Porn in the workplace is always a bad idea. Besides being bad business practice, bad personnel management, and a poor reflection on everyone, it may also be a crime. Moreover, it exposes the company to charges of sexual harassment.
So how is it that employees at a company which properly had a policy prohibiting porn on its computer systems and fired employees who violated that policy were sued by four of the fired employees and ended up with a jury award against it for $917,000? The company is liable?
The Kansas City Star has reported that one employee at Kansas City Gas emailed pornographic pics to 52 other employees, and the company found these pics on the office computers of the 52. Ten of the 52 were fired. Anything wrong so far?
Not with regard to the porn policy, perhaps. But of the “Kansas City Gas Ten,” five were over the age of forty, and sued for age discrimination. Crazy, you say? The ten claimed that even though the company had a “standard practice” of progressive discipline, these ten were never given a warning. They also claimed that the emailed images were part of the company culture’s “lighthearted approach.”
More significantly, they alleged that they were “being eased out” to make room for younger employees, because the older employees, “who maintained a safety – and consumer – focused attitude, threatened the bottom line.” One plaintiff claimed that the cost of his medical treatment for 11 knee operations and two knee replacements may have been a factor. The case apparently boiled down to a claim that of 52 offenders, the company singled out only 10, and half of those were in a protected class.
Anyway, the jury awarded them almost a million dollars, determining that the younger employees were treated less onerously.