Information for Employers

As an employer, you want to be certain that your employees get the work done they were hired to do. Employers are concerned that employees who use a computer as part of their job, or employees who have an iPhone or other portable device that can access the internet, may be wasting time at work, accessing the internet during work hours. Accessing pornography on the internet during work hours is especially troublesome because, in addition to wasting time on the job, this may promote sexual harassment, be a sign of addiction and it may be illegal.

A few high profile examples of pornography addiction in the workplace –

Dozens of Securities and Exchange Commission staffers used government computers to access and download explicit images and many of the incidents have occurred since the global financial meltdown began, according to a new watchdog investigation. A senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington admitted he sometimes spent as much as eight hours viewing pornography from his office computer, according to the report. The attorney’s computer ran out of space for the downloaded images, so he started storing them on CDs and DVDs that he stored in his office. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “nothing short of disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at pornography than taking action to help stave off the events that brought our nation’s economy to the brink of collapse” (

Judge Joseph Polito of Will County, Illinois, admitted to repeatedly using his courthouse PC for viewing hard-core pornography on the Internet. He also admits that despite knowing there was a policy against viewing pornography at work, he kept searching for it – even after being blocked by software designed to keep staff on-task. Polito faces charges for violating the state’s code of judicial conduct, which could result in anything from a reprimand to termination. Sadly, he was seemingly “willing” to jeopardize his job to satisfy his addiction satisfy his addiction. This goes to show that pornography is a powerful addiction that often causes traditionally rational people to make irrational decisions (County Judge Seemed Willing to Trade His Job for Pornography,, Wednesday, August 29, 2012).

Your Responsibility as an Employer Clearly stated company policy. * Have a written policy which all your employees are aware of, which clearly states your company policy.

What Should Be Included in a Company Policy Regarding Pornography?

Internet use, on Company time, is authorized to conduct Company business only. Internet use brings the possibility of breaches to the security of confidential Company information. Internet use also creates the possibility of contamination to our system via viruses or spyware. Spyware allows unauthorized people, outside the Company, potential access to Company passwords and other confidential information.

Under no circumstances may Company computers or other electronic equipment be used to obtain, view, or reach any pornographic, or otherwise immoral, unethical, or non-business-related Internet sites. Doing so can lead to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

Viewing pornography, or sending pornographic jokes or stories via email, is considered sexual harassment and will be addressed according to our sexual harassment policy.

The Company owns any communication sent via email or that is stored on company equipment. Management and other authorized staff have the right to access any material in your email or on your computer at any time. Please do not consider your electronic communication, storage or access to be private if it is created or stored at work.

If employees are allowed to use the Internet or e-mail, have a policy against the distribution of jokes, pictures, or slogans that may be offensive to other employees. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sharing anything that wouldn’t be appropriate to hang on the wall at work.

A good example of a company policy is at:

Have filters and checks in place, to enforce your policy.

Besides having high level filters which block accessing inappropriate internet, filters can also block specific sites, such as YouTube and Facebook and game sites, such as World of Warcraft.

Clearly stated consequence for violating company policy.

Regularly check computer history. NOTE: All information on a computer at a workplace is property of the company, not the employee, so there is no privacy issue.

The Cost to the Employer of Pornography in the Workplace

Lost productivity. Employees with unfiltered and/or unmonitored web access may spend many, many hours a day on non-work related entertainment and shopping. A survey of 10,000 workers revealed that 44 percent of them use time when they should be working to surf the Web and send e-mails. On average, they spend one to two hours of the workday engaged in personal activities on the Internet that range from checking stocks and online shopping to planning vacations and looking for other jobs.

Social Consequences. An employee who is spending on the job time viewing pornography may be prone to making sexually inappropriate comments, be hostile to other employees, attempt to socially isolate themselves from other employees, or have financial or relationship problems. These things can have a negative effect on that employee’s job performance.

Poor Work Quality. An employee with a pornography problem may not be giving 100% effort and focus to their job. The quality of their work may be affected, as well as their ability to complete assigned tasks.

Illegal. If an employee is viewing pornography which features children is a violation of Federal law and can lead to arrest and jail time, plus there may be legal problems for your company.

There are three federal laws that govern child pornography: The PROTECT ACT of 2003, The Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998 and 42 U.S.C. § 13031

As the computer used by the employee is company property, your company could be held criminally liable if it knowingly allows employees possess or view child pornography on their computers, storage devices and servers. The Company may also face liability if it chooses to destroy or instructs the employee to destroy the pornographic images if there are three or more images in their possession.

Under 42 U.S.C. § 13031, your company will be required to report the employee and the images to the authorities if the company’s business relates to the following professions: physicians, dentists, medical residents or interns, hospital personnel and administrators, nurses, health care practitioners, chiropractors, osteopaths, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, emergency medical technicians, ambulance drivers, undertakers, coroners, medical examiners, alcohol or drug treatment personnel, and persons performing a healing role or practicing the healing arts; psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals; social workers, licenses or unlicensed marriage, family, and individual counselors; teachers, teacher’s aides or assistants, school counselors and guidance personnel, school officials, and school administrators; child care workers and administrators; law enforcement personnel, probation officers, criminal prosecutors; and juvenile rehabilitation or detention facility employees; foster parents; and commercial film and photo processors.

Employee: Termination versus Probation

When an employee is caught viewing pornography at work, automatic termination may not be the best decision. Probation, with strict guidelines of expected behavior, may be a better option.

Evaluate the violation and evaluate the quality of the employee. Can this problem be solved with probation or a lesser penalty than termination?

If you fire the employee, you have to go through the time consuming process of finding and hiring a replacement and then training the new employee.

If an employee is accessing pornography while at work, it is very likely that he is addicted to pornography. Just like someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is possible to conquer the addiction, if the right steps are taken. This isn’t a problem that strong desire and will power, alone, can overcome. Recovery from this addiction involves physical, social, spiritual and emotional healing. When you, as an employer, understand that recovery is possible, you may be able to create a probation plan for this employee that can provide a way for him to step away from his addiction. Learning more about the spiritual, social, emotional and physical aspects of addiction will help you create a strong recovery plan for the employee to follow.