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  Oracle Tips by Burleson

Inappropriate E-mail Use

Electronic mail use has become an everyday activity for millions of people; especially in the workplace. IT professionals have become reliant upon this communications medium to perform their job functions. Email use is so prevalent that people have become nonchalant about what is acceptable use or not in the workplace where it is common to find personal and business email use occurring in tandem.

Inappropriate email use can occur in many forms. Many IT professionals regularly exchange emails that contain unacceptable content. This may include inappropriate language, images, and video clips. Email with off-color jokes or images that were meant to be funny may not be funny to some and it they should not be tolerated at all. Company policies should explicitly condemn such use of electronic resources.

Harassment  is another unacceptable behavior that is perpetrated through company electronic resources. Some employees feel secure using email to threaten others. It is surprising the number of attacks that occur through this medium. Emails can easily be monitored and reviewed by employers and they regularly are. Many companies monitor emails for specific words and flag them for content review. The employees really are on the losing end of these types of activities. Technology has progressed so dramatically that it is virtually impossible to evade detection when using electronic facilities for improper purposes. Yet these activities continue to occur and employees continue to get fired. 

E-mail Use – Case 1

In the case of McLaren v. Microsoft Corp, the plaintiff claimed invasion of privacy when the employer reviewed the employee’s email. The state appeals court ruled that an employee has no claim for invasion of privacy and that having a password does not create reasonable expectation of privacy for employees. The court also found that since the email system was owned by the company and existed for the functioning of the job, the emails were not the property of the employee.

Email Use – Case 2

The rights of the employer were upheld in Fraser v. Nationwide Insurance Co. when it was ruled that the employer did not violate the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.

The employer retrieved an employee's e-mail sent via company systems to a competitor company. The unscrupulous employee intended to compromise the employer’s customer base. Since the employer had not intercepted the email while it was being sent, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was not violated.

The employee had sent the email and it was received by the competitor company. An employer may intercept emails at any time including while being sent or received using company systems as long as it has notified employees that a) they have no expectation of privacy in the use of the company email system, b) monitoring of the email system may occur at any time with or without notice, and c) all emails transferred via company systems are the property of the employer and may be reviewed by employer at any time.

The above book excerpt is from:

You're Fired! Firing Computer Professionals

The IT manager Guide for Terminating "With Cause"

ISBN 0-9744486-4-8

Robert Papaj


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