Successful legal challenges are not always won because the allegations were valid or accurate. Often winning in court, or any other legal forum, is simply a matter of who can produce the evidence to back up a legal theory. If an employee, job applicant, business associate, or anyone else that legally challenges a company, backs up their allegations with credible documentation; they will have an edge at becoming the victor. The key is evidence.
The need for credible evidence is nothing new
Courts, Worker’s Compensation boards, OSHA, EEOC and other legal forums where HR challenges are presented, have always relied on witness affidavits, letters, photos, expert reports, and other hard copy evidence to prove or disprove cases. But as both businesses and individuals increasingly rely on modern technology to document and store day-to-day communications, we are likely to see email playing a more significant role as the evidence that sways a judge, magistrate, or hearing officer in one direction or the other.
With so much email interaction, it can be difficult to decide what’s important until a particular legal situation arises. That’s why it’s important to treat each email produced in the course of a business day as potential evidence that may one day be the key to a successful defense. It’s crucial to to find a reliable, efficient, and organized system for archiving all emails, just in case they are needed for evidence somewhere down the road.
Emails are the source of a new generation of legal challenges
In a country where most citizens have the capability of communicating via email, it’s not surprising that stalking, bullying and other undesirable offline behaviors have found their way into cyberspace. The National Conference of State legislatures’ list of Cyberstalking and Cyberharassment laws confirms email crimes as such a critical issue that all states have enacted laws to try and control the trend.
It’s impossible for an HR employment screening process to predict which employees may have the potential for cyber stalking, bullying or harassment behavior. And as email technology is often an integral part of every employee’s job, it can be difficult to keep such behaviors out of the work place.
Despite the lack of control over these behaviors, businesses may be held responsible when employees choose to stalk, bully or harass via email on company time. It’s important to find creative ways to minimize the risk.
Using email to reduce a company’s risk
A company may not be able to control its employees’ cyber stalking, harassing, and bullying, but it can enact a zero tolerance policy for such behavior. HR could share the policy via email, and require a return email acknowledging receipt of the policy by every employee. The emails generated should be archived indefinitely.
The cyber trail created by such steps should serve to minimize a company’s risk and responsibility for an employee’s bad behavior. In the event of a policy violation, the archived emails may provide the evidence necessary to mount a successful defense.
Saving evidence is important
Even when business is running smoothly and everyone appears happy, it’s important for a company’s HR Department to anticipate legal challenges and plan for them ahead of time. Emails come and go by the thousands. It can be difficult to anticipate which ones, if any, will pay a key role in a legal matter that has yet to materialize. But it’s still prudent to save everything, just in case.
It sounds like an impossible task, but it can be easy with the right email archiving system in place. Contact us for more information.