By Eric B. Meyer
Not a day goes by — or, so it seems — that an employee isn’t making headlines for some social media stupidity that results in losing a job. But, social needs to keep its ego in check and pay respect to the true OG that paved the way.
Yeah, son — email.
As part of my respect-in-the-workplace training, I tell employees and managers that bad e-mails are like dirty diapers: they stink and they never go away.
For example, over the weekend, I read this opinion (Jackson v. Gogel) about a woman who alleged gender discrimination at work. To support her claim, she subpoenaed decade-old emails from her boss (from when he worked for a different employer). Supposedly, these emails contained sexually explicit material and, thus, could reveal his attitude toward female employees.
Old emails are fair game
The boss sought to quash the subpoena. However, the judge denied his motion, because the rules of discovery in litigation are broad and “while material must be discoverable in order to be admissible at trial, it is not necessarily admissible simply because it is discoverable. Discovery must only be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”
Therefore, according to the Court, this request was fair game for discovery:
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Through these emails, Gogel seeks to discover whether Jackson engaged in inappropriate behavior during his former employment. She reasons that this information is relevant and discoverable because it illustrates Jackson’s attitude about females in the workplace, which allegedly influenced his decision to terminate her employment. With this explanation in mind, the Court cannot conclude that the requested documents are not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Jackson’s concerns about the age, origin and context of these emails may very well affect their admissibility in later stages of the litigation, but they are not grounds to bar discovery of these documents altogether.”
Sometimes, a phone call is the better way to go
I’m not suggesting that sharing misogynistic views on women is any more acceptable in person or over the phone then via email.
But, before sending an email — especially before you hit “reply all” — ask yourself whether a quick phone call or a walk down the hall to the recipient’s office makes more sense.
It usually does.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.