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Mistaken missive gets man sacked at Bible society

Case highlights pitfalls of e-mail

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A man who was accused of sexual harassment, after a colleague used his email address to send a saucy message to a female executive at a Bible society, has won his case for breach of contract. But an industrial tribunal in Bristol turned down Roy Johnson's claim for sexual harassment after computer technician Richard Kirby admitted sending the email to Lesley Walker -- which simply read "Sexy". Johnson said he received a written warning and was hounded out of his job even though Kirby later admitted he sent the email. Johnson was awarded £3,500 after losing his £20,000 a year job with the British and Foreign Bible Society in Swindon. News of the incident coincides with a warning from IT consultants Commslogic that companies should be more aware of the risks posed by email. In particular, Commslogic believes companies are leaving themselves exposed to libel and should implement a code of conduct to help combat the problem. "Companies must be able to show that they have taken reasonable care to prevent their employees using the email system to commit libellous, offensive, racist or defamatory acts," said Richard Hutton, a senior consultant at Commslogic. Hutton said all companies should establish a clear messaging policy setting out the rules of use for a company's email system. Under UK law, an employer can be held liable for an employee's emails if the defamatory act was committed in the course of employment, even though the act was unauthorised by an employer. ®

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