E-Mail And Internet Usage Policies for Employers in Minnesota

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View our similar post: Social Media and Internet Use Policy – Does My Business Need One?

This post is part of a series of posts entitled A Legal Guide to the Internet. For a comprehensive list of articles contained in this series, click here.

The best solution to limiting an employer’s liability is to establish an official e-mail usage policy. This policy should be carefully conceived and disseminated to all employees. A physical copy should be given to employees and posted with other official legal notices to employees. Also, employees should acknowledge agreement with that policy.

The content of a company’s e-mail and Internet policy depends on the type of business. Businesses with confidential information and trade secrets may want to have a stricter policy. The policy should be included in the employer’s disciplinary code. The following is a list of issues that the policy should address:

  • state that all e-mail correspondence is the property of the employer and employee e-mail is not considered private
  • state whether the company system can be used for reasonable private use or whether it is solely for business use. If connected to the Internet, state that it can only be used for business-related purposes
  • state that the employer reserves the right to monitor its e-mail system at its discretion in the ordinary course of business
  • state that the system must not be used to communicate highly sensitive, offensive, defamatory, or derogatory messages, which include, but is not limited to, messages that are inconsistent with the employer’s policies concerning sexual harassment, equal employment opportunity, etc.
  • state that all downloaded files from the Internet must be checked for possible computer viruses

All personnel should use care when addressing e-mail messages to avoid inadvertent messages from being sent to the wrong address. This is especially crucial of confidential information. Development of a business/client address book listing all clients may reduce the tendency to inadvertently misspell an address. Businesses should also be cautioned not to use the “reply to all” function without first checking where the message could be sent. Proofreading an e-mail for accuracy and for the correct address will also reduce the risk of sending out private, confidential or inappropriate information. Businesses should tailor a usage policy to their company. Contact one of our experienced employment attorneys to have a custom internet usage policy drafted for your business.

This and the following posts have been copied or adopted from A Legal Guide To The INTERNET – Sixth Edition, published through a collaborative effort by the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development and Merchant & Gould.