Your Employees May (Ahem) Be Doing Something Other than Work

by Evil HR Lady on July 31, 2020

Your employees should not be viewing pornography in the office. Your employees should not be viewing pornography on company equipment, even out of the office.

These are basic tenets of sexual harassment law, plus it’s a great way to get viruses (not the Corona type), and use up bandwidth, and waste time. In other words, it’s horrible for your business.

And yet, it continues to be a problem. The Washington Examiner reported:

Online porn viewing in Washington [DC], dormant since most offices closed in March, has started to spike as more workers have returned to their cubicles in the federal city.

According to one popular website, Stripchat, weekly users have gone from about 3,000 in Washington during the coronavirus shutdown to about 55,000.

In data shared with Secrets, the “highest daily marks in traffic” beginning on July 8 were during office hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I’m 100 percent sure this isn’t only a federal employee problem. It’s a general employee problem. Here’s what you need to do to keep this out of your business.

  • Create a clear policy. No porn at work. No exceptions.
  • No porn on company-owned equipment. No exceptions.
  • No porn sent via any company system, regardless if it is on an employee’s personal device or not.
  • Install quality filtering software. 
  • Clear consequences for using pornography at work. This can either be progressive discipline or immediate termination, depending on what you think is appropriate.
  • The above policy applies to everyone from Intern to CEO.
  • Remind people that even if everyone in the office seems happy to see it, it can and will result in discipline up to an including termination. It is simply not allowed.
  • IT monitoring of web activity.

If you allow your employees to get away with this behavior–even a little bit–you could end up with a hostile work environment lawsuit, if it becomes severe or pervasive. Remember what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in regards to pornography in the office:

The court held that the proliferation of pornography and demeaning comments, if sufficiently continuous and pervasive “may be found to create an atmosphere in which women are viewed as men’s sexual playthings rather than as their equal coworkers.” 

You can’t say you are in favor of equal opportunity for women and allow porn in your office.

Make sure your employees understand that, regardless of what federal employees do, this is not something your business tolerates. Period.

Photo by Christina Morillo

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny July 31, 2020 at 2:30 pm

It’s “tenets” of sexual harassment law, not “tenants.” I would revise the EEOC’s statement on pornography in the office to state that it “may be found to create an atmosphere in which PEOPLE are viewed as…sexual playthings, rather than as…equal coworkers.” Pornography can debase everyone: men, women and children.

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Dorothy Young July 31, 2020 at 3:20 pm

To the point grannybunny made, not all pornography is aimed at cis het men. If an idea s conceives, someone will turn it into pornography.

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Goober July 31, 2020 at 5:50 pm

That’s be “Rule 34,” and it’s one of the most true of all internet rules.

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Evil HR Lady July 31, 2020 at 8:12 pm

Oops on the typo. One I always make because I get distracted by the idea of the 10th Doctor.

The EEOC probably should revise their statement!

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Kathy August 1, 2020 at 5:50 pm

Forever more when I see “tenant” used for “tenet” I will think of the tenth doctor and you.

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JB July 31, 2020 at 5:26 pm

I know this is a little off topic of the article, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of deep issues a person has if they can’t restrain themselves from looking at porn at work. I am not sure how a business would or wouldn’t be required to address that but it makes me uncomfortable just thinking about that aspect of it.

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Goober July 31, 2020 at 5:53 pm

“No porn on company-owned equipment. No exceptions.”

There needs to be one exception, at least sort of:

As an IT professional, I have been tasked with documenting what someone else did on a company computer. I spent several hours cruising porn sites whose URLs weren’t *obviously* porn (no “xxx” in the name, etc.), because I was told to be thorough. I ended up with 45 pages of small print from the proxy logs, one site per line. The employee ended up . . . unemployed.

It’s amazing how boring porn sites can be.

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Goober July 31, 2020 at 5:56 pm

“Install quality filtering software.”

And on another note, as an IT professional, I feel obligated to say that the most likely result of this is a false sense of security, because no filtering software is more than minimally effective. There’s *always* a way around it, and it’s *always* a very simple way.

Far better, and *much* harder to get around, is a competently implemented invisible proxy that records all activity. If it’s on my network, I have a record of it, and it has mattered a few times.

(You definitely want to explain this in your employee manual. No one should ever be surprised that they got caught.)

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Norman M Henderson August 1, 2020 at 3:12 pm

‘Work from home’ must have meant ‘surf the web from home on company time.’ I’d be willing to bet that hits on recipe sites, shopping sites, Pinterest, etc. are way up too. Less dangerous to morale and liability than porn but still stealing time from their employers. As Goober mentioned above; filter and firewalls are not as effective as we would like to believe. Policy should extend to all non-work related use of the internet although that could be a lot harder to define.

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jccbeach August 3, 2020 at 5:05 pm

@Norman M Henderson – just as with surfing for porn, social media and shopping on company time likely shows up as decreased production which is a performance issue to be addressed.

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