Are your employees emailing porn from the workplace?


If your employees are sending or receiving pornographic images at work, your business has a major problem. Management – usually HR is tasked with this issue – must ensure that pornography is stopped, because the employer is responsible for every image residing in or passing through the business network.

Besides increasing the risk of virus infection spreading through your organisation’s network and impacting customers and suppliers, pornography introduces further business risk by threatening brand and company reputation, and degrading company culture.  The consequences can also include expensive legal liabilities.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, employers have a legal duty of care to protect their employees from pornography. If they are found to allow a hostile working environment (e.g. by not acting to prevent pornography), sexual harassment cases or other lawsuits can result, with large sums of compensation incurred. For example, Airservices Australia was sued $1m over a porn scandal, alleged discrimination and bullying issues that cost one of their employees his career.

A hostile working environment can involve employees accessing sexually explicit internet sites or the emailing of pornography. The Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 makes employers liable for these actions, unless all reasonable steps have been taken (both active and preventative measures) to prevent them from taking place.

It is important to be aware that a written policy on its own is insufficient. A policy should be implemented through communication, education and enforcement, or it will be of little or no use in discharging liability. The obligation to prove that reasonable steps were taken rests with the employer and the lack of awareness that the actions are taking place is not in itself a defence.

In the event of a sexual harassment case, employers are more likely to be found at fault than the person harassing.  They may well end up liable for compensation to a complainant, because of their greater capacity to pay.

Unfortunately incidents related to pornography in the workplace are not isolated. The NSW government, Qantas, NSW police, and Virgin Blue have all received bad press from high profile cases in Australia.

How to implement a policy through communication, education and enforcement

To combat pornography, companies must implement a policy that outlines and constantly educates staff about acceptable usage of their network .

But it’s not really feasible to manually analyse thousands upon thousands of images passing through your email system.  Monitoring traffic can prove a logistical nightmare for even the most committed HR or IT departments.

So how do you determine if your organisation has a pornography problem?

Governments, law enforcement agencies, education institutions and large companies are turning to image analyser technology.  Image monitoring allows them to identify and evaluate the content of images passing through their email systems.

Using this technology, a background audit can be conducted to alert employers to suspect images. Staff can also be informed that traffic is being monitored, to assist in and improve compliance with the company acceptable usage policy (AUP).

Through a combination of sophisticated reporting, education and communication, companies now have the means to enforce an AUP that stamps out pornography problems and reduces business risk.

Rhondda King is HR/Relationships Manager at MailGuard

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Are your employees emailing porn from the workplace?


If your employees are sending or receiving pornographic images at work, your business has a major problem. Management – usually HR is tasked with this issue – must ensure that pornography is stopped, because the employer is responsible for every image residing in or passing through the business network.

Besides increasing the risk of virus infection spreading through your organisation’s network and impacting customers and suppliers, pornography introduces further business risk by threatening brand and company reputation, and degrading company culture.  The consequences can also include expensive legal liabilities.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, employers have a legal duty of care to protect their employees from pornography. If they are found to allow a hostile working environment (e.g. by not acting to prevent pornography), sexual harassment cases or other lawsuits can result, with large sums of compensation incurred. For example, Airservices Australia was sued $1m over a porn scandal, alleged discrimination and bullying issues that cost one of their employees his career.

A hostile working environment can involve employees accessing sexually explicit internet sites or the emailing of pornography. The Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 makes employers liable for these actions, unless all reasonable steps have been taken (both active and preventative measures) to prevent them from taking place.

It is important to be aware that a written policy on its own is insufficient. A policy should be implemented through communication, education and enforcement, or it will be of little or no use in discharging liability. The obligation to prove that reasonable steps were taken rests with the employer and the lack of awareness that the actions are taking place is not in itself a defence.

In the event of a sexual harassment case, employers are more likely to be found at fault than the person harassing.  They may well end up liable for compensation to a complainant, because of their greater capacity to pay.

Unfortunately incidents related to pornography in the workplace are not isolated. The NSW government, Qantas, NSW police, and Virgin Blue have all received bad press from high profile cases in Australia.

How to implement a policy through communication, education and enforcement

To combat pornography, companies must implement a policy that outlines and constantly educates staff about acceptable usage of their network .

But it’s not really feasible to manually analyse thousands upon thousands of images passing through your email system.  Monitoring traffic can prove a logistical nightmare for even the most committed HR or IT departments.

So how do you determine if your organisation has a pornography problem?

Governments, law enforcement agencies, education institutions and large companies are turning to image analyser technology.  Image monitoring allows them to identify and evaluate the content of images passing through their email systems.

Using this technology, a background audit can be conducted to alert employers to suspect images. Staff can also be informed that traffic is being monitored, to assist in and improve compliance with the company acceptable usage policy (AUP).

Through a combination of sophisticated reporting, education and communication, companies now have the means to enforce an AUP that stamps out pornography problems and reduces business risk.

Rhondda King is HR/Relationships Manager at MailGuard

1
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John Gaskell
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Is it lawful to ask staff in Australian to sign a IT Usage Policy ?

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