Email embarrassment for City lawyer

Why you shouldn't be telling your mates your bedroom secrets on email

The dangers of sending email from work were brought vividly home to a lawyer at a City firm this week who sent out a mail telling friends about his girlfriend's sexual tastes. Bradley Chait is now facing disciplinary action after the mail achieved cult status, days after it was sent.

The email circulated to a small group of Chait's friends with the message. "Now THAT'S a nice compliment from a lass, isn't it?". After about a week the message had been distributed to over a million people, passing through many of London's blue chip firms.

The British Chamber of Commerce warned last month that employers could ban personal email completely. The number of cases of people being sacked for "inappropriate use" of email has grown. Last month Cable & Wireless sacked six employees for misusing the internal email system.

In September, Orange sacked forty staff for sending emails of severed body parts from company computers.

Lawyer at London law firm Olswang Catharine Taylor warns employees that they must be prepared to have their messages read. "I don't think they [employers] will ban email but employers must make it clear that if you send personal email, even on a Hotmail account, from a work PC then the employer has a right to look at it."

While many reading Chait's message may be wondering what all the fuss is about, some people would find it offensive Taylor points out. It also raises a host of legal issues. "It could be breach of confidence if the girlfriend didn't know it was being distributed or it could be defamation. It is banter in the pub published for all the world to see."

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