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Facing dismissal for viewing pornographic images.


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Hi, I hope that someone can offer me some advice.

I am facing dismissal from work for viewing pornographic material in works time. I am currently suspended, and have not yet been disciplined. Although I have been informed verbally that a letter will be dispatch soon starting formal disciplinary proceedings.

It started when a workmate was witnessed watching porn during works time on his company issued laptop. He was working alone on the day in question and no one else from the department was present. As part of the investigation the company suspended all 4 members of our department, leaving just the supervisor, and took all 4 laptops for investigation.

The workmate was dealt with very swiftly, within the first week, and agreed to resign.

After three weeks of investigations the company has informed me of its findings.

These are;

· Excess internet use

· Having inappropriate images

· Searching for porn using Google images.

 

My explanations are as follows

· Most of the systems used in our department are web based and my internet connection is running virtually all day. I often leave my laptop unattended whilst attending shop floor callouts, from anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. During this time other people may have access to the laptop. My logon is sometimes used be others on different machines to allow them to use web based software.

· On 20/12/10 I received a personnel email via Gmail to my private online email account which contained a PowerPoint presentation from a friend outside of the company.

I opened the mail not aware of its contents as the email was headed, “Seasons Greetings Just click on the numbers”.

The first slide in the presentation was an advent calendar which showed a cartoon of Father Christmas crashing his sledge. I assumed that the rest of the calendar would follow a similar content, i.e. funny Christmas cartoons. However, when I clicked on a date an inappropriate picture was revealed. I immediately deleted the presentation from the hard drive of the computer.

I assumed that by deleting the presentation that I had removed all traces of it, as I had no wish to view, retain or distribute it further.

· This is the one that I’m not sure about. They claim that they can tell that I was deliberately searching for pornographic images. I am certain that I didn’t but how can I prove it? They claim that by using Google images and running a mouse over an image that that image will be stored on my hard drive. I have used Google image search, but not for porn.

 

Sorry for the long post. Having read some of the others posted here I believe someone will have some positive replies.

 

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to your response.

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I assume that there is an intrenet use policy? What does it say? Because, for example, personal logins should be just that - personall, and nobody else should have them. If the policy is that nobody else should have them, then you are on a hiding to nothing saying that someone else has used your log in - you can try it, but I wouldn't hold my breath on it being a defence. It's a iffy defence - they may or may not accept it, because one thing is sure - it's uour login that they have identified against this activity.

 

The second issue of the inappropriate e-mail - well you should really have reported receiving something like this. It might have come to your private e-mail account - but you opened it with a works piece of software, and apart from anything else, this sort of stuff often has viruses etc, and you were using a works laptop. I guess it is probably too late to point out that most companies monitor any use of the internet and it isn't all that hard to find out what you have been doing - innocently or not.

 

I have no idea on the third one - I'm a lawyer not a geek (to paraphrase Dr. McCoy).

 

But you have missed out one allegation - excessive time on the internet. It is a matter of relative ease for a company to monitor active time on the internet - they can tell the difference between "running in the background but not being used" and being used. So what do they say is excessive - how much have you been surfing?

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I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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Thanks for the quick reply SarEl.

 

The company I work for is a large manufacturing plant. I have never been issued any guidelines on IT and Internet usage.

 

They claim that I have approx 7500 websites logged against my logon for the last 2 months of 2010, I have no idea if this is excessive or not. I ran a not very scientific experiment by logging on to my works web based email and counted the amount of hits generated whilst logging on. It took 15 just to open the inotes. I may check these mails 4 or 5 times a day, that would be approx 60 / 75 hits just checking mail.

 

The reason i mentioned the other pieces of equipment requiring my log on is that I was asked to do this be management. This equipment is capable of accessing the internet and this traffic would register under my logon.

Also, with my laptop being left unattended i could not be sure a third party has not used it to access the internet.

 

Again, thanks for your time.

