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Viewing Pornography at Work – Productivity, Lawsuits, What’s the Cost?

“Average person spends 13 minutes per day viewing illicit material in work” by Colm Gorey via Silicon Republic Website March 25, 2014


Information regarding the risk to employers of workplace pornography use is growing. Here are excerpts of just three examples, two article from 2014 and 2017, the other a book published in 2009. Any statistics quoted here have only worsened as time has passed.


Average person spends 13 minutes per day viewing illicit material in work” by Colm Gorey via Silicon Republic Website March 25, 2014


When it comes to web browsing in the workplace, a significant number of people spend an average of 13 minutes each day viewing illicit content, such as pornography, a recent study suggests. A recently published independent study revealed that 67pc of UK companies caught employees viewing illicit material in 2013, more than double the 2008 statistic of just 31pc.


According to PixAlert, online pornography has evolved into a commonplace office distraction that can result not only in a decrease in productivity, but also an increase in employee turnover and the potential of sexual harassment complaints. Other figures highlighted in the report reveal that of 10,000 computers, a quarter of the illicit files were in the work computer’s hard drives. According to Gerard Curtin, CEO of PixAlert, "Businesses wrongly assume that gateway filtering solutions stop digital pornography from disseminating networks. In reality, organisations have significant stores of illicit material residing across networks which they are oblivious to until an incident occurs.


Risky business: millions of people access porn during office hours” – by Madison Darbyshire DECEMBER 13, 2017 via ft.com


Pornography in the workplace has legal and ethical ramifications for both employees and employers. The debate is twofold, according to Anthony Sakrouge, head of employment law at Russell-Cooke solicitors in London. There are practical productivity concerns over employees viewing porn on work computers or during work hours. And the #MeToo revelations have generated a newly open discussion about the weaponised use of porn as a deliberate tool for creating a hostile work environment, and to harass and degrade employees — predominantly women — at work.


“If you are looking at pornography at work, even very briefly in sight of someone else, that constitutes harassment. Employers have to be seen to take action very swiftly if it’s brought to their attention, to prevent a hostile work environment claim,” says Mr Sakrouge. “If a manager doesn’t clamp down, then part of the complaint will be that the manager concerned was allowing it to happen.”


One in 10 women reported experiencing displays of pornographic photos or drawings in their workplace, according to a sexual harassment study by the UK’s Trades Union Congress. But perhaps the silence is eroding, evidenced by the torrent of sexual assault and harassment allegations against powerful bosses such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Mario Batali. The cultural shift to zero tolerance means employers are updating workplace harassment guidelines to protect employees, as well as themselves. Workplace harassment suits carry unlimited damages when adjudicated in court in the UK because they are linked to financial losses as well as pain and suffering.


The book Porn at Work: Exposing the Office’s No. 1 Addiction, by Michael Leahy, published in April of 2009 includes some startling statistics:

  • Seventy percent of all online porn access occurs during the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. workday.

  • Twenty percent of men and 13 percent of women admit they download porn at work.

  • Two out of three of 500 polled human resources professionals said they have found pornography on their employees’ computers.


Leahy wrote the to will alert employers of a problem that could put them on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Employers should try to offer counseling to workers who might be suffering from the addiction, he said. “The stigma that today’s work culture attaches to employee health issues like sexual addiction and pornography addiction are reminiscent of the way alcoholism and drug addiction were commonly viewed 60 years ago,” Leahy said.


In addition to loss of productivity, employees who surf porn put employers at risk of lawsuits, Leahy said. Employees who notice co-workers downloading such material and are offended can file a lawsuit claiming a hostile work environment. And the porn habits of an executive, if discovered, can embarrass a company, depress stock prices and lower morale, Leahy said. Leahy said employees who download porn in the office might be more prone to become sexual harassers. “It desensitizes you to what are appropriate boundaries in the workplace,” he said. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the encyclopedia of mental illness, does not recognize pornography addiction. Still, Leahy says employers should offer Employee Assistance Program support to workers with the problem, just like they do for those with alcohol or drug habits.

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