Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Yikes ..... Oh s...!

Good Day Readers:

At a time when society seems to be pre-occupied with bullying cyber or otherwise, one of the most common and pervasive sources is overlooked - lawyers! Visit your local Law Courts Building where you'll find available for photocopying all kinds of files containing e-mail exchanges between/among lawyers and others containing omnious warnings the legal equivalent tantamount to being shot, p...ed on and if that still isn't enough quartered. Little wonder they're sometimes referred to as "scarecrows in suits."
This next case should make for an interesting trial assuming it goes that far and Ms Fernandes isn't offered a handsome buyout package to make her lawsuit go away.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Director's 'reply all' email discussing firing of employee leads to law suit

We have all had that awful feeling after hitting the 'send' key and realizing a sensitive email has gone to the wrong person

By Sheryl Smolkin
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
We have all experienced that awful feeling after hitting the 'send' button and realizing a copy of a sensitive or confidential email has gone to the wrong person. (Shutterstock)

We have all experienced that awful feeling after hitting the ‘send’ button and realizing a copy of a sensitive or confidential email has inadvertently gone to the wrong person.

Usually, the situation is simply embarrassing. Not so for Maria Fernandes, a Mississauga employee of healthcare communications company Marketforce Inc. In March 2011, she accidentally received an email discussing whether or not she should be fired.

Court documents allege that Linda Guerin, the company’s Director of Operations intended to send the email to the company’s lawyers. Too late she realized Fernandes was also on the list and she unsuccessfully sent three recall notices. She also sent an email to Fernandes asking that she delete the message without opening it.

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Fernandes read it, treated the information in the email as a constructive dismissal and hired a lawyer. A few weeks later, she left her job as a Director of Client Services at Marketforce, which subsequently amalgamated with Sudler & Hennessey ULC. Fernandes claimed in a court filing, she had effectively been fired. She had worked for the company for over six years and was earning $145,000 a year.

She is suing her former employer in the Ontario Superior Court for wrongful dismissal. The case has not been heard, so we don’t know if a trial judge will agree that Fernandes was constructively dismissed.

The company went to court and argued that because the intended recipients of the email were the company’s lawyers, the information in it was a privileged communication. The company wanted the email removed from the Statement of Claim in Fernandes’ lawsuit. The company’s motion was dismissed and an application to appeal the ruling was also refused.

Whatever the outcome of this case, it shows that a wayward email can cost employers and employees time and money.

The obvious solution is that all of us should be much more careful when communicating sensitive information electronically. Or better yet, use the telephone or have a face-to-face meeting.

But if you are worried that someday the dreaded “reply all” key will get them into serious trouble, it is worth considering some options if you use Microsoft Outlook, which is used in many offices.

For Outlook 2003 or 2007 you can hold down the Alt key, then drag the “Reply All’ button right off the ribbon. To retrieve it, click on the arrow on the right side of the ribbon to customize your buttons, and reactivate “Reply All.”

For Outlook 2010, Microsoft offers a free, simple plug-in that you can download, called No Reply All .

This will add additional buttons to the “ribbon” at the top of your email. You can click on the “Reply All Disable” button to turn reply all on and off.

TuneReply All is another free Outlook add-on from Infosystems. If you are replying en masse to an email group, a pop up warning asks if you really want to send your message.

If users of other software have solutions let me know.

There is no way of knowing whether software blocking “Reply All” emails would have caught Guerin’s mistake. But if it can help someone avoid even one embarrassing mistake, it may be worth looking into.

More articles by Sheryl Smolkin 
sheryl@sherylsmolkin.com

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