Category Archives: Legal Liability

Stop A Pornography Surfing Problem Before It Starts: Why Monitoring Is Important

USA Today reported today that “several top Security and Exchange Commission staffers surfed porn sites as economy teetered.”  While many of us like to think that “everyone” knows it’s inappropriate to surf porn at work using the office computer, time and time again stories like these still pop up.  While whether or not to allow social networking in the office and how to control the use of these sites seems to be the big surfing topic today, apparently we still cannot forget about pornography.  Pornography poses several risks to businesses and government agencies. These include productivity losses, security issues and legal liability.  No matter how strict or lenient your acceptable use policy is, one thing is clear.  Communicating your Web-use policy and regularly monitoring employees’ Web use is important.  You want to stop the problem before it starts or turns into an employee spending “up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography.”


Don’t Forget to Update Your Web-Use Policy

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the use of social networks, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.,  in the workplace recently.  This is a great reminder to all organizations to take a look at their current Web-use policies and update them.

Reuters covered a recent seminar put on by LeClairRyanon covering “Key Issues in Labor & Employment Law,” where the importance of a policy for social networks was discussed.  The speaker, Joseph P. Paranac, a shareholder in LeClairRyan’s Labor and Employment Group, stated, “Inappropriate and unwise use of online social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is a growing source of liability risk for employers, including discrimination, defamation and retaliation claims.”

He went on to offer some Web-use policy suggestions for employers.

“In order to have a successful policy on the use of social networking sites, Paranac told the audience, employers should stipulate that:

  • Employees may not comment or use any confidential information about the employer or discuss internal matters.
  • Use of online social networks should be limited to non-working hours, unless the use is for legitimate business purposes.
  • Employees’ comments should not be discriminatory or harassing.
  • Similarly, they should not be disparaging or defamatory to the employer’s business.

The veteran attorney also offered the following elements of a successful Internet and e-mail policy:

  • Employees should be trained on electronic communications equipment parameters and prohibitions.
  • All business systems and company-issued electronic communication equipment and data belong to the employer.
  • Systems and equipment must be used for appropriate and lawful business purposes only.
  • Employee use is subject to review/monitoring by the employer and employees who use employer equipment have no expectation of privacy.
  • Use of systems and equipment for harassment, discrimination, or defamation is strictly prohibited.
  • Disclosure of employer confidential information is strictly prohibited.
  • Warn employees of the penalties or policy violations.
  • Obtain a signed acknowledgment of employee receipt of policy.
  • Include a procedure for reporting violations.
  • Enforce the policy!”

Read the full article: TWEET: ‘I’m About to Testify in My Defamation Case!’

Increased Visits to Porn Sites At Work

With high unemployment rates and the potential of them rising even more, you would think that employees are doing whatever they can to be productive and keep their jobs.  Instead, according to a study by Nielson Online in October 2008, visits to porn sites at work is up 23 percent from the previous year.  This means that almost one quarter of employees are visiting porn sites during the workday.  “Hits to porn sites are highest during office hours than at any other time of day,” according to M.J. McMahon, publisher of AVN Online magazine, which tracks the adult video industry.

Some analysts believe that it has to do with the declining economy and people looking for an escape, while others speculate that it has to do with a younger generation in the workforce that has grown up accepting porn as a part of life.

Regardless, porn surfing at work poses a major legal liability risk for businesses.  This type of activity puts the employer at serious risk of being sued by other workers who are offended or upset by being exposed to pornographic images. Such suits usually take the form of ‘sexual harassment’ or ‘hostile workplace’ litigation and can be very costly in terms of damage to reputation as well as legal costs.  In addition to the legal costs, businesses also have to be concerned about costs due to loss of productivity.

In fact, the Senate Finance Committee is investigating the misuse of NSF computers by government officials to view online pornographic material. In one instance, the report cites an NSF “senior official” who allegedly spent 20 percent of his work hours “viewing sexually explicit” Web sites. This amounts to a potential loss of $58,000 in employee compensation.

According to, the average employee wastes 2.09 hours a day on the Internet.  An average administrative employee costs a company $37.84 per hour according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.  For a company with 1,000 employees, this amounts to over $18 million in productivity losses in a year.

A simple and cost-effective way employers can help ensure that employees use the Internet for productive purposes and not visit sites that pose a legal liability threat to the company is to filter and/or monitor Web access.  Wavecrest Computing offers Internet filtering and monitoring products CyBlock and Cyfin, to fit any organization’s needs.  The average cost for a Wavecrest product with a 1000-employee license is $3,500 per year. This is less than two tenths of one percent of the cost of lost productivity, making an Internet filtering or monitoring solution well worth the investment.