Most companies make new employees well aware that anything they create during work hours is no longer their intellectual property but belongs to the organization they work for. That doesn’t take the sting out of relinquishing the rights to everything you’ve spent time on when you leave employment as one fired employee learned the hard way.
In a Reddit post titled “I just deleted thousands of hours of work from my old job,” later shared on a TikTok account called “@reddit_replay,” a man described what happened when he realized his former employer was still using the work he created, despite telling him that he was not competent enough for the job.
The employee worked as a videographer, creating content for social media. Despite putting together up to 50 videos each day, the man claimed to have only been paid just above minimum wage.
“I was freelancing and was on a loose contract. I was desperate for the money,” he explained while justifying why he would put forth so much effort for so little reward.
The workload was “insane,” according to him, but he managed to keep up with the company’s demands for six months. On top of the low pay and crushing work requirements, the freelancer described the office environment as “bitter” and “snide,” and even accused management of stirring up trouble between workers for their own entertainment.
As the six-month milestone approached, the contractor compiled the results of the video work he had done, including a graph that measured click-through sales that had come as a result of the content he created. He asked for a pay raise to compensate for the traffic he had delivered and hard work he had put in relentlessly.
The man even compared his salary to industry standards to demonstrate that he was being underpaid in hopes that managers would understand and correct his pay. He said that although he could make more money elsewhere, he would love to keep working for the company in the same capacity.
Stunningly, within a few hours of making his proposal, the company terminated him, saying that he was not “pulling his weight.”
Although he says he had laid out clear data connecting his social media campaigns to increased sales, the worker was told that his content had not produced the intended impact, therefore was no longer needed by the company. Naturally, the man was beside himself with anger. To make matters worse, he struggled for months to find work.
Three years after being tossed aside by a business he had given his all to, the former employee was browsing his personal Google Drive and came across a folder he had created and shared with the company during his tenure. He found that 18 staff members were still actively using his templates, adjustments, and presets to produce content for their social media accounts.
He couldn’t believe the company that fired him had the audacity to continue to use the cloud service that he was paying for. So, he saved all of his files to a local drive on his computer and deleted the online folder, leaving no video assets behind for his former employer, including projects already in progress.
Revenge can be sweet, but deleting company files can land you in court if you aren’t careful.
An inventions agreement releases all of your rights to things you created while employed. This means that you cannot intentionally destroy proprietary files and data when you are leaving. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act offers employers some recourse when they lose information due to malicious actions. The resentful worker would be subject to civil and criminal liability for their actions.
On the other hand, it is totally irresponsible for a company to continue to use cloud storage that they have no ownership over to keep any work-related documentation. The ex-employee had no obligation whatsoever to pay for and maintain their company records once he was let go. A comprehensive offboarding process would have helped to transition the employee out in an organized fashion while repossessing organization-specific information.
NyRee Ausler is a writer and author from Seattle. She covers issues navigating the workplace using the experience garnered over two decades of working in Human Resources & Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
This article originally appeared on YourTango