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Managing E-mail

May 29, 2003
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Below are sample policies for retaining e-mail by printing it, disposinge-mail, and retaining e-mail electronically. Also below are three sample e-mail policies.

Retention of E-mail Records for Paper-Based Retention
    All e-mail messages (whether in electronic form or printed on paper) thathave an ongoing legal, compliance, business, or operational value (considered a"record") or relate to an audit, investigation, or litigation must beretained in accordance with the company's records management policies andapplicable retention schedules. It is the responsibility of every e-mail user tohelp maintain e-mail records.

    It is the responsibility of each user to retain e-mail records (defined asany e-mail having an ongoing legal, compliance, business, operational, orhistorical value) like all other records in accordance with the company'sretention policies. You are to manage and retain e-mail records by printing acopy of the e-mail with all transmission information (sender, recipient[s],date, routing data, etc.) and securely storing a copy in paper form as theofficial copy in a paper folder with all other records on the same or similartopic.

    The company's active e-mail system, e-mail servers, archives, electronicfolders, and/or in-boxes will no longer serve as locations for storage andretrieval of e-mail. The primary location for retention of e-mail records willbe in paper folders within the area surrounding your workspace.

    To maximize the operating efficiency of the company's e-mail system and tominimize the storage costs associated with retaining large volumes ofunnecessary e-mail, any e-mail stored in an e-mail account in-box or any relatedelectronic folder will automatically be purged after ___ days. E-mail will bebacked up for disaster recovery purposes on a weekly basis and will thereafterbe retained for ___ months. If you will not be able to access your e-mailaccount for more than ___ days, please contact to make arrangements for youre-mail account during your absence.

    If you have any questions about the above policies, address them to ________before signing the following agreement.

    I have read ________'s Retention of E-mail Records Rule and agree to abide byit. I understand that violation of any of the above policies and procedures mayresult in disciplinary action, up to and including my termination.

______________________________________

User Name

______________________________________

User Signature

___________________

Date

©2003, Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq. Get the advice of counsel beforetaking any action regarding records retention. The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.


Dispose of Nonrecord E-mail Messages
    All copies of nonrecord e-mail (those with no ongoing legal, compliance,business, operational, or historical value) should be deleted and paperprintouts of such messages disposed of when no longer needed. Nonrecord e-mailmessages include, but are not limited to, administrative e-mail (such as aninvitation to the company holiday party or a meeting notice); they may not needto be retained as a company record, according to the records retention schedule.Such messages only need to be kept as long as they're needed to conductbusiness. Failure to dispose of such messages wastes valuable company computerresources and employee time. However, if you would retain the message if it hadbeen sent in paper form, then you should retain thee-mail transmission.

    I have read ________'s Dispose of Nonrecord E-mail Messages Rule and agree toabide by it. I understand that violation of any of the above policies andprocedures may result in disciplinary action, up to and including mytermination.

______________________________________

User Name

______________________________________

User Signature

___________________

Date

©2003, Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq. Get the advice of counsel beforetaking any action regarding nonrecords disposal. The information contained inthis article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.


Employee Retention Rules
    You are responsible for properly retaining e-mail that qualifies as abusiness record and disposing of all other e-mail messages. You should, unlessotherwise directed:

1. Purge drafts and nonrecord e-mail messages immediately when they are nolonger needed.

2. Purge convenience or reference e-mail copies immediately when they are nolonger needed.

3. Purge duplicates immediately when they are no longer needed.

    I have read ________'s Employee Retention Rules and agree to abide by them. Iunderstand any violation of any of the above policies and procedures may resultin disciplinary action, up to and including my termination.

______________________________________

User Name

______________________________________

User Signature

___________________

Date

©2003, Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq. Get the advice of counsel beforetaking any action regarding records retention. The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.


