You know you are about to be fired for doing the right thing, or because you complained about sexual harassment. You have emails or memos from your boss or co-workers which you know will prove the truth of your allegations. Can you take them with you if you are fired or when you quit after the retaliation becomes too much for you to endure?
The answer, of course, is that it depends. The wisdom of taking materials you obtained or where given access to through your employment, so that they might be used in a lawsuit, varies with the circumstances. If your employer has a policy prohibiting taking work-related materials home with you, or using them for any non-work-related purpose, then sending e-mails home or taking documents with you on the way out may have a negative impact on your case.
When there is a policy against personal use or removal of work-related material, and your employer discovers in the course of your lawsuit that you removed work-related materials from your employer’s premises, it is sometimes possible for the employer to effectively “re-fire” you even after you have left their employment, for violating a company policy. In those cases where this rule (which is termed the “after-acquired evidence rule”) is applicable, your former employer may be able to use it against you to substantially limit your ability to recover certain damages, particularly lost wages and benefits.
Therefore, if you know your employment situation is looking bleak due to sexual harassment, illegal discrimination, or retaliation for your doing the right thing, you should contact a trustworthy employment lawyer with real trial experience. One of the things you should discuss, if possible, before you resign or before your employer has a chance to terminate you, is whether to make copies of e-mails and other documents that might help your case.