In September 2006, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service investigated 71 employees from their Sydney office after being tipped off about widespread abuse of their computer system. In July 2007, eleven quarantine workers were sacked and another fourteen resigned as a result of downloading and storing porn on their work computers. In all, over thirty employees lost their jobs and dozens more were fined and some had their salaries reduced. This misuse of the computer system had been occurring for five years, and involved child pornography in some cases.
On February 2nd 2010, Channel 7 viewers were able to see semi naked pictures of Miranda Kerr on a workers’ computer during a live cross to Macquarie Bank. The footage went viral across the Internet and Macquarie was branded a ‘porn friendly bank’.
On the 28th of July 2010 a Federal Court action was brought against Airservices Australia by two air traffic controllers for alleged bullying and sexual harassment. On numerous occasions explicit pornographic material was also sent throughout the offices of the Melbourne operations centre and complaints about it fell on deaf ears. They are suing for $1m each.
These cases, and many like them, highlight the risks many businesses have by allowing so called ‘Workplace Porn Kings’ to operate unchecked on the company-provided network. The costs of employee turnover are well documented and double when it is an essential employee who is caught abusing the company network. Company knowledge, experience, customer relationships and growth can all walk out the door because the employee was given unrestrained access to email and the internet.
Many businesses implement workplace policies regarding code of conduct and use of the internet and company computers, but many fail to enforce these policies with web or email filtering. The cost of an email or web filtering service pales into insignificance compared to the cost of losing a vital employee or damaging publicity.
The unchallenged workplace porn kings can also introduce other risks to the work place:
- Computer viruses – most of which are designed to hack databases
- An increase in spam email
- Unfair dismissal claims
- Productivity losses
- Damage to corporate image – type ‘Porn Friendly Bank’ in Google.
- Sexual Harassment claims – a biggie
A key legal issue is Vicarious Liability – which means the employer is liable for the activities of employees. So if your workplace porn king sends pornographic material to colleagues, the employer is liable for a sexual harassment claim.
So what needs to happen in the workplace with the ‘Porn King’? Put simply, a change in behavior needs to happen. This can be achieved in a couple of ways:
- Regularly re-educate and remind employees of their expected behavior and workplace policies.
- Implement an email and web filtering service to enforce the workplace policies.
Both need to happen at the same time and neither will succeed without the other. Businesses that fail to address the issue are exposed to heavy financial penalties that could have been easily and cheaply avoided.
So can your business afford to find one of your key employees downloading and distributing pornography? Can you afford a sexual harassment claim? Can you afford an unfair dismissal claim?
How much it will cost your business…