(Church Corner Article)
(Published in the Spring/Summer of 2008 Newsletter)
Computers are now firmly established as an indispensable part of our lives, including our business lives. However, computer usage for business purposes, including in the church, has brought with it a new set of legal and other problems. Lawsuits and problems springing from computer usage have included the following: 1) claims by employees that their privacy rights are violated whenever their work computers are searched; 2) claims from third parties based on communications they receive from church workers over the computer; 3) claims that workers are not working but wasting time “surfing” the net; 4) claims that workers are viewing and downloading pornographic material; 5) claims that workers are sharing donor lists and other confidential information with unauthorized parties.
Because of this, every church should have a policy in place that addresses these concerns. The key components of such policy will include the following items at a minimum: 1) that all electronic equipment and messages belong to the church; 2) that the worker has no expectation of privacy in and to any equipment or anything stored on them or generated by them; 3) that computers and related electronic equipment must be used only for church purposes and not for personal usage; 4) that the computers, messaging systems and other electronic media, may not be used to access any inappropriate material such as pornographic material; 5) that the Church will monitor the computers from time to time with or without notice. Of course, you should also encourage reporting of violations and also make it clear that violations of such policy will not be tolerated and could lead to termination for employees. Other than with respect to termination, these policies will apply to volunteers and employees alike. All users should be required to sign an acknowledgement form as well.
If you would like a copy of a sample Electronic and Equipment Communications Policy, or the accompanying acknowledgement form, contact me at email@example.com or call toll free 1-866-464-LAWS.
NOTE: The contents of this Newsletter are not intended to be, nor should they be taken as, specific legal advice as each situation is different. Please contact a lawyer with any questions you may have.
The Church Law attorneys at Trinity Law can help. Contact us now by calling, toll free, 1-866-464-5297.