Many companies have realized that acceptable Internet usage policies are insufficient and do not prevent employees accessing pornography at work. While employees can be told that the viewing of pornography at work is unacceptable, and viewing pornography is likely to result in instant dismissal, it does not stop porn from being accessed at work by some individuals.
The accessing of pornography in offices and other places of work is commonplace. One survey conducted by Proven Men Ministries in 2014 indicates two thirds of men and one third of women have accessed pornography using their work computers.
When employees access pornography at work, it does not just reduce productivity, it can have many negative implications for employers. Further, when anonymizer services such as VPNs are used by employees to browse the Internet anonymously, detecting inappropriate Internet use can be problematic.
One recent case has highlighted the disruption that can be caused and the bad publicity that often results from the failure to prevent employees accessing pornography at work.
Social Community Partnership Discovers Employee Accessed Rape Porn
A Social Community Partnership in Ireland – An organization that provides support services to children and families – discovered an employee had been accessing pornography at work. The webpages viewed depicted scenes of rape and the abduction of girls.
The accessing of the sites was discovered during an audit of reception computers. IT staff discovered those sites had been accessed on seven occasions over a two-month period. By comparing the times that the webpages were accessed to the staff schedule, it was possible to narrow down the potential employees to just one individual – a female receptionist. While multiple employees could have used the computer, she was the only individual scheduled to work in the reception area on three of the occasions, and was at work on the other four.
Her actions resulted in instant dismissal, not just for breaching company rules but for the nature of material that was accessed. The employee denied accessing the sites and appealed internally. That appeal failed and she decided to sue her employer for unfair dismissal.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in Dublin heard the case, but upheld the Social Community Partnership’s decision to terminate the employee, after ruling ‘on the balance of probabilities’ the employee had accessed pornography at work and that dismissing the employee was the appropriate course of action to take.
While the Social Community Partnership was exonerated, the case attracted negative media attention, the unfair dismissal case had to be defended causing considerable loss of man-hours, and the partnership could also have potentially lost government funding as a result of the employees’ actions.
All of the disruption, loss of productivity, cost of the lawsuit, and the bad publicity could all have been avoided if rather than simply relying on acceptable Internet usage policies, a web filter had been implemented.
How a Web Filter Can Be Used to Prevent Employees Accessing Pornography
The easiest way to prevent employees from accessing pornography in the workplace is to use a web filter. A web filter can be configured to block website content by category – adult content for example – to prevent pornographic websites from being accessed. A web filter can also be used to block anonymizer services such as VPNs from being used by employees that attempt to bypass company policies.
DNS-based web filters have no discernible impact on Internet speed, require no hardware purchases, and can be easily implemented and maintained. While web filters do come at a cost, that cost can be offset by the gains in productivity from blocking pornography and other inappropriate website content such as gaming and gambling sites. It will also allow organizations to prevent the problems experienced by the Irish Social Community Partnership – Bad publicity, potential loss of funding, and the cost of defending unfair dismissal claims stemming from inappropriate Internet use.