- Sexual Orientation Discrimination
- Is Extended Leave a Reasonable Accommodation?
- Parental Leave
- Pay Disparity
- Religious accomodation in the workplace
- Equal pay and prior salary information
- I quit! How to avoid constructive discharge
- You Can't Shred Email
- Navigating Unemployment Claims
- Considering Criminal History in Pre-Employment Decisions
- Defamation Claims from Former Employees
- Mixed Motive Causation
- Requesting Accomodation: Kowitz v. Trinity Health
- Antitrust Law in Human Resources
- An Evolving Standard: Joint-Employment
- What Does At-Will Employment Mean for Employers?
- Let's Talk About Wages
- THE FLSA: CHANGES ARE COMING
- Follow Up: Obesity and the ADA
- The Importance of Social Media Policies
- Is Obesity a Qualifying Disability under the ADA?
- Retaliation on the Rise: The EEOC Responds
- What Motivates You?
- "But I thought ...
- Who’s expecting? And what is he expecting?
- Are You Still Doing Annual Performance Reviews?
- Who is Your Employee?
- The unpaid intern trap Part II
- “We’ve been the victim of a cyber-attack”
- So, a Hasidic Jew, a nun in a habit and a woman wearing a headscarf walk into your office?
- The unpaid intern trap
- Pregnancy in the workplace
- Let's talk about honesty.
- "Did You Know" Series - Part I
- Conducting an Internal Investigation
- What HR can look forward to in 2015!
- The chokehold of workplace technology
- Does your company have trade secrets?
- North Dakota Construction Law Compendium for 2014
- Does the North Dakota baby boom affect you?
- Ban the Box? Why?
- The end of the world as we know it
- Everybody has an opinion
- Changes, Changes, Changes!
- Nick Grant presents at North Dakota Safety Council's 41st Annual Safety and Health Conference
- Email impairment: A potentially harmful condition
- Are Employers Required to Give Stressed-Out Employees Time Off?
- Can you obtain a credit report when investigating employee wrongdoing?
- Can’t we just sidestep the ACA?
- Should Your Employees Telecommute? Part III
- Should Your Employees Telecommute? Part II
- Should Your Employees Telecommute?
- Proper Investigation of Employee Misconduct
- Battles in the Wellness War
- Rules are rules! Aren’t they?
- What's going on in Bismarck
- A glimpse ahead
- Obesity as a disability under the ADA – reweighing the issue
- What’s next for your business under the Affordable Care Act?
- Criminal Background Checks
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 5 of 5]
- Congress Says Yes To North Slope Energy Jobs Bill
- Test Your Knowledge of Social Media Policies and Employee Discipline
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 4 of 5]
- What Every Employer Needs to Know About the NLRA
- Will the 2012 Elections Make A Difference
- Where There's Smoke...
- Dress Code Etiquette: Is Casual Friday Becoming Freaky Friday
- The Next Disaster May Be Yours
- Hostile Work Environment Claims
- North Dakota Employment Law Links
- There's An App For That
- Am I a “Business Associate”? Why Should I Care?
- Do You Recognize a Cat's Paw When You See One?
- Cell Phones Can Cost a Lot, Part II
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 3 of 5]
- Cell Phones Can Cost a Lot, Part I
- The Economy - What HR Professionals Need To Know
- Becoming a lawyer is a process, not an event [Section 2 of 5]
- Three New Challenges For HR Professionals
You Can't Shred EmailBy: Allison Mann
The use of email and the internet has revolutionized business. It is a highly effective communication tool, that allows people to communicate thoughts and ideas almost instantly, to individuals anywhere in the world. Many businesses would not be operational without the use of email. That being said, your employee’s email accounts can be a potential liability—including causing a negative impact on business reputation, employee productivity, and the bottom line.
People do not always put a lot of thought into what is being put in writing, partly due to the informality and ease of email communication. This sometimes-thoughtless exchange of messages can get a business into some pretty hot water. It is not uncommon to see an email labeled “Exhibit A” in a lawsuit against a company. So-called “bad” emails can come in many forms, and they range from discriminatory, suggestive, or offensive emails, to emails that contain work product or confidential information.
The more commonly-seen risk is offensive and discriminatory emails. Numerous examples are available, but the case of Williamson v. Citibank N.A., 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23047 exemplifies the issue nicely. Here, a Citibank employee sent a racially, sexually, and ethnically offensive email to ten other employees. The plaintiff in this case, another Citibank employee, did not actually receive the email, but did see it eventually. She asserted that the content of the email gave rise to a hostile work environment and sued the company. The court disagreed. It found that this one email was not enough to create a hostile work environment, especially when she was not sent the email directly. However, the court also commended Citibank’s handling of the situation: it promptly and efficiently began an investigation, disciplined the responsible party, and reiterated its nondiscrimination policy to all employees. Citibank’s response contributed to this finding of nondiscrimination.
Employers should make every effort to protect themselves from these types of claims. A good first step is to draft a plan or policy addressing email and internet usage in general. The following issues should be addressed by any plan or policy:
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I make a serious effort to be accurate in my writings. These articles are not exhaustive treatises, though, so do not consider them complete or authoritative. Providing this information to you does not create an attorney-client relationship with my firm or me. Do not act upon the contents of this or of any article on our homepage or consider it a replacement for professional advice.
Reprinted with permission from an article submitted for publication in the May, 2017Southwest Area Human Resource Association newsletter.