The Dangers of E-mails in the Workplace

There is no such thing as an innocent e-mail in the workplace. While people believe it’s electronic and potentially harmless, e-mails live in storage forever, and often are resurrected by lawyers when it comes to employee litigation.


In a recent newsletter, Fisher & Phillips attorney Tillman Coffey
top lines the reasons why e-mails are so dangerous. We’ve also written about it here and here.

There are several reasons why both managers and employees should re-thinking sending an e-mail hitting the “Send” button:

  1. E-mails about employees are discoverable. Comments on an employees performance (including comments whether they are too old, or sick, or ineffective) are actionable. Lawyers love to see these e-mails.
  2. Among the most common problems in e-mail: Messages that create a sexist, racist or hostile work environment, note experts. One e-mail message that made the rounds at Chevron in 1999 was titled “25 reasons why beer is better than women,” Flynn said. Four female executives used it as evidence of a hostile work environment and were awarded $2.2 million.
  3. The tone of an e-mail is easily misconstrued (using all CAPS, for example).

Before sending an e-mail, take a breath. Ask yourself if you’d like to answer questions about it in front of a jury.

Make sure to get an e-mail policy included in your handbook.

And remember, hitting the send button memorializes your comments forever.

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