President Obama is concerned about federal employees driving while texting, the district attorney in Pennsylvania is worried about teens’ sexting and in-house counsel, apparently, are worried about “sextual harassment.”
What do you do, Corporate Counsel and The Texas Lawyer ask, when one of your supervisors has been accused of sending inappropriate texts to a subordinate?
CC: Harassment by text message — or “textual harassment” — is becoming more prevalent. Texas and 45 other states have laws expressly criminalizing electronic forms of harassment, including text messages. Besides the obvious duties involved when investigating a claim of textual harassment, in-house counsel need to be aware of hidden dangers in trying to retrieve text messages or other electronic information as part of an investigation.
When faced with a textual harassment complaint, in-house lawyers for the employer may need to review other text messages as part of an internal investigation…But can an employer access employees’ text messages outside of a discovery request without violating their expectations of privacy?
The article walks through several recent cases that suggest reading employees’ personal emails and texts even if you pay for their Blackberry or phone service could be a violation of their privacy, especially when those emails are to and from the alleged harassee’s lawyer.
We suggest that, should you have to deal with a supervisor textually harassing (really, is this a thing?) an employee, you check your state law as to where the draw the line.
It also seems like a good idea to remind people that sending late night texts to your subordinates from any place that serves alcohol is a poor idea. A London millionaire learned this the hard way when he had to pay a large settlement after “bombarding” an employee with late-night texts.
Sexual harassment cases used to be so she said/he said. But, such claims become a lot easier to prove when it’s all laid out for you on someone’s iPhone.
So, think before you text. Or, even better, just don’t sexually harass anyone at all.
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