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I didn't ay have they issued you with one - I asked if they have one. It may be on a company staff site, in a handbook, on a notice board - all of which qualify as "issued". I'm afraid that I can't really help with whether this number is excessive or not - but I don't know enough about IT to say what this tells them, apart from the fact that it would certainly tell them where the sites accessed are. Walking away from a logged on computer isn't sensible. I'm afraid that I'm not sure what else I can tell you. You could ask for details of the sites they are referring to, and how long you were logged in to each one - if they have this information then you are equally entitled to see it. But in the end I am afraid that in terms of a dismissal, it may simply come down to saying what your defence is and seeing what happens. Whether such a dismissal was fair is hard to say without knowing all the evidence, and also what the policy says - and what you are dismissed for. If it were for excessive use of the intrenet in working hours and they could prove you had been logged in for two hours every day etc etc - then it would be a hard case to win. But I am afraid that without a lot more detail it's hard to preduct.

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I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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Hi, I hope that someone can offer me some advice.

I am facing dismissal from work for viewing pornographic material in works time. I am currently suspended, and have not yet been disciplined. Although I have been informed verbally that a letter will be dispatch soon starting formal disciplinary proceedings.

It started when a workmate was witnessed watching porn during works time on his company issued laptop. He was working alone on the day in question and no one else from the department was present. As part of the investigation the company suspended all 4 members of our department, leaving just the supervisor, and took all 4 laptops for investigation.

The workmate was dealt with very swiftly, within the first week, and agreed to resign.

After three weeks of investigations the company has informed me of its findings.

These are;

· Excess internet use

· Having inappropriate images

· Searching for porn using Google images.

 

My explanations are as follows

· Most of the systems used in our department are web based and my internet connection is running virtually all day. I often leave my laptop unattended whilst attending shop floor callouts, from anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. During this time other people may have access to the laptop. My logon is sometimes used be others on different machines to allow them to use web based software.

· On 20/12/10 I received a personnel email via Gmail to my private online email account which contained a PowerPoint presentation from a friend outside of the company.

I opened the mail not aware of its contents as the email was headed, “Seasons Greetings Just click on the numbers”.

The first slide in the presentation was an advent calendar which showed a cartoon of Father Christmas crashing his sledge. I assumed that the rest of the calendar would follow a similar content, i.e. funny Christmas cartoons. However, when I clicked on a date an inappropriate picture was revealed. I immediately deleted the presentation from the hard drive of the computer.

I assumed that by deleting the presentation that I had removed all traces of it, as I had no wish to view, retain or distribute it further.

· This is the one that I’m not sure about. They claim that they can tell that I was deliberately searching for pornographic images. I am certain that I didn’t but how can I prove it? They claim that by using Google images and running a mouse over an image that that image will be stored on my hard drive. I have used Google image search, but not for porn.

 

By running your mouse over an image (i.e - the cursor) you will NOT download a hard copy of that image to your computer. I can guarantee that. If that was true, everybody's hard drives would soon be clogged up with unwanted images.

 

However, whether some third party program exists that can do that, I do not know, but I suspect it is extremely unlikely as I see no reason, even in the event of a client wishing to monitor computer usage, for such a program to be an efficient way of collating such data.

 

MrBlack

 

 

Sorry for the long post. Having read some of the others posted here I believe someone will have some positive replies.

 

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to your response.

 

.. ..

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ADDITIONAL - A company can however install Internet Tracking and Monitoring software to track the web pages you visit. In other words, loading up a Google Images page where there may be pornographic material mixed in with other innocent material could get you in a hell of a lot of trouble as

 

a) The whole page would be saved as a 'snapshot', regardless of the individual elements on that page that you wanted to view (and which were appropriate images).

b) And if that did happen, I would want to know why the 'SafeSearch' option of Google Images, whose DEFAULT is 'moderate' had been changed to 'off'. Most companies with any sense would ensure it was switched to 'strict', eliminating the majority of porn. Thought to be fair, the 'moderate' setting does a pretty good job of eliminating it too, depending on your initial search criteria of course!

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Hello reccyman,

 

After reading your post the first thing you need to do is get hold of a copy of the internet policy and read it. If it says that viewing pornographic material is gross misconduct then your chances of getting off with it are very slim. you should also look for anything that states you should report any inappropriate emails, although why you would open your personal emails at work beats me, as any tracking software would log your details and password for it.

