Employers Beware of Using E-Mail
In this age of electronic communications, businesses depend more and more on electronic mail (E-mail) to communicate with clients and employees. A recent Federal 1st Circuit Court of Appeals case shows employers must beware of potential pitfalls involved in using E-mail to distribute personnel policies.
In Campbell v. General Dynamics Government Systems Corporation, the Court held that an E-mailed employee arbitration policy was unenforceable because the E-mail did not provide sufficient notice of the policy to the employee. In this case, the employer sent a company-wide E-mail notifying employees that the company had developed a new policy in which all employer/employee disputes were to be arbitrated, and that arbitration was the exclusive remedy for such disputes. In effect, this policy was intended by the employer to be a contract between the employer and the employees.
The Court of Appeals made clear that an E-mail can serve as an appropriate method of notification of personnel agreements, but that the company in this particular case made some crucial mistakes in crafting its E-mail notification of the new policy. First, the company had never before used E-mail as a means of communicating contract changes to employees. Second, the company did not attach the policy to the E-mail and made no mention that arbitration would be the sole remedy available to employees. Finally, the company did not ask the employees to respond to the E-mail as a method of notification and acceptance. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals held that the employee did not have to submit to arbitration before pursuing a claim in the court system.
If a judge is the first person to tell you that your personnel policies are unenforceable, you have needlessly wasted precious time and money. A legal team can make sure this doesnt happen to you. To learn more about creating and implementing personnel policies for your business, contact an attorney.