Reference no: EM13757314
Your Internet Job Rights Three Ethical Scenarios Whether you're an employer or an employee, you should know what your rights are when it comes to Internet use in the workplace. Recently federal and state courts have ruled that e-mail has little or no expectation of privacy in many circumstances. A number of employees have been terminated or warned for misuse, improper use, or inappropriate use of organizational resources by sending/reading personal e-mail on the firm's computers and net- works while on their own time (during lunch, or before/after work hours). The type of Internet use also comes into question, particularly when surfing Web sites the firm may consider "questionable" or "adult" (i.e., pornography).
Generally, these types of materials fall into three groups: pornographic, obscene, or indecent, and definitions and penalties vary from state to state, and even from town to town. A firm should have written policies for computer and network use, and employees should be schooled in these requirements. Many firms today require employees to sign a statement that they have been advised of these policies.
Mark Grossman, a Florida attorney who specializes in computer and Internet law, gives answers to some basic questions. Scenario 1 Nobody told you that your Internet use in the office was being monitored. Now you've been warned you'll be fired if you use the Internet for recreational surfing again. What are your rights?
Bottom Line. When you're using your office computer, you have virtually no rights. You'd have a tough time convincing a court that the boss invaded your privacy by monitoring your use of the company PC on company time. You should probably be grateful you got a warning. Scenario 2 Your employees are abusing their Internet privileges, but you don't have an Internet usage policy.
What do you do? Bottom line. Although the law isn't fully developed in this area, courts are taking a straight- forward approach: If it's a company computer, the company can control the way it's used. You don't need an Internet usage policy to prevent inappropriate use of your company computers.
To protect yourself in the future, distribute an Internet policy to your employees as soon as possible. Scenario 3 Employee John Doe downloads adult material to his PC at work, and employee Jane Smith sees it. Smith then proceeds to sue the company for sexual harassment. As the employer, are you liable? Bottom line. Whether it comes from the Internet or from a magazine, adult material simply has no place in the office. So Smith could certainly sue the company for allowing a sexually hostile environment. The best defense is for the company to have an Internet usage policy that prohibits visits to adult sites.
Of course, you have to follow through. If someone is looking at adult material in the office, you must at least send the offending employee a written reprimand. If the company lacks a strict Internet policy, though, Smith could prevail in court.
a. Do you agree with the advice of attorney Mark Grossman in each of the scenarios? Why or why not?
b. What would your advice be? Explain your positions.
c. Identify any ethical principles you may be using in explaining your position in each of the scenarios.