 

As SarEL says there is no excuse for allowing someone else to use your works laptop or even your password, the laptop is given to you to use with trust and your password is so only you can use your works account. Your company wont monitor your laptop, only your account.

 

Everything you do with a pc is logged inside it, aswell as this companys sometimes use tracking software to monitor your pc usage. This will log details of what programs you have used, where you have been on the internet and also how long you have spent on each page you visited. You have said that you work for a large company, so i will assume that they will use some sort of internet tracking. software

 

As MrBlack says mousing over an image will not download it, but the tracking software (if used) may log it as being viewed.

 

7500 websites in 2 months on a works pc does seem excessive to me, have you been link hopping? as this is the only way i can see how you could log so many. I would definitely ask for a list of the sites that you have been visiting. When you get this list look for items like; google.analytics, this isnt a site but a tool google uses and some company's may try to pass it off a a valid site, also look for any sites that have the same name, as this could just be different pages of the same site. You will also need to go through this list to see what sites you have visited that are something to do with the work you carry out.

 

The email you opened should have been reported as soon as you saw what it contained, that way they may have at least overlooked it in the forthcoming investigation.

 

Lastly, although it would be a weak argument, it may be worth asking if your company uses blocking software, if they dont it may be a very weak straw for you to cling to.

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I think that on the first point you can forget it. It doesn't matter if it is in the policy or whether there is a policy on that one - viewing pornographic material on the works computer is a dismissable offence (which isn't the same thing as having to be dismissed - just that they could), and nobody will gainsay that one. Doublu so if done on the works time!

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I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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It would also be useful to try and find out exactly what the definition of "pornographic" is so far as your company is concerned. Would your company, for example, consider a page 3 image as being pornographic. If it does then anyone bringing the Sun into work would be on dangerous ground.

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It would also be useful to try and find out exactly what the definition of "pornographic" is so far as your company is concerned. Would your company, for example, consider a page 3 image as being pornographic. If it does then anyone bringing the Sun into work would be on dangerous ground.

 

Whilst that may be true, I think that it can safely be said that viewing anything which depicts ladies without their vests on would be construed as pornographic in relation to a policy which states that viewing of such material is not permitted. Internet useage policies would normally vary greatly, but would contain a mention of 'indecent' 'inappropriate' or 'pornographic' somewhere, and it would matter little whether one person's definition of those words differed from another's, it would be what any reasonable person would believe to be wrong in that context. Indeed some would consider The Sun to be offensive, but it does not require works equipment to open it, so the reader would probably be in the clear unless they were making a fuss over Page 3 and brandishing the images in a manner likely to cause offence to colleagues!

 

The OP's only real defence here (and as already stated it is flimsy), is to build sufficient doubt that he was the person responsible for viewing inappropriate material on the laptop, and that internet use was not solely down to him. This will rely on whether the employer was aware of other people having access and login details and whether this was sanctioned by them and deemed to be normal practice, however with the employer only needing reasonable belief to suspect that the activity was the responsibility of the OP this might well be difficult. In anybody's view, this would seem to be a matter of Gross Misconduct for which the employer would be entitled to impose the ultimate sanction.

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A few points about this, firstly loigins should only be used by the person to whom it is issued, secondly most PC's would be set up with a timeout so that after 5-10 mins of new use, it 'locks' and the password is needed again, this is common sense.

 

Most companies would use a central server domain system and make use of whats called group policy, group policy can be used to enforce restrictions on every computer, i.e enforce the lock out, disallow installing software, block certain websites, etc

 

Every website vistited will be stored in the local PC's history setting, further to that, website images are cached in the temp folder, including images that you didnt specifically click on, there are ways to remove all of this but most people dont.

 

As pointed out above there may be all kinds of software installed either on the PC itself or on the server to track sites visted, etc

 

Lastly there is no doubt a company handbook detailing company guidelines which I would expect to mention internet usage.

 

Personally I'd find it rather strange when people have the desire to view pornagraphy at work, especially as it is quite likely that the sites you visit are being tracked somehow.

