In the contemporary workplace, email is an essential and efficient form of communication. Whether it's used internally among staff members, or for exchanges with vendors and customers, email is a necessary business tool. At the same time, misuse of this technology can expose an organization to legal and reputational risks as well as security breaches. For this reason, it is crucial to put a formal email policy in place. First, an email policy should clarify whether you intend to monitor email usage. It is important your employees have no expectation of privacy with respect to emails sent using your company’s email system or computers. It is also necessary to establish what is acceptable use of the system, whether personal emails are permissible, and the type of content is appropriate. In this regard, the policy should prohibit any communication that constitutes unlawful harassment or discrimination, including lewd or racist jokes. In addition, the email policy should expressly state how confidential information should be shared or safeguarded in order to protect the business' intellectual property. By having employees read and sign an email policy, which can be included in your employee handbook, a business can protect itself from liability if a message with inappropriate content is transmitted. Further, if personal emails are not permitted, and if employees are aware that their emails are being monitored, employees are more likely to conduct themselves in a professional manner. Because personal emails tend to be more informal and unprofessional, these messages pose a risk to the company's image if they are accidentally sent to customers. Lastly, email that is used for non-business reasons is a distraction that can adversely affect productivity. The Takeaway In order for a policy to be effective, it is necessary to provide training to all the employees, enforce it consistently and implement a monitoring system to detect misuse of the email system. Ultimately, establishing a formal email policy and providing it to all employees will ensure a business remains productive and efficient. If an employee violates the policy, a company will have the ability to take disciplinary action. A well-crafted policy can help to ensure that the company's image and brand is protected. If you need guidance on drafting an effective email policy or employee handbook, please contact one of our expert employment law attorneys at Schneiders & Associates, L.L.P. By: Theodore Schneider, Esq.