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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Online Porn And Other Workplace Hazards

As someone who was fired for allegedly engaging in "non work-related activity" at work, I was intrigued, and slightly amused, by a recent article in Newsweek.

The magazine reports that one-fourth of employees who use the Internet visit porn sites during the workday. The figure comes from an October survey by Nielsen Online, showing that workplace porn visits are up 23 percent from a year ago and porn sites receive more hits during office hours than any other time of the day.

What's driving the workplace porn rush? Some experts say it is driven by the stress of a wobbly economy. Others say many younger folks, who have grown up with the Internet, don't see porn as a big deal.

I particularly like this quote from Dawn Adams, CEO of a Wisconsin HR consulting firm:

"Managers are dealing with so many issues right now that sometimes people are able to hide out and no one knows what they're doing."

Hah! Has Ms. Adams considered that maybe the managers are the porn watchers? She sounds like a typical HR dolt. Managers are the ones who have time to watch porn. Non-managers have real work to do!

A few employers are catching on to the porn parade. Earlier this year, nine Washington, D.C., city employees were fired for viewing porn sites thousands of times while on the job. The worst offender reportedly logged an average of one hit every 2.5 minutes.

In addition to lost productivity, some companies are concerned about their equipment. Reports Newsweek:

Adult sites also expose computers to viruses, adware and spyware—though such ills can serve as smoking guns. At her last job, Adams fired an executive for spending hours a day on adult sites. "His computer was always crashing," she says. "That's how we found out."

Now let's do a little math here. The story says a quarter of employees who use the Internet visit porn sites--that includes men and women. I'm not an expert on the subject, but I'm guessing about 90 percent of the visitors to porn sites are guys. (I've seen few signs that the porn industry is designed with the interests of women in mind.)

If we take the survey results and my guesses as accurate, then what percentage of guys are viewing porn in the workplace? I'm not a whiz at math--hey, that's why colleges have journalism programs--but the figure must be getting close to the 50 percent or higher range.

Here's some irony for you. Was I viewing porn at my former employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)? Nope. Was I doing "non work-related" activity at work? Nope. For good measure, that term isn't defined, or even mentioned, in the UAB employee handbook or its Acceptable Use Policy for computers and networks. The university evidently doesn't consider "non work-related activity" an issue--except in my case.

If the Nielsen Online survey is to be believed, UAB must be awash in people viewing porn at work. But is the university doing anything about it? Heck no, it's too busy firing me for reading articles about Don Siegelman!

Remember my tape recorded conversation with Anita Bonasera, UAB's director of employee relations? She flat-out admits that I was targeted because I followed the Siegelman case on my computer, even though part of my job description was to keep up with news and public affairs, particularly as they pertain to Alabama. Last time I checked, the Siegelman case had something to do with Alabama--and his codefendant, Richard Scrushy, is UAB's most famous alum and one of its major donors. The university has named buildings for the man.

But hey, I could have been watching porn, and all would have been fine. God, if I had only known!

You can see the absurdity in UAB's actions. And that reminds me of a classic moment from my grievance hearing.

One of the women on the panel asked me, "Why were you checking the Harper's magazine site?"

Don't remember my answer exactly, but it went something like this: "Harper's is the second oldest monthly magazine in the United States and is considered one of the top general-interest publications in the world. Since we are in the business of producing magazines, it seems kind of natural for a member of the Publications Office to check out world-class magazines.

"One of Harper's writers, Scott Horton, is an Alabama native and a law professor at Columbia University--which is in the Ivy League, by the way--and is a highly respected writer on legal and public affairs. He has a special interest in Alabama, and part of my job description is to keep up with issues that affect our state.

"Is there some problem with an employee at an academic institution checking out Harper's magazine?"

My real answer probably wasn't that sarcastic. But that's exactly what I wish I had said, and that's the point I hope I got across. Apparently it worked because the grievance committee found I never should have been fired. But UAB's president upheld my termination anyway.

Go figure.

Gee, I just wish UAB had been clear about its policy. If I'd known they wanted me to scope out Jenna Jameson but not Scott Horton, I would have been happy to comply.

2 comments:

writechic said...

Ber, chicka, ber, ber.

Alabama should require workplace porn viewing given the state's prudish propensities. ;-)

But it does gnarl up the computers.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Alabama is prime to do the best that it can and here is how (your new and improved occupation Legal Schnauzer).

BUT SPEAKING OF GNARLING UP ...

The attempt to censor this site is incredible!!!

Globalization and Poverty
Interview with Dr. Vandana Shiva

by Dr. Garry Null

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=11540

In 1982 she founded The Research Foundation for Science and Technology and Ecology in New Delhi, which led to the creation of an organization, Navdanya, dedicated to the restoration of organic farming across India and the preservation of indigenous knowledge and culture.