Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Kid Yourself: Your Private E-mail May Be Anything But When You're at Work

We've heard the warnings time and again: What you write in an e-mail is subject to your employer not only reviewing it -- but firing you if it is believed you violated company policy.

But let's get real: While at work, many of us still send our friends e-mails about where to meet for dinner, we still send that dirty joke to our significant other and we still e-mail our children to tell them that their grades are slipping and they better get on the ball. We tell a co-worker how pissed we are that our boss is a jerk.

But how would you feel if you used your private e-mail account at work -- and the employer still nosed around in it?

That's at the heart of the case one man has filed against his former employer, claiming that the company got ahold of his private e-mails, which were to his lawyers discussing pending legal action against his employer.

Laws about e-mail are still a bit fuzzy as they are being debated in board rooms and court rooms around the country.

Does an employee have the right to privacy more than a company has the right to monitor e-mail that affects them legally?

As the lawyers wrangle it out, it might be a good idea to remember that until the dust settles you should follow the best advice I was ever given by a top technology lawyer: Never put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want displayed before 12 lawyers in a court of law.

Just a final note here: I'm now on Alltop, which has all the top stories updated every 10 minutes. Have a great weekend.


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6 comments:

Patricia said...

After preparing for legal cases and going through e-mails that people never thought would be read, I have learned that nothing at work is "private".

Anita said...

Patricia,
Most people think it could never happen to them...and then it does. It's a good idea to get into the habit of being very, very careful what you put in writing. Use the phone, instead!
Thanks for giving us a sobering reminder that this does happen.

vimoh said...

Messaging, e-mail or otherwise, in the work environment can be dicey.

My ex-boss once told me a story about how his boss had once yelled at him for a trifling. Dejected and angry, he returned to his desk and wrote a bitch-note to his colleague with words like 'fatso' and 'mad'.

Then he sent it to his boss.

Anita said...

Oh, ugh! Makes me cringe just to read that. Pay attention, folks! This can happen to you!
Thanks for posting.

Erika with Qvisory said...

Congrats on getting onto Alltop!

I think the advice your lawyer gave you is good. I figure that if the email was written on a company computer, the company has the right to monitor it. With all the hand-held devices capable of sending email nowadays, if you are struck by a sudden need to email someone privately there should eb little need to use your company's computer.

Anita said...

Erika,
I think it's a matter of breaking our mindset that when we're at a computer, it's just a piece of equipment. It's not. It's a piece of the company. So, just like you wouldn't disrespect your boss or CEO, you can't disrespect the computer! Hands off...it's NOT yours to use as you wish!
Thanks for posting.