I am employed for a company (in New Zealand) that has its own domain and which runs their own mail server. At the time of my employ I was at liberty to forward email from (myemail)@(company.name) to my personal email [ which is outside the control of the company ] - and indeed many staff members had this setup initially. Over time a substantial collection of email has accumulated.

Emails sent to and from this email address were responded to with an appropriate from address (myemail)@(company.name), but responses were sent from my personal account.

Questions -

  1. Who owns the emails? (My guess would be the company as they were paying me a salary, and I was acting as an agent of the company when I sent them, ) although them being forwarded to my personal mail box makes this less clear.

  2. Does the company have any right to dictate how I deal with this email once its in my private mailbox ?

    2a. Can they compel me to delete the emails without me keeping a copy (which I may not want to do as there are contractual agreements I may seek to rely on)?

    2b. Can they compel me to provide them with copies of the emails, and if so can they require I do this without remuneration for my time (assuming I no longer work there or I'm not able to do this on company time)?

  • 1
    Taking home the company's property doesn't make it yours (and in fact that would be there). Why would this change because the (in this case, probably intellectual) property is is digital form? Why would your individual requirements force the company to allow you to keep their property? And why would a company have to pay you to return their stuff? – Nij Dec 3 '19 at 4:06
  • @Nij Although an entirely reasonable supposition, it is not at all clear that email is property or that it belongs to employers (see gardnercroft.co.uk/journal/owns-emails). With respect o a company having to pay to return their stuff I would suspect the Minimum Wage Act 1983 (section 6) prevents an employer for requiring you to do work without remuneration, and sorting through emails can take significant time. – davidgo Dec 3 '19 at 4:49
  • I have had and have to and will have to do a lot of things for my employers that take time and effort - that doesn't mean they need to pay me for it, especially when it's to fix my own problem. – Nij Dec 3 '19 at 5:20
  • @Nij I don't think that's legally relevant, and we obviously live in societies with different social contracts - are you by any chance American?. (BTW just because I ask a question doesn't mean I behave in a particular way - I am proactively tidying up loose ends prior to my departure and had the good sense to keep email separate and have offered it to my employer - but its an interesting what-if question) – davidgo Dec 3 '19 at 6:18

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