Block Corporate Junk Email

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Network efficiency is one obvious motivation to block unsolicited email from ever getting through the network firewall. Employee productivity is another. Both of these are well "advertised" and understood in economic and technical terms. The raw cost in 2003, for example, was estimated at $23 billion nationwide--$13 billion to productivity and $10 to spam alone.

The technical toll is easy to appreciate. Think about a network router bank configured to handle 100,000 emails on a daily basis being subjected to a traffic flow of two million. A mail server is no different than the Deacon's famous One Horse Shay of the Oliver Wendell Holmes poem more than 100 years ago, which fell apart because the pieces wore out.

Corporate legal liability, however, probably doesn't fall in the top five responses to mention of the word spam. After all, the organization and its employees are the ones being spammed. Why and how is the table turned round on liability? Knowing the answers, or at least appreciating them, is a third incentive to blocking junk email from cluttering corporate networks.

Does "Spam = Hostile Work Environment" ?

The "hostile work environment" clause came into common use in 1993 after the well-known U.S. Supreme Court case Harris vs. Forklift Systems. The key phrase is "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult." Let's set aside direct liability--that is, the stereotypical supervisor-employee harassment.

Spam falls most often into the indirect liability category. An employee receiving spam does not, in and of itself, make an employer liable. The key to forestalling the problem lies in part in corporate policy, as Schwenn vs. Anheuser-Busch and Daniels vs. Worldcom bear good witness. The policy must be not only written, of course, but enforced, which brings employee training and IT solutions in to round out the picture.


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