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Porn in the Workplace Prompts Study on Employer Liability

Porn in the Workplace Prompts Study on Employer Liability

CYBERSPACE—Craig Cameron, who works in the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics on the Gold Coast Campus of Griffith University in Australia has published a study on issues concerning technology, law and policy raised by pornography in the workplace. The research was prompted by Cameron's realization that "technology has allowed pornography to infiltrate the workplace, which now means that employment policies and rules must be put in place to ensure employees can enjoy their legal right to a safe workplace free of sexual harassment and discrimination," as reported by ScienceCodex.com.

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"Despite its perceived social stigma and legal consequences for the employee, pornography remains a prevalent issue in the workplace," noted Cameron. "The accessibility, portability, affordability and anonymity of new technologies will continue to facilitate the infiltration of electronic pornography into the workplace."

Titled "Electronic porn in the workplace: a policy examination," the 14-page paper can be found in volume 1 of the International Journal of Technology Policy and Law. The article abstract reads, "This article draws on unfair dismissal law in Australia to examine policies prohibiting electronic pornography in the workplace. A study of unfair dismissal cases reveals the dynamics of workplace pornography, the rationale for regulating pornography and the mistakes made by Australian employers when formulating and enforcing their policies. The article makes a series of recommendations which employers in any jurisdiction can use to strengthen their policies and minimize litigation risk."

Though the subject is evaluated through Australia's legal prism, Cameron argues that "the same technological and social issues are present in almost every country," and that "his findings could point employers in Australia and elsewhere to the creation of a robust policy on the use of pornography in the workplace."

According to Science Codex, "Cameron's study revealed that there are five types of employee participation with pornography that are common in the workplace. The first is simply that an employee receives pornographic material through an e-mail, unsolicited or otherwise. The second involves said employee taking a positive action to view the content of the email and to either download material directly as an attachment or else to follow an embedded link to an inappropriate website. The third action might involve the saving of such materials on to a computer hard disk, mobile device or external storage media. The fourth action might involve the display of pornographic materials in the workplace or the sharing of such materials with another employee, or employees. The fifth action would involve the sharing of these materials electronically or by other means with others outside the workplace, such as customers or clients."

Employers who fail to enforce appropriate policies banning pornography "might be liable to prosecution under discrimination and sexual harassment as such a failure would essentially be a breach of the employer's duty of care to the health, safety and well-being of all of those in the workplace," Cameron warns, adding, "While pornography can have a specific definition, employers could readily extend their policy to include non-pornographic but sexually related, sexually explicit, offensive or objectionable material."






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