E-mail Trails Lead To Employer Trials

August 7, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) ? E-mail evidence is becoming increasingly common in workplace lawsuits, causing employers to monitor employee use of e-mail more closely, a new survey finds.

The 2001 Electronic Policies and Practices Survey of 435 employers found that:

  • almost 9.4% of US companies have been ordered by courts to produce employee e-mail, and
  • 8.3% have battled sexual harassment or discrimination claims stemming from employee e-mail or Internet use

Of the companies surveyed, 61.6% exercise their rights under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), to monitor employees’ e-mail and Internet connections, and among those who monitor, 68.3% cite legal liability as the primary reason for doing so.


In addition, nearly 84% of survey respondents notify employees of their right to monitor online activity, and of those monitoring:

  • almost 90% have a written e-mail policy,
  • over 80% have an Internet policy, and
  • almost 70% have a software policy, but
  • only 50.6% of employers require staff to acknowledge such in writing

Results concerning personal use of company e-mail and Internet access reveal that:

  • almost 40% of allow employees full and unrestricted use of office e-mail,
  • while only 11.7% grant staff the same unrestricted access to the Internet.

The survey was conducted by the American Management Association, the ePolicy Institute, and the US News and World Report.