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Do You Have Email and Internet Usage Policies in Place?
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By Ken P. Smith


Email risks

Your policy should list email risks to make users aware of the potential harmful effects of their actions, especially if they have an address linked to the practice. Advise users that sending an email is like sending a postcard--if you don't want it posted on a bulletin board, then don't send it.

Understand that in many cases, the employer is held responsible for all the information transmitted on or from their systems. A practice can also be liable if one of its employees sends an email containing a virus. Just because the employee is using their AOL or Hotmail account that does not mean it could not be traced back to your office.

Prohibited content

Your policy should clearly state that the email and Internet system are not to be used for the creation or distribution of any offensive or disruptive messages, including messages containing offensive comments. Let employees know that if they receive any emails with this type of content, it should be reported to their supervisor immediately. Again, include examples and clear actions that will be taken when these rules are broken.

Letting the staff know

If you are going to monitor your employees' emails or their Internet usage, you must state this in your email policy. Warn your staff that they should have no expectation of privacy in email or Internet usage that occurs in the office. Also state that the practice may, but is not obliged to, monitor messages without prior notice. If you do not mention that the company is not obliged to monitor messages, an employee who receives an offensive message could potentially sue the practice for failing to block that material.

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