back to article Watching smut at work is bad but emailing it is just fine, says Oz court

Voyeurs rejoice! The Federal Court of Australia has ruled Aussies cannot be easily sacked for emailing porn to work colleagues. The ruling upheld a decision last year by Fair Work Australia which found the nation's mail service Australia Post was wrong to have sacked the three workers at the Dandenong Letter Centre for …

  1. Choofer

    Not about Smut

    This ruling really has nothing to do with the fact that they were fired for porn. In effect the court said that because they had been allowed to do something for a long period, and were not warned that it would no longer be tolerated, that their firing was unfair. It's part of Australia's HR laws - you can't suddenly fire somebody for something they have been doing for an extended time, even if it's against policy. You need to warn them at least once first and be shown to actively working to stop then re-offending. It sounds strange, but think of if you worked at a company that had allowed you to work from home every Friday for years, despite there being a formal policy saying that work hours are 9-5 monday to friday in the office. You get a new boss, and the first time you work from home friday he fires you. Not really fair is it? That's what happened to these workers in effect.

    1. Medixstiff

      Re: Not about Smut

      Not knowing the inner workings of the case, I wonder if the HR or ICT departments regularly sent out emails to staff advising them about the companies policies with links to the policies?

      If they do, then surely the onus would be on the staff to read the policies and comply, which basically everywhere I have worked has done.

      Because to me, those emails from HR/ICT should be warning enough that the company will fire you for sending smut, otherwise, does the court require HR or ICT to specifically go up to each staff member - or email them - and tell them this is your first strike?

      1. Matt 21

        Re: Not about Smut

        Isn't the point that not only was the rule not being enforced there were only a couple of scapegoats fired.

        So, to take the first example; Me and half the office have been working from home on a Friday despite company policy saying that it's not allowed. Then one day four of us are fired for it despite there being another dozen or so who've been doing the same thing, including a couple of the managers.

  2. Keef

    Common sense failure

    Seems to me both the management and underlings suffered from a massive failure to apply common sense over a period of many years.

    I think a fair solution would be to fire all involved at all levels, maybe a bit harsh though on younger members who don't have the experience in life to realise they should say no to this type of stuff.

    I'd definitely sack the managers though.

    I don't agree with Choofer's work from home analogy, there's a world of difference between doing something productive for the company from home and viewing smut on company time and I'd like to think a tribunal would agree.

    My advice to readers, watch smut in your own time as I do.

    1. 's water music

      Re: Common sense failure

      The analogy was surely not about the similarity or difference between home working and pr0n viewing*, it was about recognising that there is often a difference between written rules custom & practice and that it is unfair arbitrarily enforce a rule that has been widely and openly breached over a period of time regardless of the nature of the rule

      *There must surely be some correlation between working from home and viewing pr0n. no?

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Common sense failure

      Why stop there? Don't just fire everyone, also kill them, and burn and salt the bodies..

      If you don't like the "work from home" example, say every Friday everyone knocks off 30 minutes early. This goes on for months, everyone takes part, suddenly 4 of them are sacked for skivving off work early.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Common sense failure

      Any regular practise at work that is known by management over a protracted period of time without any attempt to change it effectively trumps anything in your contract or company rules (unless it is forbidden by state law).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its important to spend company time on something productive, Like smut. Otherwise you'll just waste it reading corporate memos about email policies and other depressing and pointless rubbish.

  4. James 51

    This smacks of an old practice. Let people do something they are not supposed to and when the time comes to down size you can avoid the publicity and finical pain of redundancies.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem here I think is that the rules weren't being applied and then all of a suddenly these three guys were singled out for the most severe punishment possible. To me this looks an awful lot like the company wanted to get rid of them for some other reason. Over all I think this is a good ruling, it will help to stop companies from making up all manner of crazy rules and regulations that are there purely for getting rid of awkward people.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Private box

    The workers will have to go back to 'inspecting' the brown paper packages sent from Fyshwick, ACT.

  7. Beaufin

    Clearly, HR should periodically send mails around with examples of the types of smut which is considered offensive so there is no risk of anyone inadvertently circulating anything unacceptable.

    1. Bloakey1

      "Clearly, HR should periodically send mails around with examples of the types of smut which is considered offensive so there is no risk of anyone inadvertently circulating anything unacceptable"

      Perhaps HR could produce a nice glossy brochure with members of HR 'en deshabille' simulating or indeed indulging in the type of activity that are deemed either appropriate or inappropriate. It could be given to an employee as part of their induction along with all that I.T. policy malarky and rubbish about work place harassment.

      I am now going to find my tea bitch and take a little tea break (1.).

      1.Currently trainee surveyor (1.1)

      1.1 Male.

    2. theblackhand

      It was a misunderstanding

      They were sending out the smut, they just forgot to include the policy....

  8. Caesarius

    Voiding the computer

    Made me think of what else is "voided". As in "When I read the anti-porn-enforcement email, I voided myself". And then my computer.

  9. John Tserkezis

    It gets worse elsewhere.

    My brother in law worked at a company where even *receiving* smut could contribute action to eject you. We both agreed that since it's outside of your control, one would think you'd be in the clear.

    Then having noted that any talk of action was very specifically applied to certain persons, even though the smut spread via email was almost a wide-spread practice there, we guessed the smut was used as a means to an end, rather than a general policy. More so when the sole IT guy happened to mention some content of an email of one the persons on the "list". Even worse he made comments to one of the (female) empolyees in regards to the content of one of her personal emails. Like that "other" list, once you're on, you're fucked and there's no way out. Not worth fighting it, as I know two of the people who chose to jump instead of get pushed have done well for themselves since leaving. This is way beyond BOFH gone crazy, it's just creepy.

    Australia Post has it (relatively) easy.

  10. Shasta McNasty

    The opposite of a gentle touch.

    At a previous employer, someone sent a joke around to the whole project (50+ recipients) which was definitely of a NFW nature and clearly against the rules of using email.

    One recipient decided to reply to the sender, including the joke in the email history and cc'd in very senior company managers. In his email he thought he was being clever and lambasted the sender for sending inappropriate jokes via email when sending those emails was clearly against company policy etc. Basically he was a knob trying to get someone in to trouble.

    It all backfired when senior management fired both the original sender of the email and the knob who forwarded it to management as they had each broken the rules as both emails contained the joke.

  11. Hans 1

    Why sack the lemmings ?

    The managers should have known much better and be the only ones on the dole. FSCK, it is their job to make sure none of this happens.... Ever wondered why your manager gets more cash than you do despite doing very little ? Exactly, it called r e s p o n s i b i l i t y.

    BTW, I did not know the postal service had so many teens working for them, WTF? It's the only age-group that would have the mental age to watch smut, and share it with others ... my 2 cents.

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