Log on, log off

OK, so it’s not really cyberlaw, but it’s law and it mentions the Internet…

So, there’s this guy in New York, and he’s working for the Department of Education. A noble calling, indeed. But it turns out that they aren’t the nicest employers ever. Staff were banned from using ‘the Internet’ (they mean the web, given the use of email, but never mind). He was logged as visiting the following dangerous sites:

  • lonelyplanet.com
  • google.com
  • renewnyc.com
  • humanesociety.com
  • chinaadviser.com
  • cnn.com
  • aircanada.com
  • cbsnews.com
  • escapeartist.com
  • islandsun.com

In a classic response, though, after being sent a memo asking ‘what was he doing on the Internet’ (again, enough with the Net v Web confusion, idiots), he sent it back with the word ‘reading’ written at the bottom!

But the judge makes this important finding:

It should be observed that the internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work. For this reason, City agencies permit workers to use a telephone for personal calls, so long as this does not interfere with their overall work performance. Many agencies apply the same standard to the use of the internet for personal issues. This widespread recognition that internet use is essential to living in the technological world does not excuse respondent’s disobedience to Mr. Barton’s order.

However, it does suggest that the order that only respondent was prohibited from using the internet for any personal reasons was unusually harsh and arbitrary, motivated by anger rather than a concern for office productivity.

Dept. of Education v Choudhri: Full case report here. As it happens, the employee had his disciplinary charges knocked down to the lowest level, remprimand.

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