New technology and the work place.

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New technology and the work place.

Post  JoeC (McGruff) on Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:35 am

E-Mail, the Internet, cell phones and other handheld devices, blogs, Twitter, texting and social networking sites are a sign of the times.

The use of these new technologies gives rise to employment disputes that are different than the past. The law is slow in keep pace with the workplace changes brought about by new technologies.

There is one place that disputes arising out of new technologies are being grappled with in a systemic manner, and handled in a relatively sensible manner, and that is by arbitrators in the union sector.

Such is the case in the recent decision Defense Supply Center Columbus, 127 LA (BNA) 193 (Sellman, 2010), an analyst for a Defense Department supply agency who viewed sexually explicit web sites on a government computer was fired for misusing government property and misuse of duty time. The arbitrator reduced the discharge to a 35-day suspension based on mitigating factors.

Here is why; and if any steward finds themselves in similar circumstances they should study this case for a proper defense.

1. First, the employee ceased the conduct after being warned by his supervisor that he was under investigation. He continued to work at the same location with the same coworkers successfully for several months before being fired. This demonstrated the employee’s rehabilitation efforts were effective (he had sought treatment) and that the misconduct did not undermine the employee’s ability to otherwise perform his job successfully.

2. The second mitigating factor (and most important in my view) was that no one had complained of a hostile work environment, and the arbitrator found that no one other than the employee was viewing the websites. Based on this, the arbitrator reasoned there should be no distinction between a sexually explicit website and a shopping website. In other words, the misconduct should be viewed just as any other misuse of government property or misuse of work time. Lastly, the grievant had a good work record overall and no prior discipline. DAMN RIGHT!!

There is no difference between employees like the Nazi cbg, ElleMd, and Fatty PattyMd; sneaking off on the Internet, posting on LLT, P.M-ing each other when they find a victim or little kid they can pick on, and other violation of the companies’ Internet usage policy.

Although the Nazi cbg has not had her contract renewed at MIT for inappropriate Internet usage last year, there are many posters on that site that in fact post during working hours, and sooner rather than later they will get stung.

This case reminds us that union leaders and stewards must persistently urge members to minimize their personal Internet use at work regardless of how benign that usage may seem. Like wise sexually explicit sites are never appropriate in the work place. But when confronted with allegations of viewing pornographic Internet sites on work time; determine whether others complained of a hostile work environment. If not, then you can argue that the employer’s sexual harassment policies are not violated or even implicated, and that the misconduct should be analyzed as personal Internet use at work, regardless of the content.

We don’t want to see our members unemployed down the road for personal Internet use at work in violation of company policy, in the same way the Nazi cbg, fatty PattyMd, and other lowlifes found on boards like LLT have ended up.
JoeC (McGruff)
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