When you provide employees with e-mail, you facilitate more than productivity, camaraderie and efficient communication. You also provide them with an easy way to disparage or harass their coworkers, disseminate tasteless humor, and reveal company secrets to your competitors. E-mail messages have become a gold mine of evidence in lawsuits over charges such as sexual harassment because deleted messages can often be recovered.
Given the risk, you need to be aware of the types of messages that are floating around on your e-mail system. Employees often believe their messages are as private as personal letters sent through the U.S. mail. Indeed, some employees have sued their employers for reading their e-mail, claiming a violation of privacy. While courts so far have sided with the employers, it's best to remind employees routinely that their e-mail messages are subject to company scrutiny.