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A woman’s boss overheard that she had purchased a new dress and decided to send her an email late at night telling her “I’m sure you’ll look amazing in it”. After a half-hearted apology for sending her the email, he then sent her an instant message that she felt was “completely inappropriate”.
Two women were fired from PNC Bank for forwarding an email of Hillary Clinton’s head superimposed on a pornographic image. These women then sued PNC for wrongful termination, claiming that PNC had not previously enforced its policies prohibiting such behavior.
A trial lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was fired for sending three emails expressing his political views, demeaning support staff, and for mailing a confidential report in violation of SEC policies. The case went to arbitration.
A 17-year-old high school student allegedly received highly inappropriate emails and text messages from a now former Crown Point Community School Corporation employee and filed an 11-claim lawsuit in response.
A collection of a few tweets I found as I’m writing this include:
- “(important meeting tomorrow morning but it’s alright my boss is also drunk right now)”
- “Sometimes I think my boss is drunk. Not always. Just when he’s drunk.”
- “I swear I am going to sock my boss one of these days!! He’s such an idiot!!!! Incompetent!! How he is my boss, I don’t know!!!”
- “My customer is like… Stupid or something”
The Carson Medlin Company was censured and fined $20,000 by FINRA for, among other things, it “.…failed to retain all business-related electronic communications…”.
A court found that Samsung, in its recent litigation with Apple, had a duty to impose a legal hold on relevant email beginning in August 2010. However, Samsung did not disable its email system’s auto-delete capability and so was not able to produce relevant email that Apple had requested, resulting in an adverse inference instruction to the jury in the case.
Clearly, email and other electronic communication can get your company in trouble if it is not managed properly. It can lead to lawsuits, damaged reputation, adverse inference instructions, regulatory penalties and other serious consequences.
However, most organizations have not addressed the issue adequately according to a study that we published in August:
- While 99% of mid-sized and large organizations have an email policy, only 38% report that it is a detailed and thorough policy – 61% report that their email policy is basic and covers only general use of email.
- Only 34% have a detailed and thorough policy covering use of employer-supplied smartphones.
- Only 33% have a detailed and thorough policy covering use of the Web.
- Only 31% have a detailed and thorough policy covering use of personally owned smartphones.
- Only 21% have a detailed and thorough policy covering use of Facebook.
- Only 17% have a detailed and thorough policy covering use of Twitter.
The message here is that organizations are vulnerable to a variety of negative consequences arising from inappropriate or malicious use of electronic communication, but too few are taking the proactive steps necessary to prevent or minimize these risks.
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