Dismissal for accessing pornography at work found harsh

The Fair Work Commission has found the dismissal for the use of employer equipment for downloading pornography to be harsh and awarded compensation to the employee. An employee allegedly breached the privileges of a company laptop through the downloading and storage of pornographic material within the work environment. Whilst the Commission acknowledged that the downloading of pornography is usually misconduct, the factors that determined the termination as harsh were as follows:

  • There was no company policy that outlined the expectations of staff in relation to downloading pornography and other inappropriate material and the consequences of breaching the policy;

  • The limited incidents of downloading of pornography by the employee; and

Evidence that other employees may have downloaded inappropriate material without action by the employer.

The real issue is the lack of policy regarding the downloading of pornography and other inappropriate material. The other emerging issue in workplaces is the use of social media by employees regarding workplace issues. There is often a high level of ignorance by employees in respect of the misconduct that may arise from inappropriate use of internet and social media. Policies on internet and social media use are becoming as critical as other necessary employer policies such as workplace harassment and discrimination.

Drayton’s Workplace Consulting can provide comprehensive company policies in these areas.

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