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Has your HR Department Incorporated an Internet Strategy?

The internet and the ability now to transmit tremendous volumes of information electronically have been a blessing to the corporate world. However, with these technologies come new challenges to the Human Resources professional. For instance, has your company developed written internet policies? If so, are those policies adequate to reduce your company's risk of liability? To answer these questions, first look at some of the potential problems which can arise.

 

Sexual Harassment
Email can be used in a sexually harassing manner. The internet makes available pornographic and obscene material which can be attached and disseminated throughout an office with the click of a key. This can expose an employer to a charge of a "hostile work environment." An employer's failure to control such email abuse, or at least have policies in place to do so, can expose that employer to liability. Does your company have in place a system to review the electronic environment for evidence of such activity? Does it have a policy on what action will be taken in the event such an abuse is discovered?


Protecting Sensitive Employee Information
An employer will typically have confidential information concerning its employees. More and more states are adopting privacy laws to supplement existing federal laws requiring protection of this information. Transmitting this data electronically could be a violation.

 

Privacy Agreement
Does your company have a privacy agreement? If so, do your privacy practices follow your agreements? If you do not have consistency between your privacy notices and your privacy procedures, you could be engaging in deceptive trade practices.

 

What to Do
1. Develop a written internet use policy prohibiting wrongful internet conduct.
2. Make employees aware of this policy with training sessions.
3. Enforce the policy. Adherence to this policy must be a condition of continued employment.
4. Your policy should be tailored to the specific needs of your company. By enacting such a policy, you can reduce your company's liability.


Contributing Author:

Jeffrey E. Friedman
Jeffrey E. Friedman, Shareholder
Email Address jfriedman@friedman-lawyers.com
Direct Line 205-278-7010
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This client alert is provided solely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended to constitute legal advice. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.