As reported by the Toronto Star, Rick Sullivan sent an email to pal Jason Wade regarding rumours about former co-worker, Ronald Harrington. The contents alleged that Harrington was dismissed from his previous employment for “cooking the books”. Wade, director of operations for WesTower, Harrington’s new employer, shared the email with Harrington. The email was eventually shared with George Patton, Harrington’s previous employer and the person Sullivan alleged to have fired Harrington.
Harrington claimed that the contents of Sullivan’s email were defamatory and resulted in stress and panic attacks. The suit was settled out-of-court for about $7,800.00.
The underlying principle of this matter is that sending a malicious email, even if only addressed to one person, can have a much broader touch that ever imagined. Many people who use email do not consider that the service essentially keeps a written record of all correspondence. As Harrington did, many of my clients often rely on email records to support their claim.
The lesson learned here, as I have mentioned in my weekly column several times, when dealing with electronic communication, employees and employers should always observe the following advice;
1. Thoroughly review and follow any workplace computer and Internet misuse policies.
2. Exercise caution when communicating with or providing advice to clients or colleagues.
3. Allow common sense to prevail.