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Essentials of Internet and E-Mail Monitoring Polices

February 14, 2002
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Related Topics: Internet, Technology and the Law, Policies and Procedures, Featured Article
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Businesses throughout the country are clamoring for electronic-monitoringsoftware, but the biggest mistake they make in implementing the technology isnot having a policy to back it up.

"The cleanest approach is to notify employees upfront, put the policy in the handbook, and keep records of how often you remindemployees they are being monitored," says attorney Wayne Hersh, a partnerspecializing in labor and employment law at Berger Kahn in Irvine, California."Employees have a much harder time suing successfully for violated privacyrights if they’ve been notified."

Nancy Flynn, author of The ePolicy Handbook (AMACOM,2001) and founder of the ePolicy Institute in Columbus, Ohio, agrees, and addsthat employers must have a training program in place to educate employees aboutelectronic liabilities and the importance of compliance. "The only way toreduce workplace risk is through training. You can’t expect all of youremployees to understand and comply with policies without an ongoing trainingprogram," Flynn says.

Here are some guidelines to follow in establishingelectronic-monitoring policies:

  • Ban e-mail language that could negatively affect your organization’sbusiness relationships, damage your corporate reputation, or trigger a lawsuit.Ban sexist or racist language; ban jokes. Employees should try to keep e-maillanguage gender-neutral.

  • Include corporate guidelines such as how you want employees to refer tothe company, how to sign off, and what kinds of salutations to use. Banishemoticons. That kind of visual shorthand has no place in business writing.

  • Ban inappropriate Web sites -- usually those that are sexually explicitor violent, or contain otherwise objectionable images or language.

  • To conserve bandwidth, outlaw Net surfing for personal information,game-playing online, chat rooms, gambling, shopping, and any other electronicactivity not directly related to professional duties. (Many employers do allowsome personal use of the Web during lunchtime.)

  • Prohibit employees from posting or transmitting material that is obscene,hateful, harmful, malicious, threatening, hostile, abusive, vulgar, defamatory,profane, or racially, sexually, or ethnically objectionable.

Workforce, February 2002, p. 42 -- Subscribe Now!

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