E-Mails & Company Litigation

No matter how frequently we write about the perils of e-mail, litigation continues to happen in this area.

A 2005 survey conducted by the American Management Association and the E-Policy Institute showed that of employers surveyed

  • 25 percent had terminated employees for e-mail misuse,
  • 13 percent of those same employers have been involved in litigation triggered by an employee’s use of e-mail, and
  • 20 percent of the employers have had e-mail subpoenaed in litigation.

Teresa M. Thompson of Fredrikson & Byron, PA, an employment attorney, says that “every piece of litigation that comes across my desk includes an e-mail discovery issue.”

It’s not enough just to put policies in place that state e-mail is for business use only – now, training is needed to reinforce the seriousness of this issue.

There is no expectation of privacy in company e-mails – and don’t think that the opposing attorney doesn’t know that.

Tolerance in the Workplace

The EEOC has issued new guidelines on religious discrimination in the workplace, after receiving the highest number of complaints ever in this area in fiscal year 2007 (it’s doubled since 1992).

Accommodating religious diversity in the workplace means more than deciding if a Christmas tree or Menorah should be displayed in the reception area.

There are any number of federal and state laws that may govern this issue, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While employers must assist with all reasonable requests, they are less obligated to leap major hurdles to accommodate a religious request than they would be for a employee with disabilities – but it still requires an acute knowledge of what’s acceptable or not.

Make sure to work with your human resources consultant or employment attorney when any matter such as this arises. And read this excellent article from Jennifer Nycz-Conner in the Washington Business Journal.

Illegal Workers & The ICE Crackdown Statistics

It can’t happen to you? Wanna bet?

The graphic above shows the staggering increase in arrests made in conjunction with the hiring of illegal workers by the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Department (ICE – a part of the Homeland Security Department).

  • In fiscal year 2007, ICE secured more than $30 million in criminal fines, restitutions, and civil judgments in worksite enforcement cases. They arrested 863 people in criminal cases and made more than 4,000 administrative arrests. That is a tenfold increase over just five years before.
  • The number of criminal and administrative arrests has steadily increased over the past few years. Those arrested criminally include a variety of persons–corporate officers, employers, managers, contractors and facilitators. In criminal cases, ICE often pursues charges of harboring illegal aliens, money laundering and/or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Harboring illegal aliens is a felony with a potential 10-year prison sentence. Money laundering is a felony with a potential 20-year prison sentence.
  • ICE has found these criminal sanctions to be a far greater deterrent to illegal employment schemes than administrative fines.
  • These arrests also include illegal aliens charged with criminal violations. Aliens have been charged with possession or sale of fraudulent documents, identity theft, Social Security fraud or re-entry after deportation.

And it gets more important in the fiscal year 2008 (which ends this October):

  • As of August, ICE made more than 1,000 criminal arrests tied to worksite enforcement investigations.
  • Of the 1,022 individuals criminally arrested, 116 are owners, managers, supervisors or human resources employees facing charges including harboring or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. The remaining workers criminally arrested are facing charges including aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud.
  • ICE has also made more than 3,900 administrative arrests for immigration violations during worksite enforcement operations.

If that wasn’t sobering enough, the ICE website posts their most recent arrests and punishments -all types of businesses are being investigated – from donut shops, agriculture, manufacturing, retaurants and more.

They’re not kidding any more. Make sure all your employees are legally authorized to work in the United States; review your I-9’s for each employee – and when in doubt, follow the law.

When HR supervisors are getting arrested, you know it’s serious.

Preventing Violence in the Workplace

While OSHA reports that nearly 2 million people have been victims of violence in the workplace, nearly 70% of all businesses have no workplace violence prevention policies.

That must change. Prevention is the cornerstone of all human resource policies, and it’s simple to implement (at an extremely low cost).

Too often business owners focus on the ‘now’ instead of the future. Preventing violence in the workplace is a ‘now’ issue. It could happen to you.

Courtesy washingtonceo.com