A lthough e-mail and instant messages (IMs) are the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence, few companies consider the risks associated with them. In fact, according to a 2004 survey, one in five U.S. companies has had employee e-mails subpoenaed in lawsuits or regulatory investigations and 13% have battled workplace lawsuits triggered by employee e-mail.
What to do? Every firm should have a written policy explaining which e-mails and IMs employees should retain, as 41% of the surveyed organizations have done. You also should conduct e-mail policy training classes that explain what kind of content could conceivably damage a company in court.