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.

Tardiness on the Rise

So 20% of American workers are late to work at least once a week.

In an era where jobs are becoming more and more precious (and conversely, layoffs are becoming more common) – it’s disturbing to think that 1 in 5 workers think so little of their jobs that they’re willing to gamble on being late once a week.

The usual culprits are excuses: traffic, dealing with children or pets, etc.

I am beginning to advise employers of the benefits of a high employment rate – that is, you can get a much more qualified worker now than ever before. And if that worker has been out of a job, they will be more loyal, work harder, and improve your productivity.

Jobs are scarce. Workers had better value their job (and show up on time), because there are many people out there who would take that job more seriously.

New I-9 Form Due April 3

It’s once again time for a new I-9 form to be used by all employers.

All employees hired must complete the form within 3 days of hire. The revisions are minor, but the new forms must be used as of April 3, 2009.

Employers need not have existing employees complete the new form; the old form will suffice for them.

Who or What Is Lilly Ledbetter?

Lilly Ledbetter was an employee at an Alabama plant of The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, plant from 1979 until 1998. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1998, alleging her supervisors gave her poor performance evaluations because of her sex.

In 2007, by a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found in favor of Goodyear.

President Obama recently signed a law that overturned that ruling. The new law will make it possible for employees to assert claims of discrimination in compensation virtually without any time limit. Depending on how the statute is construed, it could affect other discrimination claims as well. As a result, employers not only will face increased discrimination claims, but also difficulty defending against them. (Even more ominous is the law backdates any claims to May 2007, when the Court made its ruling).

So now what?

  1. Review your pay practices. Conduct a pay/compensation audit for your entire company to ensure your procedures meet the criteria of the Ledbetter Pay Act. This includes reviewing your past pay practices as well.
  2. Train and educate your management team. Everyone who conducts performance reviews needs to understand the ramifications of this act.
  3. Review your records retention policies.

Management & Leadership Trends 2009

My recent article generated enough interest that I recently turned it into a presentation. Here it is in PowerPoint format.

Facebook – Another Employer Dilemma

Some recruiters and hiring managers just can’t get enough information about a job candidate. And the restrictions on what you can – and cannot – ask in the interviewing process are restrictive.

So therefore, there is no reason for any employer to search Facebook, MySpace, etc. for further information on a candidate. Sure, you might find more information – but it may or may not be true. And if you find information that you’re not supposed to know, then you could be liable for a wrongful employment decision – whether you used that information or not.

Just say no to Facebook when hiring an employee.

Jackie Ford at Marketwatch has a good article which articulates specific, additional reasons why employers can be liable.