Sarcastic emails are asking for trouble
“The ‘e’ in email stands for evidence,” particularly if the email is sarcastic, cautions Joe Beachboard, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Torrance, Calif.
Management attorneys interviewed by SHRM Online cited a host of sarcastic emails that could cause headaches for employers, including:
• In response to an email about an employee being on leave, a manager emails a co-worker that the employee was probably “recovering from another bender.” There are a variety of potential ramifications from this email, including potentially perceiving someone as having an Americans with Disabilities Act disability, as well as defamation, Beachboard warned.
• In response to an email about a worker being separated, a manager emails a co-worker that the company is “better off without that thieving SOB.” While the employee was terminated for violating company policy on removal of company property, “theft” has criminal implications and could lead to allegations of defamation, Beachboard added.
• An email between male managers mentions that one of them was going to have drinks with a particular employee. In response, the other manager says he “wouldn’t have a drink with him on a bet as he wasn’t sure which way he swings.”
• A manager emails, “I am going to have a stress disorder from trying to accommodate everyone. I need an accommodation.”
• A manager emails, “I am tired of employees who don’t want to work hard claiming they can’t.”
• Another manager emails, “This employee needs an accommodation about as much as I need a migraine.”
• A manager questions HR about an employee’s need for leave, saying, “Come on. Hasn’t she been out enough? She’s faking it. This is ridiculous.”
• When an employee is given a Friday afternoon off for religious reasons, a manager fires off an email saying, “This is a bunch of baloney. I wonder where she’s going.”
• A senior-level manager emails an employee about which vendors he would or would not sleep with, giving the name, rating and characteristics.
“Some managers think email is just talking with your fingers. Employment lawyers know better,” remarked Jathan Janove, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Portland, Ore. A sarcastic email often winds up being exhibit one and might result in larger damages, he cautioned.
Often, employees send emails they thought were funny but the humor doesn’t translate. All that is left is the printed word, which doesn’t go away, he added.
Employers “have to educate your managers,” Steve Miller, an attorney with Fisher & Phillips in Chicago, emphasized.
Email is so informal that many employees often treat it like regular conversation. Employees should be reminded to communicate in a professional manner, including in their emails, he added.
Employees should type their emails, read them and make sure they are professional before sending them, Miller remarked. “No sarcasm, no profanity.”
“I think the most effective way to train managers is to blow up mock emails and ask managers to see how they think they would look to a jury,” added Jonathan Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia. “Make them see it through a jury’s window.”
Allen Smith, J.D., is manager, workplace law content.
© 2012 SHRM. All rights reserved.
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Fifty winning retailers, state by state
Home Channel News selected 50 hardware stores — one from each state — for inclusion in the second annual Hardware Store All-Star list. The stores distinguish themselves with strong customer service, innovative approaches to retail and a connection to community and customers.
The alphabetical listing of All-Star stores, one from each of the 50 U.S. states, continues here with Texas, Utah and Vermont:
Hooten’s Hardware loves to expand, despite the fact that it’s located in Emory, Texas, population 1511. Visits to Orgill’s markets often result in new lines of merchandise. The 40,000-sq.-ft. store and other buildings on 15 acres sell major appliances, farm and ranch supplies, building materials, every SKU made by Midwest fastener, housewares, lawn and garden, and a full assortment of electrical and plumbing. A machine repair shop and eight-bay welding operation draws farmers from neighboring states.
Kohl’s Hardware & Lumber
Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012, Kohl’s Hardware & Lumber serves its rural community (about 100 miles from Salt Lake City) with a one-stop shop approach to retailing. In fact, “One stop shopping” was the store’s motto back when it sold groceries. Today, the 10,000-sq.-ft. store continues its tradition of well-rounded service with hardware, auto products, a lumberyard and flower shop.
Woodstock Home & Hardware
Owner Larry Perry is a firm believer in multiple suppliers: He buys from Ace, Orgill and Standard Hardware. Maybe that’s why Woodstock had ice melt and roof rakes when everyone else was out last winter. Perry’s eclectic blend of merchandise defies description. His ever-changing store marquee features advice, special promotions, jokes and the occasional political jab.
Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for June 22, 2012
*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.
Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.
Lumber: The stalemate between buyers and sellers in the SPF market came to a close, as mills were forced to make some downward price adjustments. The continuing large gap between futures and cash gave buyers reason to remain hesitant. Some EFP trading was apparent. Southern Pine lumber mills were again forced to lower prices to compete with abundant supplies in the market. Overall, producers were more aggressive in their search for buyers than in previous weeks. Coastal species lumber producers lowered dimension prices early on some items, and buyers responded Tuesday by increasing their purchases. By the week’s end, several prices were not able to regain prior levels. Inland species lumber was discounted early in the week, more for narrows than wides. By week’s end, prices had firmed and closed near last week’s closing numbers. Eastern White Pine board producers continued to push to fill orders already on the books as well as writing new business. Competition from other species held prices in check. The market for Ponderosa Pine boards was quiet; as buyers looked for fill-in tallies but many times only found limited offerings from producers. A build up of inventory in Ponderosa Pine #2&Btr Shop lumber had producers looking for orders and willing to entertain counters. Buyers of Radiata Pine are voicing concerns over late shipments. Some report orders that are 6 weeks late. Western Red Cedar sales were steady, but mills hesitated to push prices higher. Anything that might give up market share, including higher prices, was a chief concern among mills. More focus was placed on shipping as much wood as possible prior to the end of the second quarter.
Panels: OSB producers saw light sales activity but showed little concern for downside risk. Order files into the week of July 16 helped bolster their confidence. Prices in all regions were a mix of firm or slightly higher numbers. Trading activity in the Southern Pine plywood market was moderate. Thick rated sheathing panel prices were again negotiable. Buyers looked for the quickest shipping volumes, trying to fill inventory holes. Western Fir plywood producers reported slower sales, but the market remained on strong footing. Western buyers, especially those in California, often found lower prices in the West zone of the Southern Pine market to their liking. Canadian plywood producers reported a quiet market. Order files out to the end of July kept control firmly in the hands of producers. Distributers reported brisk business out of warehouse, as dealers made full truckload and LTL purchases to fill their inventories. While some particleboard and MDF producers saw no decline in demand, others noticed customers, in the words of one producer, "Taking a breath." MDF sales were not as brisk, but volumes purchased were still solid.
For more on RISI, click here.