ThreeSample E-mail Policies

E-mail Policy 1
    (Organization) is pleased to make e-mail access available to authorizedemployees. Created as a business tool to help (Organization) employees servecustomers, communicate with suppliers, streamline internal communications, andreduce unnecessary paperwork, the e-mail system is intended primarily forbusiness purposes. Personal use of (Organization’s) e-mail system isrestricted to the terms outlined below. The e-mail system is the property of (Organizaton).Employees accessing (Organization’s) e-mail system are required to adhere tothe following policy and procedures. Violation of (Organization’s) e-mailpolicy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

  1. All communications and information transmitted, received, or archived in(Organization’s) computer system belong to the company. The law givesmanagement the right to access and disclose all employee e-mail messagestransmitted or received via the organization’s computer system. (Organization)may exercise its legal right to monitor employees’ e-mail activity. When itcomes to e-mail, employees should have no expectation of privacy. Be aware thatmanagement may access and monitor e-mail at any time for any reason withoutnotice.

  2. The e-mail system is reserved primarily for business use. Only under thefollowing circumstances may employees use (Organization’s) e-mail system forpersonal reasons:

a. Communication with children, spouses, domestic partners, and immediatefamily is permitted but must be limited to no more than 15 minutes a day during business hours. Employees are also free to e-mail children, spouses, domesticpartners, and immediate family during the lunch hour and other authorized breaktimes. [Some companies may want to restrict even this limited amount of personaluse within their e-mail policy.]

b. Personal e-mail communication that exceeds the time limits outlined inpoint 2a and/or that is conducted between the employee and an individual otherthan a child, spouse, domestic partner, or immediate family member is prohibitedunless authorized by (Organization’s) human resources manager.

c. The use of (Organization’s) e-mail system to solicit for any purpose,campaign for a political candidate, espouse political views, promote a religiouscause, and/or advertise the sale of merchandise is strictly prohibited withoutthe prior approval of the Chief Information Officer.

  1. E-mail passwords are the property of (Organization). Employees arerequired to provide the Chief Information Officer with current passwords. Onlyauthorized personnel are permitted to use passwords to access another employee’se-mail without consent. Misuse of passwords, the sharing of passwords withnonemployees, and/or the unauthorized use of another employee’s password willresult in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

  2. Privacy is difficult if not impossible to achieve in the electronic age.Confidential or personal information never should be sent via e-mail without theunderstanding that it can be intercepted. This includes the transmission ofcustomer financial information, Social Security numbers, employee healthrecords, proprietary data and trade secrets, and/or other confidential material.When sending confidential material (or any messages, for that matter), employeesshould use extreme caution to ensure that the intended recipient’s e-mailaddress is correct.

  3. Exercise sound judgment and common sense when distributing e-mailmessages. Client-related messages should be carefully guarded and protected,like any other written materials. You must also abide by copyright laws, ethicsrules, and other applicable laws. Exercise caution when sending blind carboncopies to ensure that you don’t violate addressees’ privacy by inadvertentlysending carbon copies.

  4. E-mail usage must conform with (Organization’s) harassment and discrimination policies. Messages containing defamatory, obscene, menacing, threatening, offensive, harassing, or otherwise objectionable and/orinappropriate statements--and/or messages that disclose personal informationwithout authorization--are prohibited. If you receive this type of prohibited,unsolicited message, do not forward it. Notify your supervisor, the lawdepartment, and/or the Chief Information Officer about the message. Handle themessage as instructed by management.

  5. E-mail messages should be treated as formal business documents, written inaccordance with (Organization’s) guidelines. Style, spelling, grammar, andpunctuation should be appropriate and accurate, and the rules of netiquette mustbe adhered to.

  6. Employees are prohibited from sending jokes, rumors, gossip, orunsubstantiated opinions via e-mail. These communications, which often containobjectionable material, are easily misconstrued when communicatedelectronically.

  7. Employees are prohibited from sending organization-wide e-mail messages toall employees without approval from the law department or Chief InformationOfficer. In addition, employees are prohibited from requesting e-mail replies toorganization-wide e-mail without the permission of the Chief InformationOfficer.

  8. Employees may not waste (Organization’s) computer resources or colleagues’ time. Send e-mail messages and copies only to those with a legitimate need to read your message. Chain messages and executable graphics should be deleted, not forwarded, as they can overload the system.

