Usefully Employed has, since its inception, championed the right of employers to take strong disciplinary action against employees whose behaviour could cause offence on grounds of sex, race, sexuality, religion, and so on. The thinking goes that we all have to go work, most of the time, and we shouldn’t have to do it in an uncomfortable atmosphere. Display and possession of naked and indecent images is contrary to most written computer and anti-discrimination policies, and its existence at work would, in most circumstances, constitute a fair reason for dismissal. This also applies to the use of language which might create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone else on a prohibited ground.
But the hard line demonstrated here at home is not necessarily mirrored abroad. Two recent stories:
FRANCE: Indecent images are fine so long as you still get your work done:
Peugeot CitroÃ«n discovered that one of their employees had saved a file enculade43.zip (those of you with good French will see where this is going) to a workplace hard drive. The zip file contained numerous indecent images, some including animals as participants. This was (unsurprisingly) contrary to number of staff policies and memorandums that had been circulated requiring staff to:
refrain from attacks on the personal dignity of their co-workers, and to exhibit the highest moral standards at all times
An employment tribunal ruling that he was fairly dismissed as a result was appealed all the way to the Cours de Cassation, France’s highest court. There, the employee successfully contended that there had been no adverse effects arising from his possession of the images. He had still got his work done, and there had been no impact on the IT systems. These arguments were upheld, and the court found the French equivalent of an unfair dismissal. The court did comment that if work suffered, or the IT system had been affected by, for example, a large download or a virus, then the employer might have been successful. It also seems that his behaviour was not precisely and specifically proscribed by the contract of employment.
This story was reported in the Register at this link. It concludes that the dismissal would undoubtedly have been fair in this jurisdiction, with which most readers will presumably agree. The judgment, in French, can be found here.
AUSTRALIA: Sexism fine after a few tinnies
Again reported by the Register, there’s a story from Australia, where an employee sabotaged a recruitment advertisement for Web Developer placed in a magazine. As well as requiring SQL experience and knowledge of Visual Basic, the ad was amended as below. Can you see the problem?
The perpetrator confessed, and although he had already left his employer, its Managing Director was quoted as saying:
â€œHe was a young bloke who left a little while back, prior to Christmas. He wasn’t disgruntled or anything, he just mucked up… he got on the turps one night and it went from there. He fully understands what he has done and he’s very remorseful.”