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What can we do about offensive e-mails—that don’t come from work?

by on
in The HR Specialist Forum

Question: “One of our employees persists in e-mailing what I consider offensive jokes and chain letters to staff members. These often contain racial slurs and comments that are intolerant of immigrants and practitioners of some religions. Her boss counseled her not to spread these viewpoints on the job, so she has taken to sending them after hours, from her home computer. I’m not sure we have (or even want) a legal leg to stand on here, but I want to put a stop to this. Any suggestions?” — A.M., Florida


Have her personal email address blocked from your company incoming email.

Have a written policy regarding e-mail, and stick to it. Our policy states states that IT resources belong to the City and lists any and all types of electronic devices. The policy also states that employees are authorized to use City provided IT resources for personal use only on personal time and that personal use shall not interfere with City policies (aka sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment), disrupt or distract the conduct of business, involve solicitation of inappropriate political activities or involve illegal activities. Also, if the employee has already been counseled was it documented? If not it should have been.

Have IT block the employee's home e-mail address.

You can block certain email address form your server, also there is software out there you can install on the server to block certain words. Check with your IT Dept or your IT Consultant.
Even a policy cannot stop it in time, I worked for an HR Mgr that was brousing the web.....

Even when sent from home the e-mails are distracting to the recipient who is spending time during work hours to read or sift through them which reduces productivity. Counseling the employee on this point may end the issue.

Agree with S.D., New Mexico. Having a written policy will help protect you in the event that a charge is filed by another employee. It is extremely important to document any discussions held with an employee regarding this matter.

There are 3 opportunities for you to handle this. One is the policy; but in reality, it may be hard to consistently keep all employees from not sending any personal email to each other in general. The policy needs to reference offensive or unprofessional emails and the consequenses of not complying. You also need to communicate the policy and be consistent in applying it.

I suggest that since she is emailing after hours, ask her not to include you in those emails - that you don't want them. If the emails bothers others, counsel them to do the same. If enough people let the employee know that they don't want the emails, the employee may get a clue that others don't share her view. To me it is similar to handling other harassment - tell them to stop - it is offensive to you - don't do it again!

And 3rd, you can set up a spam blocker to block the email.

If you are using Outlook, you can set up a rule to delete e-mails sent from that address before they even reach your inbox.

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