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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I am on paid administrative leave pending outcome of

Customer Question

I am on paid administrative leave pending outcome of investigation. Can my employer prohibit me from accessing my work email to mount a defense?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome. I am very sorry to hear about your leave. Unfortunately, employees do not have any due process rights in this circumstance. That is to say, employees do not have any affirmative right to defend themselves or to be given a fair opportunity to respond to charges of misconduct. This is so because absent and express agreement to the contrary employment is at will. At will employment can be terminated at any time for virtually any reason regardless of whether that reason is fair or even true. Since employers do not need a fair or even true reason to terminate you, they are not required to give you an opportunity to respond to allegations of misconduct. This means they do not need to grant you access to your work email.

I wish I had better news to share, but I hope that this answers your question. If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. If not an at will civil service employee, what is answer?
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply. Are you in a union? What exactly is the scenario?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
it's a bargaining unit and it affords a Skelly hearing (California.) However the agreement is silent on the question of emails during admin leave.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you.

As a union member you have additional rights and protections, but only those afforded to you through your collective bargaining agreement. Thus, if your CBA does not specifically entitle you to access your work emails, then you would have a very hard time arguing that you are entitled to them. In general, employee email accounts are property of the employer, and just as your employer doesn't have to let you into your office or their filing cabinets to prove your case, they don't have to let you access your work email account. That would be the default legal reasoning, and I don't see any reason why it would be overridden here.

I hope this helps. If I can clarify anything else just let me know.

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hi there,

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Kind regards,