In today's workplace, computers and electronic communications are the norm rather than the exception. Computers, e-mail, electronic databases and on-line research play an important role in many businesses today. Technological advances have made electronic communication indispensable in today's workplace. According to recent reports, text messaging figures into L.A. train wreck probe. Investigators of last week’s L.A. train wreck that killed 25 people are looking into a report that an engineer blamed for missing a stop signal light may have been distracted by text messaging. Today, we will discuss the ever-increasing use of technology in the workplace, its potential for abuse and how employers can protect themselves.
Managing the Risk of Worker E-Mail and Blog Misuse Kelly Savage, Esq.
CNN.com 101 Dumbest Moments in Business The year's biggest boors, buffoons, and blunderers 17. Alarm One Jeez, what a crybaby... A jury in Fresno, Calif., awards $1.7 million in damages to Janet Orlando, who quit her job with home security company Alarm One after team-building exercises during which she and her colleagues were forced to eat baby food, wear diapers, or submit to being spanked on the butt with a rival company's yard signs.
Today, you’ll learn how to prevent misuse of your company’s technology resources and how to protect your business from legal liability for employee misuse of e-mail, blogs and the Internet.
What is the problem
How big is it
What are the risks to your company
What can employers do to protect themselves
How do employers handle misuse
End goal: employers and companies will have an increased awareness of potential problems and learn to reduce risk of legal liability for employees’ misuse of company e-mail and the Internet
Chevron Oil Company was forced to pay $2.2 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a group of employees alleging that Chevron allowed its internal e-mail system to be used to disseminate sexually offense content, including the account of the “25 Reasons Why Beer is Better than Women.”
Two former employees posted more than 13,000 uncomplimentary, often defamatory (according to the jury) messages on 100 blogs concerning their former employer. They vowed to “continue posting until they died.”
A Delta flight attendant was fired for posting suggestive photographs of herself in her Delta uniform on her personal blog.
The Automobile Club of Southern California fired 27 employees for posting comments about the weight and sexual orientation of fellow employees on a popular social networking website.
Employers have a duty to prevent certain kinds of inappropriate use of company resources. Factors influencing employer liability often include whether the employer knew or should have known about the problem, the status of the employee, and the employer’s response once informed.
If a policy is implemented to govern activities on company-owned electronic communication tools—from blogging to Internet chatting—employee discipline or discharge for violation of a clear policy is usually defensible.
Employee cautioned that the Internet is neither a secure or private environment and may be accessed by non-employees
Employee acknowledges there is no expectation of privacy in employee Internet and e-mail communications
Employee consents to employer monitoring, tracking and review of all employer communications including all information stored, created and disseminated using the employer’s computer and network systems and information viewed, downloaded, copied, sent or processed using the employer’s computer and network systems
Employee is required, and agrees, to comply with all laws, regulations and rules including intellectual property including but not limited to: (1) copyrighted material; (2) licenses, including software and shareware; and (3) trade and service marks
Employee agrees to maintain the secrecy of all passwords, identification numbers or other means of entry onto the employer’s computer systems and networks, and acknowledges that the employer is the holder of all passwords, identification numbers, and other means of entry, and that the employee will use no other passwords, identification numbers and other means of entry
Internet use policy must be strictly enforced to provide a shield against liability for the employer
Consider installing a log-on screen or message that notifies the employee each time he or she turns on the computer or clicks on an Internet browser that the employee’s use of the computer and Internet is subject to and governed by employer’s Internet use policies