New Anti-Spam Legislation – Implications For Employers

There are lots of questions about the new Canadian anti-spam legislation (commonly referred to as “CASL”) which comes into force on July 1, 2014 and there is lots of information online and elsewhere about what it will mean for marketing and email communications, however, there is not a lot of information about what this means for employers trying to communicate with their employees. CASL prohibits organizations from sending emails and other forms of electronic messages (ie. texts) which encourage participation in commercial activities  (defined as a ‘commercial electronic message’ under CASL) unless that communication falls into one of the exceptions noted in the act, or the organization has the recipient’s consent to send the message and even then there are some requirements regarding what must be included in the message.

So, what does this mean in the employment context?
There are two sections of CASL that have been drafted to deal with the employment context.  The first is a provision which states that the prohibition does not apply to messages which are sent from one employee of an organization to another employee of the same organization if the message concerns the activities of that organization. This will allow employees to communicate with each other as they normally would in their job activities.
The more onerous provision is a partial exception under CASL which allows an employer to send an electronic message to employees if it is directly related to the employment relationship or related benefit plan, however that message must contain the ‘prescribed information’ as defined in CASL. The ‘prescribed information’ includes the identity of the person sending the message, contact information for that person and an unsubscribe mechanism so that the employee can unsubscribe from receiving further communications in this way.
This means that as of July 1, 2014, employers should be thinking about whether the message they are sending to their employees is a commercial electronic message and if so whether it falls into either of the two scenarios above. 
If you have any questions about CASL or what it means for your organization you should consult with a lawyer as the penalty for non-compliance with CASL is a fine of up to $10,000,000 so the consequences could be severe.

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