E-Mail Now Exhibit A

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve counseled a client to think carefully before sending an e-mail. The thing about e-mails is that they are really pretty powerful pieces of evidence. An e-mail tells you who sent it, when it was sent and who received it. There’s no fudging. And e-mails in the workplace can be especially tricky. One person’s joke is another person’s threat. Just ask Matt Brandt, president of KK Office Solutions. A piece in Wired Magazine describes how KK got itself named a defendant in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former employee Elliot Snell. Snell claims he was terminated because he voted for Barack Obama. And he attached an e-mail from Brandt as Exhibit A to the complaint. In the October 29 e-mail, Brandt informs KK employees that: “IF President Obama is officially elected into office, our company will instill a few new policies which are in keeping with his new, inspiring issues of change and fairness.” Those changes include salesmen pooling all commissions to be equally divided, and all employees pooling wages. Brandt’s e-mail identifies top management as “the government” and states that they will not participate in the pooling experience “because the law doesn’t apply to us.” The e-mail’s concluding paragraph advises “the last few people hired” to “clean out their desks.” And the e-mail concludes with a bold font statement: “If for any reason you are not happy with the new policies, you may want to rethink your vote on November 4.” Snell, an open Obama supporter, was the last salesman hired, and was fired two weeks after Obama was elected. He claims in the suit that Brandt did exactly what he said he would do. The company claims Snell was fired for legal cause (not meeting his sales quota), and says the e-mail was an “ill-advised attempt at humor.” Bet that e-mail seemed a whole lot funnier on October 29 than it does now.