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