Pornography at work

Internet at work

The Internet has become an indispensable tool in most companies. When you have an unlimited internet connection, you also have the potential for abuse by employees...

Many employees use the company computer or their work smartphone to consult private websites. Such a behavior is sometimes harmless, when it is about a regular website such as a weather forecast and when it remains within the limits of reasonableness, during breaks. 

The employee's situation is quite different when it comes to pornographic sites.

The employer must be vigilant. He can take sanctions against his employee. But be careful! If the employer has carried out cyber-surveillance without having respected certain rules, he risks being liable.

Internet monitoring

An employer suspects that one of his or her employees is looking at pornographic sites during working hours. If proven, this behavior is serious and may result in damage to the company, whether in terms of productivity, company reputation or data security.

However, the employer cannot, without further ado, check the Internet history of his employee or install spyware on his computer. The employer must follow a strict monitoring procedure because the Internet searches of employees are protected by the Data Protection Act.

The employer must draw up a regulation on the use of the Internet at work that respects the procedure laid down by the Federal Data Protection Commissioner. If the employer does not follow this procedure to the letter, the evidence collected will be illegal. The dismissal of the employee may be considered wrongful, even if it is proven that the employee has consulted pornographic sites.

Sexual Harassment

The viewing of pornographic websites or magazines is particularly problematic when done in the presence of other co-workers. It may constitute sexual harassment in certain situations. Employers must take steps to prevent and stop sexual harassment within the company.

What about an employee who posts a suggestive poster in his or her locker, or a pornographic video unwillingly appears for a few seconds in the presence of a female colleague?

Immediate Dismissal

When it is proven that the employee has consulted pornographic sites, the employer is tempted to dismiss the employee with immediate effect in order to safeguard his or her interests and the company's reputation. However, such an immediate dismissal will not always be justified. 

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1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon