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Legal Insider: Computer and internet misuse for employees

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Employee use of computers and workplace internet has become relatively common.

As a result, there are many times when employees get disciplined or terminated for such usage. We generally advise employees to avoid using workplace computers and/or internet connections, even where permitted, wherever possible.

Common Issues for Employees

The most frequent problems that arise for employees in this area involve:

(1) Watching entertainment programs (Neltfix, Hulu, Disney+ etc.)
(2) Excessive social media usage (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok)
(3) Online gaming at work
(4) Watching, sending or receiving sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate materials
(5) Sending harassing, violent, discriminating or hateful messages on company computers
(6) Using workplace computers or the internet at work to commit any kind of illegal activity, including the piracy of movies, music, games, etc.
(7) Distributing company information outside the company.

There are countless other examples which can violate company usage policies. Each company has their own computer and internet usage policy and it is important for employees to read them.

In our experience, many company computer and internet usage policies are fairly restrictive in writing, but not really enforced unless other employment issues arise. When such issues arise, an employer may have the ability to review an employee’s computer or internet usage on their work devices and attempt to discipline or dismiss an employee if they choose.

Defenses

There can be legal defenses available when an employee is wrongfully terminated from an employer where computer or internet usage is the underlying issue. These defenses would depend on the facts of the underlying incident and the individual company policy. Possible legal defense and/or representation should be discussed with a lawyer.

Contact Us

When an employee faces a disciplinary investigation or action based on alleged computer or internet misuse, it is very important to retain legal counsel familiar with these issues. Our law firm represents employees and can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070.

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