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Take steps to ensure employees aren’t exposed to porn at work

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Judges are getting impatient with employers that allow employees to be exposed to pornography at work.

Perhaps because controlling Internet access to pornographic images isn’t technically difficult, and because word tends to get around pretty quickly if a co-worker is showing porn to co-workers, courts now are clamping down more on employers that don’t do enough to make sure the workplace is not a sexual cesspool.

As the following case shows, judges will take a look at the images themselves to decide whether exposing employees to pornography is severe enough to alter their working conditions.

Recent case: Vicki Criswell worked for Intellirisk Management and claimed that she had been exposed three times to pornographic images at work. She said the images were so offensive, they created a sexually hostile environment.

She blamed the company for not protecting her.

The trial court dismissed the case, but sent the images along with the file for a panel of 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judges to review. The panel took a look and declared the “pictures to which Criswell was exposed were severe enough to have altered the terms and conditions” of her employment. The appeals court sent the case back for a trial. (Criswell v. Intellirisk, No. 07-15280, 11th Cir., 2008)

Advice: If you haven’t already done so, have your IT staff install Internet filters to screen out potentially offensive or pornographic materials. Software is readily available to capture a record of all Internet traffic running through your servers.

Final note: You are well within your rights to control how employees use the Internet. Every employer should have a solid communications policy explaining that the company may monitor any Internet activity, e-mail and other communications. The policy also should specify that the company does not tolerate using company equipment to access, view or display pornographic or other offensive materials.

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