This article was forwarded by our client back in Aug 22, 2011
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Did you have to read that title twice? We did. This story about an employee who abused his access to the internet will be surprising to many, as after dismissing the employee the company were then found to be at fault. Not only did the employee waste many man-hours on IM chats, they also compromised web and email security by sending out company documents to an external mail system.
Abuse of an Internet connection through excessive use of social media sites and instant messaging seem like a valid reason to fire an employee, but the Fair Work authority in Australia ruled that a landscape architect was unfairly dismissed after sending over 3,000 instant messages during working time and even sending company documents to a personal email account so they could be edited. This sounds excessive, and it is. The amount of time spent on chat potentially lost the employer in question a lot of money in wasted time, and put web security at risk. Email security was also put at risk because the copyrighted documents were sent in an unsecured way to an unsecured account.
Even if the company deemed this kind of use unacceptable, Fair Work Australia carried out an investigation and deemed the dismissal as harsh, unjust or unreasonable. The authority also said that the employer had failed to carry out their obligations under the Fair Working Act.
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Employers who affirm that they have a right to monitor the Internet and email in the workplace often advocate that being the owners of the computer systems gives them this right. The other dilemma, of course, is that if the computer systems are considered to be company property then companies are potentially liable for how their employees use this property. Therefore, if employees use this property for harassing or illegal purposes, part of the blame could be attributed to the employer for allowing such usage of their property. As Davis (2001)claims
Employees can also sue their employers if a co-worker has downloaded pornographic or racist materials. Clearly, it has become essential for companies to be aware of what their employees are downloading from the Internet, and for them to take steps to avoid liability by introducing employee Internet management strategies.
This perhaps varies from country to country; however, it is still an important point to consider within this ongoing debate.
Title: Should Filtering Software be utilised in the Workplace? Australian Employees’ Attitudes towards Internet usage and Surveillance of the Internet in the Workplace
Author: .Monica T. Whitty