In the construction world, there’s a standard saying: “Measure twice, cut once.” That’s because once something has been cut, if it’s too short, there’s no way to fix it. In the office world, the standard for emails should be: “Read it twice; send it once.”
Once you’ve hit that send button, you’ve released complete control over what was sent, even if it was sent to the wrong person. The recipient or recipients can easily forward, copy, edit or file your message and no one needs your consent.
Organizations need a process that captures incoming and outgoing email messages to protect themselves against unwarranted claims.
From a legal standpoint, regulators and courts view emails in the same manner as they view written documents. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is a federal law that requires organizations to request and provide emails in civil litigation according to court rules and other statutes.
Why Do Corporations and Organizations Need an Email Retention Policy?
All corporations and organizations need to have an email retention policy because they are subject to many laws, regulations and liabilities. State and federal laws may require organizations to produce emails in the event of litigation. If they aren’t able to provide them, it can lead to financial or reputational loss. Depending on the organization’s industry, businesses and other types of organizations may be subject to several laws. It’s vital that boards of directors know which laws pertain to them and that they are in continual compliance with them.
Email retention requirements vary substantially. For example, a credit card company may only need to retain emails for a year. Companies that fall under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act must keep their emails for at least seven years. Investment advisors and certain others are required to keep their emails for a lifetime.
State and federal laws have an eDiscovery provision, which is a legal process whereby attorneys on both sides can ask for information pertaining to a lawsuit. Information contained in emails can make a big difference in the outcome of a case and may lead to other important and relevant facts or information.
Federal rules govern all civil procedures within the United States District Courts. Companies and other organizations must also abide by other laws, such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
Courts won’t ask for more information than what an organization’s retention policy requires as long as the policy follows all state laws, federal laws and regulations. Courts frown on organizations that aren’t able to produce emails that the court needs to decide a case. In some instances, failure to produce emails may be construed as destruction of evidence.
According to DMR, a business statistics company, people in business receive an average of 121 emails every day. Over 70% of organizations discuss intellectual property within their emails. Companies need to be able to access these emails even after their employees leave their positions.
An email retention policy describes how long the organization should keep its emails according to the type of email and any state or federal laws or regulations in place. Retention policies should include parameters for how long emails should be retained before they’re deleted automatically from the archives.
In deciding which emails to keep, and for how long, the email retention policy should be governed by industry standards and government regulations. The policy should cover all emails sent and received by the company. In addition, an email retention policy should set specific guidelines for how long employees should keep emails.
Technology is a huge help when it comes to managing emails. Business email software solutions automate emails by setting the proper parameters in keeping with the company’s email retention policy. Programs remove emails on a consistent basis without manual intervention. The benefit to automation is that it eliminates human error and decreases liability.
Creating an Effective Email Retention Policy
The first step in deciding how long to retain emails is identifying all federal, state and regulatory requirements for email retention that apply to the industry and type of organization. It’s best to not keep emails longer than necessary because it poses an increased legal risk in discovery.
The next step is to consider departmental and business needs. Most likely, there will be a variance in needing emails by functional department or the area of the business. All businesses should have some type of legal hold policy, which applies to placing a legal hold on certain types of emails, so they don’t get deleted automatically. Email retention policies should state who can place a legal hold, who can access such emails, and what the review and removal processes for them are. End users shouldn’t be able to see that an email has a legal hold on it.
The final step is to write the policy and get it approved by the board and executives. See this sample of an email retention policy.
Messenger Is a Secure Email Platform for Businesses
BoardEffect offers a secure communications platform called Messenger that’s specifically designed with corporate needs and email retention policies in mind.
The application allows board directors and executives to log into the system easily with face ID, touch ID or simple swiping. After logging in, they can send and receive emails with time-stamps. Users can easily send and receive emails with attachments. They can also set up the system to ensure that they get alerts when new emails come in. Special features can be set to prevent outside contacts from being part of the group.
Sending emails to the wrong party is a thing of the past because Messenger provides users with the ability to recall messages they sent by accident. Board directors and executives will enjoy the convenience of being able to communicate with others in their corporation using any electronic device of their choosing. There’s no concern about lost or stolen devices because Messenger has remote wiping capability. Overall, Messenger is a must-have software solution for all board members that assists in corporate email retention policies while ensuring the privacy and security that all boards need.