No Porn at Work. Can I Make It Any Clearer?

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq., owner of Ask The Business Lawyer, is an award-winning business attorney, speaker, and Entrepreneur Magazine online contributor. She saves consulting and professional services companies time, money, and aggravation by serving as their outsourced legal counsel.

Posted on August 10, 2017 in Employee Issues

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Like this is news? But it seems that some employees just don’t get it (no pun intended). A recent 2nd Circuit case, Patane v. Clark and Fordham Universityheld that even viewing porn in one’s office (a somewhat private place) is a no-no. In Patane, Professor Clark watched hard-core S/M tapes on the VCR in his office, left tapes scattered on the floor and had new purchases shipped to the office. His poor secretary, Patane, could see the smut through the glass partition of the office, on the floor when she entered his office, and when opening his mail (which was part of her job). The final straw was when Clark started to use her computer for porn access. The court held that “the mere presence of pornography in a workplace can alter the status of the environment for women . . . and is relevant to assessing the hostility” of the workplace.

If you have any questions about whether porn is legally permitted at work, let’s make it as simple as . . . green eggs and ham.  Here’s my initial stab at a no-porn company policy:

We want no porn behind closed doors
We want no porn left on your floors
Don’t put it on an iPod
Or camera with a tripod
We are not a company of boors

Do not surf porn for play
At any time of the work day
To your co-workers do not avail
To your friends do not e-mail
Or lose your job you certainly may

Steps to take when facing the presence of porn at work:

  • Don’t put up with it.  Reaffirm the anti-harrassment policies to all employees.  Be vocal and visible in your enforcement of the policy.
  • Prevent it from coming into the workplace.
  • Keep an ear open for office gossip about who’s displaying it (“Did you see the pictures on Jim’s computer! What was that, a ZZZ-cup?”)
  • Install appropriate firewalls and filters to prevent pornography access on workplace computers
  • Lead by example.

Remember that when you have an awkward work environment, you’re not just at risk of a lawsuit. Porn is a huge contributor to loss of employee productivity . . . which means a less efficient (and profit-making) business for you.

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