Two insurance workers sued, claiming privacy rights, after they were fired for forwarding sexually explicit e-mails. The company had a clear policy that banned defamatory, abusive, obscene or threatening messages. The workers claimed that the use of passwords led them to believe their e-mail would be kept private. The court rejected their claim, saying workers had no reasonable expectation of e-mail privacy and, even if they did, the company's interest in protecting workers from harassment "would likely trump plaintiffs' privacy interests."
The lesson: Good policy and good follow-through are the best lawsuit repellents. (Garrity v. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., No. 00-12143, D. Mass., 2002)