Fired (and Reinstated) for Surfing Pornographic and other Websites at Work.

This case is very interesting, as it shows the importance of 3 (“three”) interrelated points:

  1. Having and updating a coherent workplace policy on what does and does not constitute acceptable computer usage – including the use of social media, interpersonal conduct, and so forth;
  2. Training and sensitizing managers and employees alike on the policy, and ensuring internal consistency in the enforcement of disciplinary procedures, generally;
  3. Getting and heeding good legal advice when dealing with workplace, labor-related issues, so that, perhaps, the “right and legally sufficient language and reasons most applicable to the situation,” can be used in documents and correspondence, and the employer will not face embarrassment in the press or otherwise run afoul of critical regulatory requirements.

The stated reason for the individual’s dismissal from employment, was “theft of company time.”[1]  Allegedly, the theft resulted from the fact that he was surfing pornographic and other websites at work, from his workplace computer.  This, as the argument goes, resulted in his being paid for services (i.e. being at work and working) that he did not actually render, and therefore he stole the company’s time as he was not entitled to that pay.[2]

The Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) decision reinstating the individual, is here,[3] and I will not dwell on it beyond saying that some may see it as “bringing the administration of justice into disrepute”, and worthy of Judicial Review in a court of law.  Time will tell, as there will, of course, be very strong positions on both sides of the issue – i.e. the individual’s right to surf the web at work v. the public’s right to have public servants who serve, more than they surf; coupled with the duty of the federal and provincial Public Service to ensure that this is, indeed, the case.

I will say, however, that I am working on a Model Social Media Usage Policy, that addresses this, and perhaps some other issues arising in the fast-moving complex of new and evolving media, employee action(s), and the above 3 (“three”) interrelated points.

Author:

Ekundayo George is a Lawyer and Strategic Consultant.  He is a published author in Environmental Law and Policy; licensed to practice law in multiple states of the United States of America, as well as Ontario, Canada; and has over a decade of solid legal experience in business law and counseling, diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed for their content, accuracy, or availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.


[1]http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/canadians-not-surprised-porn-surfing-federal-worker-gets-183723562.html (Globe and Mail story, re: surfing pornographic and other websites at work, and theft of company time).

[2]Id.

[3]http://pslrb-crtfp.gc.ca/decisions/fulltext/2011-100_e.asp (Public Service Labour Relations Board – PSLRB, decision, re: surfing pornographic and other websites at work, and theft of company time).

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