 

Andy

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By running your mouse over an image (i.e - the cursor) you will NOT download a hard copy of that image to your computer. I can guarantee that. If that was true, everybody's hard drives would soon be clogged up with unwanted images.

 

However, whether some third party program exists that can do that, I do not know, but I suspect it is extremely unlikely as I see no reason, even in the event of a client wishing to monitor computer usage, for such a program to be an efficient way of collating such data.

 

MrBlack

Actually, when you open a webpage using Internet Explorer, the majority of GIF and JPEG thumbnail images are automatically downloaded to the PC in stored in the Temporary Internet Files folder.

Frederickson - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Lost - Claiming back from post office

Connaught Collections - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Lowell - CCA sent 11/4/07 - No agreement - returned to client

Moorcroft - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Red Castle - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Copy returned but no T&C's

Robinson Way - CCA Sent 16/5/07

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agreed as soon as you type in ladies into google images the results [thumbnails] end up on the hard drive - also by inapropriate use of internet

by visiting facebook is considered inapropriate as it has no bases towards the business

 

in other words unless is a manufacturing website then any website could be considered as inapropriate.

 

each file on a pc is date stamped [right click properties of a file and look at "created" date]

if you have a set time you go out for shop floor call outs or a lunchbreak hopefully this created date falls within one of these times and so thats your defense into was it you but leads you then into a new accuation of publising log in details or not using security features [logging off]

 

another idea

think about what websites you would normally access that are legitimate websites but may have a banner bar or a gallery page for less then apropriate stuff

 

does your manufacturing company deal with CAD or the use or scale prototype models to then replicate into finished materials[sorry forgive lack of manufacturing terminology]

 

could you have used the word models [as in small scale objects] and google results thought you meant posed ladies

 

the model search term is another possible defence but ask for the search evidence first of the search terms used before you use it as they may check it if you mention posible words

hopefully models are used in your business and you have used that search term as then your defense is that the it department did not set restrictions and you are too niave to know how to remove them :-)

Edited by meekmeek
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What's more, some security scanning software will scan images looking for "flesh" tones as flag these up as potentially innapropriate.

Frederickson - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Lost - Claiming back from post office

Connaught Collections - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Lowell - CCA sent 11/4/07 - No agreement - returned to client

Moorcroft - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Red Castle - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Copy returned but no T&C's

Robinson Way - CCA Sent 16/5/07

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What's more, some security scanning software will scan images looking for "flesh" tones as flag these up as potentially innapropriate.

 

True..but it is unlikley that a company whould bother with such software, a simple list of sites visited would probably suiffice.

 

Andy

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I work for the NHS. They like to be complex!

Frederickson - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Lost - Claiming back from post office

Connaught Collections - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Lowell - CCA sent 11/4/07 - No agreement - returned to client

Moorcroft - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Red Castle - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Copy returned but no T&C's

Robinson Way - CCA Sent 16/5/07

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I work for the NHS. They like to be complex!

 

Indeed. I work for the military, but in an NHS hospital. The Trust's nanny software blocks mod.uk sites because of references to weapons, and a very serious military analysis site on the grounds that it thinks it's social networking.

 

Having said that, in Afghanistan the welfare computer system blocks access to sites selling military kit because of references to knives!

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Having said that, in Afghanistan the welfare computer system blocks access to sites selling military kit because of references to knives!

 

Quite right too. Knives are dangerous things and one shouldn't be playing with them.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a barrister specialising in employment law, and only represent employees. My advice on employment issues is advice - not legal opinion - and is based only on the facts you provide. If you want an accurate assessment of your case and prospects, you should get legal opinion from a lawyer - not a public forum. Anything I tell you is for guidance only, and is based on my experience of the law in the context of what details you provide.

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Actually, when you open a webpage using Internet Explorer, the majority of GIF and JPEG thumbnail images are automatically downloaded to the PC in stored in the Temporary Internet Files folder.

 

Agreed. But what I said still stands - hovering your mouse cursor over an image will NOT do that - not unless some third party proprietary software has been installed.

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