Many corporate businesses and small businesses have seen the benefits of using email. It is a convenient way to communicate quickly and to a large volume of employees and customers. However, legal issues should be considered when using email for business purposes, and steps should be taken to protect the company from any potential lawsuits.
1. Email Policies
If you are telecommuting from a company, it is very important to understand their email retention policies and email monitoring policies. Most companies request that you only use your work email for business purposes and in a professional manor, and many companies take a pre-emptive approach to avoid law suits by hiring people to scan emails sent to and from employees to make sure email policies are being met.
If you were planning to start your own business, it would be wise to set up an email account that will be used specifically for business purposes. If you are hiring other employees who will use email addresses connected to you or your business, make sure they are aware of what sort of emails they should and should not be using their email for.
2. Record Keeping
Email archiving is essential. Keep all emails sent or received in order, in case something does arise. Also, note that once you send an email, it can be forwarded on or archived in another computer system. Emails can be traced back to the computer from which they were originally sent, so it is important to be careful in what you send.
If your email is not searchable by words or phrases, make folders that you will be able to separate your emails depending on their content. Keep them very organized so that you are able to quickly locate any document for which you are searching. This way, if you are subpoenaed to show any specific emails or information contained in your email, you can find it and deliver it on time.
Also, note that even if you delete an email, it can still be found "hidden" in your hard-drive. Nothing is never "fully deleted", and again if you have already sent out the email, the email could be in the hands of anyone.
3. Integrity in Email
Make sure that every email you write has the same amount of integrity that you would use in any other document associated with your business. In modern times, email messages hold the same amount of weight as any other documents in a legal situation.
If you are emailing business facts or financial statements, make sure they are fully accurate. Several companies have been sued for sending false information to a client or even to the government.
4. Professionalism in Email
Do not send anything that could be offensive to anyone. Many lawsuits have come from people sending "innocent" jokes to their co-workers and offending one or more of them.
Additionally, do not send anything in email that you would not like broadcasted to everyone you know. Some have accidentally "replied" to everyone on their address list or sent the email to someone they did not intend. If you are discussing another employee involved in an hr situation (or a confidential business procedure), it is best to do these in person or over the phone before the information is emailed.
In keeping your emails professional and in memo-like form, you should not encounter any legal issues because of their content. Be very careful in what you write; it may come back to haunt you.