid immediately if terminated.
    Giving all power and WIGGLE room to the big, bad bossman, IL law then reads or upon the next payday, if IMMEDIATELY isn't possible. LOL


    http://resources.lawinfo.com/labor-...is-the-final-paycheck-due-when-an-employ.html



    As per 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 115/5, when an employee is fired, the employer must give him or her a final paycheck at the time of termination, or, if that is not possible, on the next regularly scheduled pay date.

    As per 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 115/5, when an employee is fired, the employer must give him or her a final paycheck at the time of termination, or, if that is not possible, on the next regularly scheduled pay date.


    Try this explanation:

    http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/final-paycheck-employee-rights-chart-29882.html
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  13. cbg

    cbg Super Moderator

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    Okay, let's cut to the chase here.

    You have NO expectation of privacy on any company owned device. Your boss did nothing illegal in reading your Facebook.

    He cannot hold your last check. You can file a wage claim if he does.

    Are we quite clear now?
     
  14. Betty3

    Betty3 Super Moderator

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