Labor & Employment

Another Layoffs Downside: Loss of Personal Info on Work Computer

Lawyers, in particular, should know better.

But like everybody else, many hardworking attorneys who spend a lot of time at the office probably have personal material on their work computers. And, in a time of stunning layoffs, both in the legal industry and elsewhere, that can result in the loss of perhaps irreplaceable personal e-mail, contact information and photos if the ax suddenly falls, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While employers legally own material created on work computers and for work, such as hard-copy files of addresses and phone numbers, some allow laid-off employees continued access to their computers after they are let go or will retrieve specific material on request. As a routine policy, however, many employers commonly simply confiscate files and wipe computer hard drives clean. And, if an employer provided other equipment, such as a laptop or BlackBerry, that can be confiscated, too.

When she was laid off last year after 18 years at Medialink Worldwide Inc. in New York, “I couldn’t even call my sister because I don’t know her number off the top of my head,” Michele Wallace tells the WSJ. A former senior vice president of client services at the video distribution company, she lost her employer-provided BlackBerry as well as all of her information concerning personal contacts.

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