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Employer liability for monitoring workplace e-mail and Internet use is a concern for companies who employ different monitoring methods to optimize workforce performance. See Daniel F. Murphy, Jr., “How to Avoid Liability for Monitoring Employee E-Mail and Internet Use,” Start-Up and Emerging Companies, December 2000. Having a well-drafted and consistently enforced policy can help companies avoid liability for employee Internet and e-mail monitoring. This paper offers a suggested policy and a list of rules that employees should agree to as a condition of their employment. (1) The e-mail system is to be used principally for company business. Company personnel may use the e-mail system for personal use as long as it does not interfere with the ability of personnel to perform their job functions, and does not interfere with, or threaten the security or operation of, the company’s e-mail or computer system. (2) All e-mail messages that are sent or received on the company’s e-mail system belong to the company. Employee e-mail usage will occasionally be monitored. The company may access, review and disclose to others e-mail messages sent or received through its e-mail system for any purpose at anytime. (3) E-mail communications should be drafted with the same care used to draft letters or formal memoranda. E-mail should not contain material that might embarrass the company, its personnel, or its customers. (4) The e-mail system must not be used to create, display or transmit discriminatory, obscene, offensive, sexually explicit, threatening or harassing language or images. Further, the e-mail system is not to be used for creating, displaying (including screen savers or “wallpaper”) or transmitting any material related to race, gender, religion, national origin, medical condition, actual or perceived disability, veteran status or sexual orientation in violation of company policy or any applicable state and federal law. Violations of this policy will be cause for discipline or immediate termination at the company’s discretion. (5) Recipients of e-mail messages sent by company personnel or customers in violation of this policy should immediately forward offending messages to the Human Relations Department or office manager. Threatening messages also should be reported to the appropriate company personnel. If inappropriate messages are received from other senders, the recipient should immediately advise the sender not to send any further inappropriate material via the company e-mail system and delete the inappropriate message from the system. (6) The e-mail system may be used to communicate with non-company personnel, including customers, potential customers and attorneys. As with any method of communication, company personnel should always weigh e-mail efficiency against the possibility of compromising confidentiality of the material to be transmitted and the possibility that such e-mail messages may be intercepted by an unauthorized third party. (7) The e-mail system must not be used to transmit attorney-client or otherwise privileged communications to unauthorized recipients. The company has certain mechanisms available to company personnel that may decrease the chances of unauthorized interception or disclosure of e-mail messages. These mechanisms include encryption and the utilization of a label on e-mail messages advising that the material is confidential. (8) E-mail messages sent within the company should not contain a “signature” block or any confidentiality message. Such information is unnecessary on internal messages and wastes system resources. (9) The e-mail system is not to be used as a filing system for messages sent or received by company personnel. Accordingly, e-mail messages will be deleted from the system every ninety (90) days. Old messages can be retained by transferring them into the company’s document management system or by filing a hard copy in the company’s central files. (10) Unless pre-approved, the company’s e-mail system may not be used by company personnel to solicit charitable contributions; or solicit the sale, purchase or rental of merchandise or services, including tickets to sporting or other entertainment events. The company’s intranet may be used for such purposes. (11) Never open an unexpected or unknown e-mail attachment. Such attachments may contain viruses that could damage the company’s e-mail and computer systems. Any suspicious attachments or e-mail messages should be reported to the IS department. E-MAIL ETIQUETTE RULES � Send e-mail messages only to those who need the information. If your message is to be sent to a group, make sure that you are using the smallest available group. For example, if you are requesting information about a legal issue, send your message only to the group of recipients most likely to have knowledge regarding the issue. Similarly, before you copy a message to multiple recipients, think about whether all of the recipients are necessary. Unnecessary “cc” messages take time for the recipient to review and waste system resources. Do not send an e-mail to a person if you would not have sent the same information to that person in a written memorandum. � Verify before you send that each of the recipients listed is the person you intend to receive the message. � Do not send messages that would not be approved by your supervisor. If you would not say it, or write it in a letter, do not send it in an e-mail. � Always review, spell check and edit messages before sending them. � If angry, take time to cool down before sending out a message you might later regret. � Ask someone to review a draft of an e-mail message if you are not sure about its content. � Do not use humor or sarcasm in a situation in which it might be taken incorrectly. � DO NOT USE ALL CAPS — some people might perceive it as shouting. � Make your message brief. Some people receive hundreds of e-mail messages each day, so do not waste their time with unnecessary words. � Be sure the header (title) describes the subject matter clearly. � Do not combine several subjects in the same message and thereby risk the possibility of losing important information in the message. � Do not mark everything as a priority — use the designation sparingly and in legitimate situations. � E-mail messages sent outside of the company should include a “signature” block that contains the sender’s name, address and telephone number.

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