Question: The Pillsbury Company maintained an electronic mail communication system The
The Pillsbury Company maintained an electronic mail communication system. The company repeatedly assured its employees that all e-mail communications on the system would remain confidential. Pillsbury further assured its employees that it would not intercept e-mail communications and use them as grounds for terminating or reprimanding employees. Smyth, a Pillsbury employee, received e-mails from his supervisor over Pillsbury's e-mail system on his home computer. Relying on Pillsbury's assurances, Smyth exchanged some blunt e-mails with his supervisor. One of them apparently contained a threat to "kill the back- stabbing bastards," and another seemingly referred to a firm holiday party as the "Jim Jones Kool-aid affair." Later, Pillsbury retrieved or intercepted these messages, and fired Smyth for what it deemed inappropriate and unprofessional comments over the e-mail system. Smyth sued Pillsbury for wrongful discharge under the public policy theory, alleging that public policy precludes an employer from firing an employee in violation of his privacy. Will Smyth win?
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