.. her job it was her responsibility to install an e-mail system and train 700 employees to create messages on their personal computers and send them over the network to their fellow workers. Shoars assured employuees that their E-mail communications would be totally private as she herself had been so assured. Later, however, Shoars discovered that her supervisor, the manager of the mainframe that received, stored and routed the messages was in fact copying and reading the employee’s e-mail. When Shoars complained she was fired which resulted in her taking her employer to court.
A class action suit was also filed on behalf of all the employees whose e-mail had been opened. The judge dismissed the case, but the prosecuting attorney has appealed the case and is prepared to take it to the United States Supreme Court (Bjerklie 14). In the cases of Owns vs. Morgan Stanley & Co. and Jones vs. RR Donnelly & Sons employees again used E-mail for the improper use of sending and receiving E-mail messages containing racist jokes about African Americans. And in Strauss vs.
Microsoft a supervisor sent a sexually explicit E-mail message that formed a basis for a sex discrimination lawsuit and could have been grounds for a sexual harassment action as well (Coelho 30). The company Chevron was a victim of E-mail abuse by employees and suffered greatly. They were charged with a sexual harrassment case in February 1995 after employees sent around an E-mail message entitled, “25 reasons beer is better than women.” Attorneys used the routine E-mail message as evidence of wrongdoing and won the case costing the company a $2.2 million settlement (Barsook and Roemer 10). In 1994 Michael Smyth, a regional manager at Pillsbury in Pennsylvania, sent an E-mail to his supervisor blasting company managers and threatening to “kill the backstabbing bastards.” Though Pillsbury had assured employees that E-mail was private, it intercepted the message and fired Smyth. In turn, Smyth filed for wrongful discharge, but the court threw out the case. He learned the hard way: Never expect privacy for E-mail send through a company system (Brown 66). In order to protect themselves from lawsuits, companies should look toward making company E-mail standards to let their employees know the extent of their privacy.
A Massachusetts court has even suggested that if a company does not advise its employees, in advance, that their E-mail is accessible to and subject to review by management, it may be violating the law when it reads the messages (Evans and Musker 35). When it comes to the Internet and E-mail, no state law protects the privacy of an individual while at work. The only area open to dispute is the case in which an employer stipulates it won’t monitor and then does (Richard 75). All of these court cases show how concerned that employees should be today. Privacy is a major concern in the business industry and should remain that way, so employees must take the time now to protect themselves from future litigations by producing an E-mail policy. Estimates indicate that only about one-third of U.S.
businesses with E-mail systems have policies. When drafting an E-mail policy a company should consider various factors. They should take into effect the management concerns the policy will address such as improper use of business resources or leakage of proprietary information. It should also address the nature of the work force involved and how that could factor into their acceptance (Van Doren 5). In the official draft of an E-mail policy, the boss should explicitly state that E-mail is a company right and should be used for business purposes only. It should also state that the company reserves the right to monitor and disclose employee E-mails, and that the E-mail system may in no way be used to send offensive or improperty messages, such as racial or sexual slurs.
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1993: 14-15. Brown, Eryn. “The Myth of E-mail Privacy.” Fortune 3 Feb. 1997: 66. Coelho, Robert. “Employer vs. Employee Rights on Workplace E-mail.” Business Journal Serving San Jose & Silicon Valley 16.26 (1998): 30-32.
CNET Special Reports. “What do the courts say?” Accessed on March 5, 1999. Http://www.cnet.com/Content/Features/Dlife/Privacy /ss05.html Eberly, Steven. “To Reap the Benefits of Electronic Mailing, You Must Know the Law.” Cincinnati Business Courier 2 Dec. 1996: 22. Evans, David and Jean Musker. “E-mail and the Workplace: Sending the Message Legally.” Boston Business Journal 7 Nov.
1997: 35. Hoke III, Henry Reed. “LIDMA Meeting Review.” Direct Marketing Dec. 1998: 43. “Learn the Net: How Private is Your E-mail?” Accessed on March 5, 1999. http://learnthenet.com/english/html/75email.htm. Lyford, Daniel E.
“Your Business and E-mail Privacy Accountability.” Business NH Magazine Apr. 1997: 28. Meyerhoff, Lisa H. “Litigation Could Lurk In a Murky E-mail Policy.” Austin Business Journal 12 June 1998: 31. Miller, Steven. “E-mail’s popularity poses workplace privacy problems.” Business First October 6, 1997: 1-3. Rainone, Sebastian M.; Spinior, Janice C.; et al. “Ethical Management of Employee E-mail Privacy.” Information Strategy Spring 98, Vol. 14 Issue 3, p34, 7p.
Repa, Barbara Kate. “Computers and E-mail on the Job: They’re Watching You.” Accessed on March 5, 1999. Http://www.nolo.com/ChunkEMP/computers.html. Richard, Diane. “E-mail Ethics: Bosses Can Pry if They Want To.” Corporate Report-Minenesota Jan. 1999: 74-76. Van Doren, Jeffrey A. “E-mail Monitoring Policies- A Must For Employers.” Supervisory Management Feb.