Avoid the Dog House: The Importance of Internet Usage Policies
Paw Up on Legal LiabilityBecause the company owns the computers employees work on, the company can legally be held liable for any illegal or discriminatory content employees view or distribute on those computers. One concern is discrimination and sexual harassment. This can result from an employee sending inappropriate emails, as well as viewing pornography or content that promotes hate and discrimination. Even if the individual is not distributing inappropriate content, an employee walking by could be offended and take issue with the company, or even sue, for being subjected to a hostile work environment.
Digging in the MudAnother legal liability for employers is any computer activity that involves or leads to illegal activity. This can include accessing illegal information, participating in illegal activities online or using information found online to commit a crime. In addition, child pornography is of particular concern for employers, both because of the severity of the crime and because studies show that many people who view such content do so during work hours.
In any of the above cases, even if the employer was unaware of the inappropriate or illegal activity, it can be held liable for negligent supervision of employees. Legally, any content stored on the computer is technically both in the employees and employers possession.
Barking at IntrudersAccessing unauthorized webpages can also pose risks to the companys computer or network. Just one click of the mouse can expose a computer to a destructive virus or allow a hacker to access to sensitive company information. This is often referred to as cyber liability.
Bad BiteThere can be significant costs associated with claims of computer or Internet abuse by employees. Lawsuits and settlements can be extremely costly to the company, whether its for discrimination, harassment or illicit activity. In addition, dismissing employees guilty of misconduct can be expensive and time-consuming, both in finding and training a replacement and in potential legal fees if there's litigation.
REMEMBER: Avoid being put in the dog house through a liability claim. Create an effective Internet usage policy for your company using the human resources department, IT department and your insurance broker.
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