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Privacy: Don’t open employees’ personal mail

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in Firing,Human Resources,Office Management,Records Retention

Warn your managers: If they open a personal letter or package addressed to an employee, they could be opening a legal mess, too.

The case: After Greg Roth was fired, he talked to a lawyer about filing an age-bias lawsuit. The lawyer mailed Roth a package containing case notes and a tape recording of Roth's firing that Roth had sent the attorney. By mistake, the package went to Roth's former employer. A supervisor opened the package, copied the contents and placed them in Roth's personnel file. Roth sued, charging invasion of privacy. A jury awarded him $500,000 in punitive damages and $25,000 in compensatory damages. The state supreme court upheld the ruling, but not the punitive damages. (Roth v. Farner-Bocken Co., S.D., No. 2003-SD-80, 2003)

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