Friday, February 29, 2008

Employer electronic monitoring survey illustrates the importance of clearly defined policies

The Electronic Discovery Navigator is reporting that according to the 2007 Electronic Monitoring & Surveillance Survey from American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute, more than half of all employers have fired an employee for e-mail or internet abuse. According to the report:

The 28% of employers that have fired an employee for e-mail misuse cited the following reasons:

  • Violation of any company policy (64%)
  • Inappropriate or offensive language (62%)
  • Excessive personal use (26%)
  • Breach of confidentiality rules (22%)
  • Other (12%)

The 30% of employers that have fired an employee for internet abuse cited the following reasons:

  • Viewing, downloading, or uploading inappropriate/offensive content (84%)
  • Violation of any company policy (48%)
  • Excessive personal use (34%)
  • Other (9%)

The stat that really caught my eye is that of the 65% of companies that use software to block connections to websites they deem inappropriate for work, 18% prevent employees from visiting blogs. And, it's not only the reading of blogs that is getting employees in trouble. Both Ernie the Attorney and John Phillips' Word on Employment Law are reporting on a CNN producer fired for having a blog that CNN deemed to be unfriendly towards it. CNN has a policy in its handbook that prohibits employees from writing for any non-CNN outlet without network approval, and terminated the employee for his off-work musings.

Technology in today's workplace comes in too many forms to keep track. It's no longer just enough to have a policy that covers e-mail and internet access. Workplace technology is not going to get any less complicated, and it is important to have policies in place that keep up with the changes. Policies should also cover blackberries and other PDAs, cell phones, and even blogs. Companies have to be careful, however, not to overreach and be too draconian in what they try to accomplish with these policies. If you intend to hold employees accountable for what they do on their private free time (whether it's blogging, smoking, or any other lawful activity), it's best to have those expectations out in the open so that everyone is operating under the same ground rules, and people will have less of a reason to gripe if there is some adverse action taken.