Beware the legal risk of nasty notes in customer files — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Beware the legal risk of nasty notes in customer files

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In a classic Seinfeld episode, Elaine's actions at her doctor's office cause the doctor to make a special note on Elaine's chart that says she is "difficult." Do your employees make similar editorial comments about customer quirks in your internal files?

Typically, it's not a problem. But a recent lawsuit shows the legal dangers of making potentially slanderous comments about customers in internal documents.

The case: A regular customer at a Palm Beach Walgreen's drugstore asked the pharmacist not to mention the type of drugs she was picking up at the counter. The pharmacist made note of her request in the internal computer system but added his own thoughts, too.

When a friend picked up the woman's prescription, the printout receipt included these comments in the patient-information field: "CrAzY!!" and "She's really a psycho!! Do not say her name too loud, never mention her meds by names & try not to talk to her." The woman sued for slander, noting that the comments are available to all pharmacists in every Walgreen's store.

Tip: Use this example to remind employees to avoid writing down their personal comments about customers. Even if the notes are for internal use only, such information could leak out, which may trigger slander lawsuits against the employer, and possibly the employee personally.

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