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Stuart J
Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 19563
Experience:  PGD Law. 20 years legal profession, 6 as partner in High Street practice
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Situation: A fellow Director of our company has set up an

Customer Question

Situation:
A fellow Director of our company has set up an 'email forwarder' on our business email accounts to an email address within his control. Effectively all emails sent or received by the other Directors are sent to him. He did this without our prior knowledge or consent. There are no such agreements in place within this company that suggest or imply that all individual business emails would be monitored. The individual concerned has created these email forwarders without any prior consent and without informing the other Directors that all email traffic would be monitored by him.
Questions:
1. Does this represent a breach in UK business law?
2. Does this represent a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990?
3. What advice would you offer in terms of the best and most professional way to approach the said Director and highlight our concern?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  Stuart J replied 1 year ago.

Does he know that you know? Why has he done this?

Can you undo it? Have you raised the issue with him?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.


At present he does not know that we are aware of this situation which answers 2 of your questions.


 


It can be undone.


 


I cannot explain with any certainty his reasoning. I speculate that it may be to monitor conversations between Directors about sensitive board related issues. In this way I would again speculate that he would be advantaged in formal discussions in that he is already aware of the other Directors thoughts etc.


 


I refer you to my specific questions.

Expert:  Stuart J replied 1 year ago.




The computer
misuse act is aimed at hackers and I probably wouldn't go there although there
is no harm in throwing it into any allegations that you make.

The director had
free access to the email system and he has not actually done anything wrong.



However I think
this is a breach of trust between employees and between employer and the employee



It is a breach of
privacy to look at personal and other emails not intended for the individual if
it is not in the company policy to do so. That itself is a disciplinary matter
and is misconduct.



In one of the
firms of solicitors that I worked for we dealt with this in an unconventional
and "fun" way with one individual in the IT department who are done exactly the
same thing.



We sent a few
high priority emails between us where we said in the email "you know that XYZ reason
these emails don't you because she has put forwarder on"



we then said what
we wanted to say and at the end we said " hello XYZ, if you are reading this, Have
a Nice Day". You might not want to do that but it did solve the problem. There
was a very red face within a very short period of time. It never raised its
head again.



If you want to do
it formally then you need to get evidence that this has been done and raise the
issue. It may be that you want to remove the director but I don't know.



Once you have the
evidence, I would write formally inviting him into a disciplinary meeting to
discuss the issue and tell him that he has the opportunity to have a work
colleague or union representative present. You may want to consider suspending
him pending the outcome of any investigations.



I don't know
whether he is a shareholder or not.



I would not hit
it head-on until you have lots of evidence amassed that you can place in front
of him in a disciplinary meeting.



Can I help
further or explain any specific points



I am off-line
shortly and then I should be online and off-line all weekend so please bear
with me. If needed, I will pick this up at some stage.



Please don't
forget to positively rate my answer service (even if it was not what you want
to hear). If you don't rate it positively, then the site keep your deposit and
I get 0 for my time. It is imperative that you give my answer a positive
rating. It doesn't give me "a pat on the head", "good boy" (like ebay), it is
my livelihood!

If in ratings you feel that you expected more or it only helped a little,
please ask. Thank you.



 



Customer: replied 1 year ago.


Can you please clarify the point "The director had
free access to the email system and he has not actually done anything wrong"?


He accessed the email server, created a forwarding email account and had all our business emails forwarded to that account. This was a deliberate act without our knowledge or consent. This advantages one Director over all others.



In terms of evidence, we have suspected that he was somehow reading emails as he seemed to have an uncanny ability to second guess at various meetings. The reason is now clear.

Expert:  Stuart J replied 1 year ago.

Has he hacked in or did he have free access to do this?

If he had access he commits no offence.

I abhor what he has done but can only give you the legalities. When I say wrong, I mean legally. Ethically it is totally wrong

Stuart J, Solicitor
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 19563
Experience: PGD Law. 20 years legal profession, 6 as partner in High Street practice
Stuart J and 2 other UK Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


Thank you. That is clear. He did have free access as it is within his particular remit to administer the IT side of the business.


 


The rest of us are technophobes.


 


I agree that it is ethically wrong and understand the legal position. Thanks again.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dear Law Denning,

We decided to follow the suggestion to send a few email exchanges between ourselves and highlight the fact that we were aware that the Director in question has been snooping on our emails. He downloaded the email chains at lunchtime on Monday. On discovering our email exchange he subsequently submitted a medical note that has signed him off with 'stress' for at least the next 7 days.

We have not accused him directly but we believe that the two events are linked. It is our opinion that the stress he is under has been caused by his misdemeanour and our reaction to it.

I have the following questions:

1. Can we issue disciplinary proceedings against the individual when he is 'signed off' with stress?
2. In the event that he is 'signed off' again next week can we invite him to nominate an alternative Director to represent his interests - he is a minority shareholder (10%) and Director? As background - the company is at a critical stage in its development and key decisions are to be made - there is no provision for this eventuality in our articles).

I look forward to your advice.
Expert:  Stuart J replied 1 year ago.

Excellent result then.

Is he being paid while off?

Why do you need him in generally?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yes he is being paid while off.

We need him to administer the back office of our internet business - particularly as we have just commissioned a trial costing 10's of thousands of pounds.

Ultimately it will cost a great deal of money and time to resolve the situation.

I refer you to my original questions.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yes he is being paid while off.

We need him to administer the back office of our internet business - particularly as we have just commissioned a trial costing 10's of thousands of pounds.

Ultimately it will cost a great deal of money and time to resolve the situation.

I refer you to my original questions.
Expert:  Stuart J replied 1 year ago.
Your other option then was to simply let him run roughshod over yrs firms emails!
You are between a rock and hard place.
If you raise the issue he resigns or goes off. if you dont, he carries on.
I would invite him into a meeting which you are happy to have at the office or location of his choice. He can have a union rep or work colleague present. You must tell him that. you must tell him what it is over.
Bear in mind that he can allege bullying and that you are doing this to get him out which gives rise toa tribunal claim although i think his gross misconduct will thwart his tribunal claim.
The disciplianry will be for gross misconduct.
It depends if you want him gone or simply want him to stop accessing emails and all is forgiven.
if the latter. put that in the letter instead.
The choice is yrs.

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