Cyberspace And The Workplace: CCH Offers Tips For Creating Effective E-mail, Internet Use Policies
(RIVERWOODS, ILL., June 7, 2001) Whether your employees use e-mail,
the Internet or both, for business or approved personal reasons, misuse of this technology
can cost a company plenty in lower productivity and even employer liability, according to
CCH INCORPORATED (CCH), a leading provider of employment law and human resources
information and e-learning (http://hr.cch.com).
But there are some simple steps companies can take to minimize the risks presented by
such issues. By adopting an Internet and e-mail policy and making sure that employees
fully understand the issues they face in cyberspace, organizations can make sure that
employees use this technology properly and productively.
Policy Helps Set Boundaries Around Unwieldy Web
"The informality of e-mail and web communications and the privacy and ease with
which they allow information to be transferredsometimes again and againmake it
necessary for everyone to be aware of how to use these tools responsibly," said CCH
employment law analyst Joy Waltemath, JD.
Theres also the issue of employee morale.
If you havent communicated your policy to employees, they may be surprised
unpleasantlyto find out that the personal e-mail they sent from home on the
companys laptop can be accessed, or that the web sites they visit can be monitored.
According to CCH, organizations and their employees will both benefit from a clearly
stated e-mail and Internet use policy that covers the following key areas:
Because employers have different needs and requirements, each organization should
adopt and communicate its own policy regarding personal use of e-mail and the Internet.
Your policy should:
State if personal use is permitted, and if so, whether it is restrictedfor
example, allowed only during breaks or after hours.
State that if personal use is permitted, employees are required to act responsibly,
appropriately and professionally whether during, before or after normal business hours.
State that if personal use is permitted, it must not be excessive and must not distract
from organizational objectives.
The policy should make clear that the employer retains the right to access and
monitor any messages and files on its computer system as long as is necessary and
appropriate for legitimate business reasons. This includes the right to access and monitor
employee e-mail and Internet useand applies to both personal and business use.
Legitimate business reasons may include:
Identifying and diagnosing hardware and software problems
Preventing system abuse
Complying with all legal and regulatory requests for information
Ensuring compliance with the employers e-mail and Internet use policy as well as
other relevant policies
Otherwise protecting the employers business and legal interests.
Make clear that the fact that employees have private passwords does not, in any way,
mean that the employer has given up the right to monitor.
Additionally, include a statement that the employer reserves the right to limit and
restrict access to the organizations e-mail and Internet system. Many employees have
the erroneous view that e-mail and Internet access are personal benefits.
- No Expectation of Privacy
Let employees know that e-mail and Internet use should always be considered
"public" information. Because electronic communications are the property of the
employer, e-mail and Internet use can never be considered private or
confidentialregardless of whether the use is business-related or personal.
Employees also should understand that they should not assume deleted e-mails or history
of accessed web sites cannot be retrieved.
Clearly communicate that the following is prohibited:
any use of e-mail and Internet that is inappropriate, offensive or that negatively
affects employees ability to perform their jobs or has that effect on others
any use that violates state or federal law
any use that violates other existing corporate policies, including those dealing with
sexual harassment, equal opportunity practices, privacy, confidentiality and the misuse of
organizational equipment and resources.
Specifically make clear that the company prohibits the use of e-mail or the Internet to
send, receive or access obscene, pornographic or discriminatory material. Employees also
must understand that they should never send messages that contain material that is or
possibly could be interpreted as abusive, sexist, racist or otherwise offensive.
Your policy also should include a prohibition on defamatory statements and prohibit the
use of e-mail or Internet to communicate any false information that could tend to hurt
another persons reputation.
Employers should establish a process for reporting policy violations. You may wish
to use the same reporting process you already have in place for reporting harassment or
other inappropriate behavior. This may mean that employees report to a supervisor or to an
alternate contact, such as someone in the Human Resources department.
Include a statement that retaliation against another employee for reporting
inappropriate behavior in the workplace, including violation of the e-mail and Internet
use policy, is prohibited, including the use of e-mail or the Internet in a retaliatory
fashion. Anyone who engages in retaliation will be subject to discipline, up to and
State that anyone violating the rule against inappropriate use may be disciplined.
Discipline may include oral or written warning, reprimands, demotion, suspension,
probation or discharge. If the person who violates the policy is a manager or supervisor,
a more severe penalty may be necessary.
Putting a policy in place and communicating this critical information will save the
employee embarrassment at best, and the employer legal liability at worst.
Employers that want to ensure that their messages are heard have the option of training
employees not only on their policy, but also on appropriate uses of e-mail and the
About CCH INCORPORATED
CCH INCORPORATED, Riverwoods, Ill., is a leading provider of employment law information
end e-learning for human resource professionals, including HR Management Series, Employee
Benefits Management, hrtools.com and CCH Shared Learning , a comprehensive
line of web-based training courses (http://elearning.cch.com).
CCH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer North America. The CCH web site can be
accessed at www.cch.com. The Human
Resources Group web site can be accessed at http://hr.cch.com.
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