Whenever you send an e-mail, it’s a good idea to double check it’s going to the right address. Especially when the message could have legal ramifications.
One executive recently got his company in big trouble by accidentally sending a message meant for HR straight to a job applicant. Here’s what happened:
A 46-year-old applying for a job as an operations manager at a financial services company sent his resume to the employer’s CEO. He didn’t get any response until he got a message that was meant for the HR manager but sent to applicant by mistake.
“Check it out — I don’t know what to think. He must be old — and looking for something to do,” the CEO wrote, apparently referencing the applicant’s many years of experience in unrelated fields.
After he didn’t hear back, the applicant assumed he was rejected. He sued the company, believing his age was the reason.
Defenses couldn’t hold up
In court, the company claimed the applicant wasn’t hired simply because his resume never reached HR. Also, the CEO said he made his remarks because, given the applicant’s past experience, he thought his interest in the position was “odd.”
But that wasn’t enough for the court. The e-mail was the applicant’s trump card — the company’s defenses couldn’t hold up against the CEO’s negative characterization of older applicants.
The obvious lessons for managers: Don’t discriminate, and don’t write discriminating e-mails.
But even beyond those simple tenets, managers should approaching electronic communication with care.
Given the way e-mails will be interpreted in different ways by different people, managers need to be careful even when they’re writing something innocuous. Bosses should be careful to keep information confidential — and aware that some topics are better addressed with HR in person.
Cite: Wold v. El Centro Finance, Inc.
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