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Exiting Employees & Legal Holds

exiting employee legal hold

From desktop computers to mobile devices, most organizations have clear procedures for recycling and re-deploying digital assets when an employee leaves the organization.  Many organizations also have clear procedures for business continuity measures such as how an exited employee’s emails should be forwarded and other such data management steps.  But, in many organizations, there’s often a glaring blind spot in the exiting employee process: Legal or Litigation Holds

As many a sanction ruling has found, organizations have an obligation to take proactive steps to preserve an exiting employee’s data when that employee is on an active legal hold.  The recent Brown v. Tellermate Holdings, Ltd. case that we wrote about just a few weeks back is, in part, a great example of how failing to preserve data at an employee’s exit (or at any time thereafter) can lead to severe, sometimes case-ending, sanctions.

The solution, however, is quite simple.  Most organizations have a process and even a checklist for exiting employees (and if they don’t, that should be fixed first).  Part of that exiting employee process must be a check to determine whether that exiting employee is subject to any legal hold requirements.  Be that integrated into a software solution or a manual visual check of a list, it is an essential element that must be included in the steps taken when an employee leaves. 

We have seen this practice become more and more commonplace over the last year, as many of our clients have integrated our legal hold software and related tools with their H.R. and I.T. systems.  The result is that, when an employee exits the organization, notifications are generated (either in email or ticketing systems depending on the organization), helping ensure that anyone involved in the data and equipment “recycling” process knows of any existing legal hold obligations.  It’s fully integrated and becomes a step in the overall process.

While automation makes that process much simpler and often more foolproof, it is by no means a requirement.  Even organizations using emails and spreadsheets to manage their legal hold obligations should still build that check into the exiting employee process.  Whether manual, automatic or somewhere in between, it is a real obligation that is easy to miss, but thankfully, also relatively easy to fix.

Want more information about departing employees?  See our article about protecting company data when employees leave the organization.



For nearly two decades, BIA has been protecting companies and law firms by solving complex eDiscovery and digital investigative issues while keeping costs low and legal defensibility high. If you would like to know more about how we help our clients lower costs and risks, please contact us.