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Keeping confidential info secret: Lessons from the Wal-Mart leak

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Wal-Mart execs were wearing egg on their faces last month, and possibly facing legal action, after news media published an internal memo in which a senior VP suggested "clever" ways to cut benefit costs.

Specifically, the exec advised discouraging long-term employees from staying, in favor of newer workers. She also suggested rewriting job descriptions to ensure that all positions include some physical work, thus discouraging unhealthy applicants from applying. Disability groups were planning a response.

Advice: Here are four tips to reduce the chance that sensitive documents will hit the evening news:

  1. Paper, not e-mail. Don't distribute confidential information via e-mail. It takes only a second for a disgruntled insider to forward the e-mail to 100 of his closest friends. Making paper copies takes time and trouble.
  2. Limit the distribution list to employees who have a need to know.
  3. Clarify the document's secret status. Make sure everyone receiving a copy understands that the information is confidential and shouldn't be copied or shown to others. Underscore that dissemination violates your company's confidentiality policy and is grounds for discharge and legal action.
  4. Regularly remind employees about your confidentiality policies and noncompete agreements. 

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