Employees sending chain e-mails outside work should beware. A recent Tribunal decision means their employment may be jeopardised as a result.

In a non-binding decision, an Employment Tribunal has held that an employer was right to dismiss their employee for sending an offensive email from his home computer to the home computer of his work colleague, when this was marked ‘It is your duty to pass this on’.

The chain e-mail was entitled “The British are Way Ahead of Us” and was both racist and sexist. It was sent by Mr Gosden (who was employed by Lifeline Project Ltd., who provide drugs advice to prisoners) to a friend in the Prison Service, Lifeline’s client.

The recipient did pass the email on, it found its way onto the computer systems of the Prison Service, and Mr Gosden was dismissed for damaging the employer’s reputation (rather than misuse of its computer systems, which probably would not have been sufficient).

The dividing line between what employees do in their own time and what they do in the workplace can be a thin one, particularly when social media is involved. In this case, the instruction on the chain email to pass it on took it out of the realms of private life.

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