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Be wary of discussing sensitive personnel issues via e-mail

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in Human Resources

You've got (legally explosive) e-mail.

That's the message a Broward Circuit Court jury recently delivered to United Parcel Service in a court decision that hinged on a single e-mail sent by a company official.

The case involved a UPS driver who alleged that the company fired him from its Deerfield Beach office for being an "injury repeater" after he sought workers' comp benefits. The employee quoted a 2001 e-mail from a UPS official that directed supervisors to target employees with repeated injuries for termination.

UPS argued that it fired the man for falsifying delivery records. But the Broward jury didn't buy it. They took less than three hours to award the 20-year employee more than $600,000 in economic damages and $5.3 million for mental anguish. UPS may appeal.

Final tip: E-mail is convenient, but perhaps too much so. Remember that it takes just one disgruntled employee to forward an e-mail to 1,000 of his or her closest friends. Suggest to supervisors that, when discussing sensitive issues, it may be best to do it the old-fashioned way, by phone, paper memo or personal visit.  

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