As she often does, Laurie Ruettimann of Punk Rock HR started a minor fracas with Corey J. Feldman at their respective web sites regarding internet utilization policies at work when she gave out career advice.
This led to a discussion of whether or not anyone had ever been terminated for using the Internet at work for personal reasons. Opinions vary, but according to an ePolicy Institute survey done in February 2008 survey of 304 U.S. employers, more than a quarter of employers have fired workers for misusing e-mail, and one third have fired workers for misusing the Internet on the job.
In a 2006 decision, a New York City administrative law judge adds another angle to the debate between employers and employees over personal use of the Internet in the workplace. Ruling in the case of an employee who allegedly used the Internet for personal reasons during work hours, the judge, John B. Spooner, compared Internet use at work to reading a newspaper or making a telephone call.
Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet and American Life Project says it "sounds like the judge was recognizing a reality for lots of workers."
Rainie says the "boundary between work and leisure, work and home, is becoming more permeable."
My conclusions are:
- You can fire someone for using the Internets if you have a policy that says: "Hey, don't use the Internets for personal shit!"
- You can get sued for firing someone for violating the "Hey, don't use the Internets for personal shit!" policy.
- You can use common sense in your Internets usage policy and say "Hey employee, don't screw us over on the Internets please, so we don't have to care about your shopping for high heels and pet collars on company time!"
Speaking of firing people, as opposed to laying them off -personally, I have never fired anyone for personal use of the Internet at work. Lots of other reasons, but never that.
- I have fired someone for duplicating studio movies on company video equipment and selling the bootleg copies to employees. (VHS and DVD were available, which was very cool)
- I have fired someone for running a check pool poker game that resulted in a $30,000 payout. (I didn’t win the pool)
- I have fired someone for beating the living shit out of a co-worker.
- I have fired someone for testing positive for cocaine on a random test after placing them on a last chance agreement for testing positive for Marijuana. (I knew it was a gateway drug)
- I fired anyone for using the Internet to view porn (male and female. porn doesn’t discriminate)