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Can Your Employer Wipe Your Personal Cellphone When You Are Terminated?


You have been receiving sexually harassing phone messages, pictures and texts from a supervisor at work. You complain to HR, and then you are terminated. When you get home and are about to call an attorney, you pick up your phone and see that it is powering off by itself. You turn it back on, and look for your contacts, and they aren't there. Not only are they gone, but virtually everything else, including your apps, music, email programs, texts, and even photos of your cat Fluffy, are gone. What happened?

Your employer remotely wiped your cellphone! Can they legally do this? Well, you probably got some type of form agreement when you connected your cellphone to your employer's server which explicitly stated that the company can perform remote wipes. Of course, nobody reads those long screeds that continually pop up when downloading software; you just pressed the "I agree" button like everybody else. But in that small print was language which permits your employer to clear out everything in your cellphone without advance notice.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, 21% of companies surveyed remotely wipe their employee's phones when they quit or are terminated. The employers are concerned about their own security, not yours. You may think there should be some law against this, but as of now, there isn't. That may change, but this is one of those situations where the law has not kept up with technology.

In the meantime, whether you have been the victim of workplace harassment or discrimination or not, you should back up any personal device that you use to connect to your employer's computer to a cloud program or to your own personal computer at home.

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