In our haste to hit the delete button, important emails can be lost, creating liability for your company. Emailed resignation letters, arguments, pay information, and complaints, for example, should be kept indefinitely. For extra insurance, you can always print and keep a hard copy of important emails, or incorporate it into your secure electronic filing system.
Your company will want to tread especially carefully during litigation. Once a lawsuit or claim is brought, all remotely pertinent emails must be preserved for the duration of the case, which can sometimes last a very long time. If a lawsuit is threatened, foreseeable, or active, all involved parties and witnesses must be informed not to delete or destroy related emails. Courts will not accept excuses if emails are "accidentally" erased and will impose fines. Worse, the courts will allow "adverse inference," meaning the jury will be allowed to assume that the missing email contained negative information that the company wanted to hide. If in doubt, keep the email.
It is important for employers to remember that email communication creates a permanent, discoverable record. Important conversations should not be conducted through email, and words should always be used carefully. For help with this and other recordkeeping requirements, contact Nextep's HR Department.