Perils of downloading porn at work

Click to follow
The Independent Online
MALE OFFICE workers who downloaded pornography from the Internet have fallen victim to a whole range of new offences under cyber law.

The men were found to have sexually harassed a female colleague even though the material was not aimed at her.

An employment tribunal found that the men had created a hostile working environment and that the employers were liable to pay damages.

In another example of a growing caseload of computer law, a company was found to have dismissed a man unfairly for accessing sexually explicit images on his screen.

The tribunal in south London decided that the man's summary dismissal was unlawful because it was by no means clear that he had breached company policy.

Predictably, in the United States computer misuse is thought to be on the verge of creating a multi-billion-dollar business for lawyers.

One gay man is trying to sue an Internet provider because he contracted Aids from a lover he met through the Net.

In a report on "cyberliability' published today, the research group Incomes Data Services warns employees and employers to beware the legal pitfalls of computer misuse.

A casual e-mail can constitute a legally enforceable document. In one case, an agreement between a line manager and a subordinate over the payment of expenses was deemed to constitute a binding contract and the company was obliged to pay the agreed amount.

Robert Pullen, author of the research, warned against the risk of libelling colleagues through the use of e-mail. And he said employers should beware of the legal issues involved in monitoring e-mail correspondence and Internet use.

Mr Pullen urged organisations to adopt carefully drafted policies to prevent employees and management straying into the "minefield of legal hazards" created by unfettered use of computers and electronic media.

"What is becoming clear is employers must take steps to deal with the problem of how to maximise the advantages which giving employees access to the Internet and e-mail can bring, while minimising the associated legal risks and practical hazards."

He said that enforcing a legally sound computer usage policy would do much to resolve the problem. "Such policies will not in themselves be sufficient to put the new cyberliability lawyers out of business, but they will definitely help to keep them at bay."

#Staff who browse the Internet for holidays, to help their children with homework, to search financial websites or send messages to friends are threatening office productivity.

A growing number of companies are banning staff from casual surfing or restricting Internet use by devices that flash warnings on to the screen if curious employees try to access prohibited sites.

Recent studies show workers could be wasting up to two hours a day on the Net. In a business with 1,000 staff, the cost of surfing could add up to nearly pounds 4m a year.

Comments