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Could I be sued or loose my unemployment benefits?

Hyattsville, MD |

I recently was let go from from a job, because of restructuring and financial reasons. After parted I asked a ex-coworker to take certain files from my office. The files contain work I had created . I was a Graphic Designer.

I was never told to archive work for my department, so my archiving system was completely my own efforts. The co-worker was fired for stealing.

When I was let go I received benefits for 2 months and 2 months severance.

In my opinion my co-worker did not steal, but she has now been denied unemployment and now wants to appeal. She has requested that I write a letter saying that I asked her to take the stuff, but I am unsure if I should do this. I have yet filed for unemployment, but might need to when my severance runs out if I am not already working by then.

Attorney Answers 2


Normally, work you create for your employer while being paid as an employee belongs to the employer, and is not yours. It may have been the practice of the employer to allow employees to take home and keep their work not used by the employer, but your facts do not address this issue. In the absence of such a policy, which would have to be proven, you are correct to be concerned about admitting that you were the person who solicited her to take the items for you. However, because any such conduct occurred after you left the employment, it seems doubtful that you could be denied unemployment benefits, since that has nothing to do with why you were let go. Your friend, on the other hand, was fired for misconduct while on the job, which is a basis to deny benefits. However, I also cannot see how your testimony would help her: "somebody asked me to do it" is no defense to committing a theft or other wrongful act. All she will do is implicate you in the same wrongdoing. However, if you believe you can prove that the company allowed employees to take work home and keep it, and never raised an objection before, then your testimony would be of value. You and she may benefit from a consultation with an employment lawyer, but separately, as there may be a conflict of interest.

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I agree with my colleague. Work you create during the course of your employment with a company generally belongs to the employer and/or the client for whom you created the work. Sometimes there are agreements in these types of employment situations which delineate who the work belongs to....And sometimes, it's just a matter of getting permission to be able to use the work/images in your professional portfolio.

DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

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