E-mails As Evidence: Business Owners Face New Procedures

Changes in federal employment law may change the way you and your employees store e-mails and e-messages, but Business & Legal Reports reports that one of the key changes facing small business owners this year is not a change in law at all.

The U.S. Supreme Court established a set of new procedures dealing with electronic messages that may be needed as evidence in trials.

Why is the procedural change important to you?
One look at your computer inbox, electronic communication has exploded in recent years, leaving the postal carrier feeling a bit lonely these days. E-mail, instant messages (IMs), and personal data assistant (PDA) and cell phone text messages are the prime means business people use to communicate in writing. Therefore, reasoned the Court, such messages are also where illegal or improper conversations are likely to be found.

Mandating storage of paper documents when litigation is in the air is nothing new. Courts frequently order that shredding policies be suspended to preserve a "paper trail." Applying this doctrine to electronic communications, however, is a still evolving area of law. And never before have such procedures been spelled out in detail.

New procedures mandate that business create new methods of storing, indexing, and locating past e-communications, should there be any litigation or possibility of litigation occurring. Lawyers will be required to find the right document faster and earlier in the litigation process.

Locating an obscure e-mail written months ago is not easily done in most current systems. So the changes, says the prospectus for the coming audio conference, "will almost certainly change the way you preserve data."

BLR will offer a 90-minute audio conference covering these important elements of the new procedures:

  • The many places where data is stored, some which you may not even realize exist

  • Your responsibility to preserve relevant data, even if it is not in your possession or control (as for instance, if it's personally held by an employee or contractor)

  • The elements of an effective preservation process, illustrated by case studies

  • How to avoid the risk of identity theft or violation of privacy created by keeping records you previously destroyed

  • An effective e-storage strategy

The presenters include Joseph M. English, a noted employment law attorney with Taylor Busch Slipakoff & Duma in Atlanta, and founder of the firm's employment law practice, and Cathy Hampton, founder and principal of Hampton Resources, Inc., in Manassas, Virginia. Her firm specializes in managing strategic change to generate maximum results from a minimum investment.

You can register for the conference, titled, New Rules on Storage of Electronic Personnel Records: What You Need to Know at www.blr.com.

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