Just like the separation between church and state, there is an implied separation between the corporate work environment and e-mails containing salacious personal information or off-color jokes. There’s even an acronym for it: NSFW (Not Safe for Work). Paradoxically, the most scandalous NSFW e-mails always seem to end up making the rounds at work anyway. And some of them are so spectacularly awful, so staggeringly unprofessional and inappropriate, that they transcend office gossip and become international phenomena. Here are just a few of our favorite NSFW train wrecks from the last decade.
Vicki Walker, a financial controller with ProCare Health in Auckland, New Zealand, was fired after two years with the company for, according to ProCare, creating “disharmony in the workplace by using block capitals,
bold typeface, and red text in her e-mails.” She cried
foul, and New Zealand’s Employment Relations Authority agreed with her, ordering ProCare to pay her $17,000 in New Zealand dollars for unfair dismissal.
The Pentagon’s Secret BFF
In 2000, Royal Navy Commander Jim Dale, stationed
at the Pentagon, inadvertently sent hundreds of e-mails marked as “security restricted” (including a 64-page document about the importance of protecting sensitive information) to a cc’d 15-year-old girl, whom
Dale didn’t know. When she tried to report the error
and “make [the e-mails] stop,” Commander Dale blamed the problem on her Internet service provider.
Politicians Say the Darndest Racist Things
In an e-mail to dozens of her GOP colleagues, Florida Committeewoman Carol Carter remarked on African-Americans traveling to Washington for Barack Obama’s inauguration. “How can 2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, DC in 1 day in subzero temps when 200,000 couldn’t get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice?” Carter wrote. Hurricane Katrina humor, get it? She resigned shortly thereafter.
Claire Swire, a former employee at London law firm Norton Rose, e-mailed an ode to the secretions
of her co-worker boyfriend, lawyer Bradley Chait.
“Yours was yum and very good for me too,”
she wrote. “Apparently it’s a very good conditioner
for your hair.” Chait shared the e-mail with colleagues,
who ensured that the couple’s private moment
became a companywide shudder of disgust.
As fresh recruits arrived at the Dublin branch
of PricewaterhouseCoopers, their headshots were evaluated using a “k-score” system for rating attractiveness. Their exchange got into the wrong hands and went viral, and the company that once boasted
on its website of having a workforce that’s half female was forced to explain why the other half appeared to
be mouth-breathing morons.
At an Australia law firm in 2005, a misunderstanding about the location of a ham sandwich escalated into a
heated e-mail exchange between secretaries Katrina Nugent and Melinda Bird. Several cc’d co-workers were privy to comments about blondes being stupid, the
other person’s “figure,” and who had the higher-paying job. Bird effectively ended the spat by writing, “I have
five guys at the moment! haha.”
Revenge of the Cheated
Tracey Evans, believing her PR manager husband cheated on her in 2000, got into his e-mail account. She sent
a scathing e-mail to 50 of his business contacts, including executives at Volkswagen, informing them that he was
a “despicable, deceitful, dodgy, D-CKHEAD who doesn’t reserve this attitude just for his wife.” She also alleged
that he has “an extremely small penis that couldn’t excite a woman’s nostril let alone anything else.”