Employment lawsuits cause most e-discovery woes
As new research shows, a huge chunk of “electronic discovery” rulings against companies stem from employment lawsuits. Here are some things HR and IT can do to limit the risk of getting fined.
Out of all the e-discovery decisions made since the new rules went into effect in ’06, roughly 25% were related to employment law cases. Why is that? Part of it is the large number of employment lawsuits that get filed. Also, a lot of employee-employer communication is done electronically.
In other words, in an employment lawsuit, a good chunk of the evidence is located in the employer’s computer system. And since the company owns the system, it has the responsibility to retain the relevant data.
Being accused of destroying that evidence can come with a hefty price tag. The high number of rulings resulting from employment litigation emphasize the fact that HR and IT need to work together to avoid getting hit with sanctions for violating the rules. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Watch what you get rid of when an employee is fired. A lot of companies wipe the ex-employee’s hard drive clean so a new employee can use the computer. That makes sense, but if there’s any indication he or she might sue, it’s the company’s responsibility to back-up that data.
- Prepare for retaliation claims. Those cases are a big source of a lot of e-discovery rulings. Once an employee complains about discrimination or harassment, that’s usually enough of a notice of possible litigation to require companies to preserve evidence. That includes documents related to the investigation evidence of how the employee is treated afterward.
- IT and HR need to communicate. HR is often the first to know about impending lawsuits from current and former employees. IT knows what needs to be done to hold on to key documents. Therefore, it’s important to keep communication open to make sure the evidence gets preserved.