Question: I resigned from my company a few weeks ago, but the company is still using my email address – which contains my name – as a means to obtain my previous business contacts. Is this legal? Can I protect my name from being used in this manner? What happens if negative emails are being sent out via my old email address?

Theresa, from Harrisburg, PA
(All names are changed)

Answer: From your letter, it sounds like the email address is something like this: Bob.Jones@Company.com. I can’t give you a definitive answer because I am not licensed as an attorney in Pennsylvania. I can tell you that (a) it probably does not violate any laws (that is, laws passed by Pennsylvania’s state legislature), but (b) it probably does violate your several of your legal rights, especially the rights every one has to their name, their privacy and their reputation, that exist in what is called the “common law.”

Let’s discuss your rights, and their violations, one by one:

(1) Your Name: Use of someone else’s name (or photo) for commercial purposes is a violation of law in most states. You have every right to demand they cease doing so, and every right to get a Court Order directing them to stop doing so.

(2) Your Privacy: In most states, you are not considered to have a right to privacy when using the company’s emails for personal purposes. However, in this case, it is not your use of the company’s email for personal purposes that is in question, but their using your name to attract email traffic, that is, the exact opposite. For example, if I was an old friend trying to contact you, and came across your name in your company email address on Google, I would be tempted to send you a personal note. I believe the company’s continued use of your name in their email address invites such personal contact, and so does constitute an invasion of your privacy. In this, too, a Court would likely grant you an Order stopping them from doing so.

(3) Your Reputation: Reputation is one of the most valuable assets a person has. I am certain that if negative emails were sent out using your name in the email address, it would do you irreparable harm, perhaps for your entire life. For this, too, a Court would likely issue an Order directing their halting of using your name in their email.

I encourage you to send the owner(s) of the company a “Cease and Desist” letter, demanding that they immediately “cease and desist” from using your name in their outgoing email addresses, and send it by provable means, that is, email, FedEx, or both. Tell them they have 24 hours – no more – to comply with your demand, or you will hire an attorney to take them to Court, and in that Court proceeding you will demand they reimburse you for your legal costs. That should do the trick. If not, you might send them a copy of this Blog Answer. If necessary, you might ask a local attorney how much she or he would charge for a good “attorney’s letter,” or even to take the matter to local court.

We offer a Model Letter entitled “Cease and Desist Use of Name and Photo” that you can easily adapt to your circumstances. To obtain a copy, simply [click here].

You have protectable legal rights to your name, your privacy and your reputation. Try, first, to “help yourself” with your own letter. If that doesn’t work, consider hiring local counsel. But, no matter what you do, do not be afraid to stand up for what is rightfully yours; that would be the only error you could make.

Hope that helps. Please keep coming back to our Blogsite.

Best, Al Sklover