Ever seen a legal disclaimer at the bottom of someone’s email?
It may say something like…
Confidentiality Notice: This e-mail message, including any attachments,
is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain
privileged and confidential information. Any unauthorized review, use,
disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended
recipient, please contact the sender by reply e-mail and destroy
all copies of the original message.
But this is just one such example. Do these legal disclaimers do anything? Should you add one to your emails?
Well, I used to think so. However, they may be completely worthless. According to The Economist, these legal email disclaimers are nothing but an annoyance, and hold absolutely no legal obligation.
So, if you were considering adding one of these disclaimers or currently use one, then you might as well scrap the whole idea.
Where does the professional line end, and the personal begin? As our lives become more accessible online, the line between our work and our lives have started to blur. Here is an example of a case where the legal lines are beginning to form.
In March of 2009 a nursing student by the name of Nina Yoder was expelled from University of Louisville School of Nursing for violating the honor code and crossing the lines of patient confidentiality. In Yoder’s personal time she kept a personal blog on MySpace. On this blog she posted vulgar and distasteful comments about her nursing clinical experiences. Once the school of nursing found out about these comments, Yoder was called into the dean’s office and expelled. Yoder felt this was crossing the line, and tried to appeal the dean’s decision but her appeal was not heard.
So, Yoder filled a suit against the University of Louisville on the grounds of violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and due process.
In August of 2009, the case was tried in court. The judge ruled that Yoder had not actually violated the Honor Code as written, and did not touch on the constitutional issues. The court found that the patient could not be identified from the information in the blog . The court also found that the presentation in the blog, though “generally distasteful and, in parts, objectively offensive” was not unprofessional, but entirely “non-professional.” It did not purport to represent the nursing school and was not an interaction with patients or families, being entirely outside the scope of her nursing training and obligations.
Yoder was reinstated as a nursing student at the University of Louisville.
See Video Here
- Baker, Lee. “Judge overturns expulsion of student for online posting” First Amendment Coalition. August 12, 2009.
- Holland & Hart Healthcare Law Blog. “‘Vulgar’ Myspace bloging nursing student ordered reinstated by federal court.” August 25, 2009.
- WLKY.com. “Nursing Student Sues UofL Over Blog-Related Dismissal” March 13, 2009.
- Morris, Aaron. “Nursing Student Dismissed Over Blog Posts” Internet Defamation Blog. March 14, 2009.
- Fischman, Josh. “Expelled for Her Online Comments, Former Nursing Student Sues University” The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 13, 2009.