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THE QUESTION

I was recently let go. I had personal files on my work computer, such as pictures and documents. When I was let go I was not allowed to access my computer and now the company will not provide my personal data. Do I have any rights to my personal files on a workplace computer?

THE ANSWER

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There is little difference between a personal picture hanging in your office at work and a personal picture stored in a workplace computer. You own personal pictures and files stored in a company's computer, unless a policy or contract you signed says otherwise. This is especially so where a company authorizes or condones using a workplace computer for some personal purposes such as storing photographs or documents. In this situation, a company does not have the legal right to keep those items from you after your departure. If the employer refuses to return the items, call the police, who may compel them to do so or as a last resort you can make a court application to ask a judge for a court order.

THE QUESTION

I was put on modified duties for a shoulder injury. Both my doctor and I complained many times that the work I was given wasn't suitable and was making the injury worse. What do I do?

THE ANSWER

Employers have a legal duty to accommodate an illness, injury, or disability. There are some exceptions, such as where accommodation would cause undue hardship, but those instances are few and far between. Mostly, the company must ensure that the duties and responsibilities assigned to you meet your accommodation needs.

Where there is a dispute about what duties you can and cannot perform, you should have your physician confirm your concerns in writing and indicate that the modified duties you have been provided are making your prognosis worse. If this does not resolve the issue, you may be able to refuse work that aggravates your injury and in some cases start a human rights complaint, since failing to accommodate an injury or illness is a form of discrimination.

Daniel A. Lublin is a partner at Whitten & Lublin, representing both employers and employees in workplace legal disputes.

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E-mail: Dan@canadaemploymentlawyer.com

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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