  9. Only the Chief Information Officer and/or systems administrator maygenerate public mail distribution lists.

  10. Employees are responsible for knowing and adhering to (Organization’s)e-mail retention and deletion policies.

  11. Misuse and/or abuse of (Organization’s) electronic assets (wastingproductive time online, copying or downloading copyrighted materials, visitinginappropriate sites, sending inappropriate/abusive e-mail messages, etc.) willresult in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

    If you have any questions about the above policies, address them to_____________ before signing the following agreement.

    I have read ________’s e-mail policy and agree to abide by it. I understandthat violation of any of the above policies and procedures may result indisciplinary action, up to and including my termination.

______________________________________

User Name

______________________________________

User Signature

___________________

Date

©2003, Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq. Get the advice of counsel beforetaking any action regarding E-mail policies. The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.

E-mail Policy 2
    Because e-mail is an efficient way to send urgent messages and/or messages tomultiple readers, __________ is pleased to make e-mail access available toemployees. Employees using the organization’s e-mail system must adhere to thefollowing e-mail policy and procedures:

  1. The e-mail system is reserved for business use only.

  2. Use extreme caution to ensure that the correct e-mail address is used forthe intended recipient(s).

  3. Be aware that management may access and monitor e-mail at any time for anyreason without notice.

  4. Do not treat e-mail as confidential or private.

  5. Employees must provide the Chief Information Officer with passwords.

  6. Only authorized personnel are permitted to access another person’se-mail without consent.

  7. Employees should exercise sound judgment and common sense whendistributing messages. Client-related messages should be carefully guarded andprotected like any other written materials. You also must abide by copyrightlaws, ethics rules, and other applicable laws.

  8. Sending harassing, abusive, intimidating, discriminatory, or otheroffensive e-mails is strictly prohibited.

  9. Use of __________’s e-mail system to solicit for any purpose without theconsent of the Chief Information Officer is strictly prohibited.

  10. Violation of this e-mail policy will subject the employee to disciplinaryaction, up to and including termination.

    If you have any questions about the above policies, address them to__________ before signing the following agreement.

    I have read __________’s e-mail policy and agree to abide by it. Iunderstand that violation of any of the above policies and procedures may resultin disciplinary action, up to and including my termination.

______________________________________

User Name

______________________________________

User Signature

___________________

Date

©2003, Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq. Get the advice of counsel beforetaking any action regarding e-mail policies. The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.

E-mail Policy 3
    This policy provides employees with effective, consistent e-mail usagestandards. This policy applies to all employees of the company at all locations.

  • All communications and information transmitted, received, or archived inthe company’s computer system belong to the company. The company reserves theright to access and disclose all employee e-mail messages.

  • E-mail messages should be treated as formal documents. Style, spelling,grammar, and punctuation should be appropriate and accurate.

  • Use professional, appropriate language in e-mail messages. Employees areprohibited from sending abusive, harassing, threatening, or otherwise offensivemessages.

  • Employees are prohibited from sending jokes, rumors, gossip, orunsubstantiated opinions via e-mail. These communications, which often containobjectionable material, are easily misconstrued when communicatedelectronically.

  • Be aware that privacy does not exist in cyberspace. Never transmitconfidential or personal information via e-mail.

  • Employees are prohibited from sending organization-wide e-mail messages toall employees without approval from the Chief Information Officer.

  • Employees may not waste computer resources or colleagues’ time. Sende-mail messages and copies only to those with a legitimate need to read yourmessage.

  • Adhere to netiquette guidelines as detailed in the organization’selectronic writing style manual.

    If you have any questions about the above policies, address them to__________ before signing the following agreement.

    I have read __________’s e-mail policy and agree to abide by it. Iunderstand that violation of any of the above policies and procedures may resultin disciplinary action, up to and including my termination.

______________________________________

User Name

______________________________________

User Signature

___________________

Date

©2003, Nancy Flynn and Randolph Kahn, Esq. Get the advice of counsel beforetaking any action regarding e-mail policies. The information contained in thisarticle is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, butshould not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember thatstate laws may differ from the federal law.

Adapted from EMAIL RULES: A Business Guide to Managing Policies, Security,and Legal Issues for E-mail and Digital Communication ©2003, Nancy Flynn andRandolph Kahn, Esq. Published by AMACOMBooks, a division of American ManagementAssociation, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. 

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