Employees Can’t Be Fired for Surfing Porn on the Job

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Employees can’t be fired for surfing porn on the job. That’s the judgement of a court which has ruled that an employer who fired two employees caught surfing the web for porn on company time must not only reinstate them, but must pay each of them an award of $40,000 for unfair dismissal.

Ok, go that? The employees are viewing online pornography on the job, presumably to the exclusion of their other duties, and the employer can’t fire them. In fact if the employer does fire them, it would be unfair dismissal and grounds for legal action.


If this sounds great to you, first of all, shame on you. And second, you’ll need to move to Norway.

According to reports, two Conoco Phillips employees who worked out on an oilfield in Norway were given the sack for viewing online pornography on the job “after being caught red-handed” (uh, probably from the exertion). Unbelievably, they had already won their case in two lower courts, but Conoco Phillips just couldn’t resist appealing the verdicts to yet a higher court, asking the court to clarify just what exactly “employees can do on company time and what employers can do to enforce violations of company policy.”
For their trouble, they not only got a clarification that employees can darned well have their porn at the office (or the oilfield) but an order to compensate the two fired employees in the amount of 250,000 kroner (which is the equivalent of $40,000 USD) each.

Of course the natural follow-on to this lawsuit will be the workers compensation claim for repetitive stress injury.

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No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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28 thoughts on “Employees Can’t Be Fired for Surfing Porn on the Job

  1. I agree with the lower court decision in favoring the two employees to be reinstated and paid for their unfair dismissels. Watching pornography at work is legal and its the employees right for the freedom. Employers should not violate breaking the employee freedom rights.

    John Kusiak
    Las Vegas, USA

  2. I THINK THAT THE COURT THAT AWARDED THESE MEN THE MONEYS AND THE “RIGHT” TO DO ANYTHIN EXCEPT THEIR JOB AND JOB RELATED THINGS SHOULD ALL BE DIS-BARRED FROM PRACTICING ANY KIND OF LAW BECAUSE THEY ARE A DISGRACE TO THEIR PROFESSION. I PERSONALLY DO NOT BELIEVE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT YOUR JOB AND BE PAID FOR IT. WHAT YOU DO ON YOUR OFF HOURS IS YOUR BUSINESS, BUT I DO NOT THINK ITS RIGHT FOR THE COURTS TO SAY PEOPLE ON THE JOB CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT AND BE PAID FOR IT. THATS JUST NOT RIGHT. PEOPLE WONDER WHY ALL THESE COMPANIES ARE GOING OUT OF THE USA TO HIRE WORKERS…

  3. What’s the difference between looking at field and stream magazine, or,say, Elle, and pornography or any other website? My answer: personal taste. My next question: Does an employer have the right to fire an employee for any reason they want, or happen to have?

  4. I fully agree with mr.Clissmann, make and clarify the rules. and Duane H is right on every count. Since I am somewhat familiar with this case, it does seem like CP IS “Shooting a mosquito with a shotgun” ( to use Duane’s words ). Some of the comments I’ve read here are very far off base. Most here don’t realise the life these men live, the risks they take, the hours they work. I agree with the Nor. courts, this was an unjust action on the part of Conoco Phillips. These men had 2 choices, resign, or be fired, and it involved more than only 2 men. There is very much more to this story. No mr. Ville, Norway is NOT the US, but we are more fair than you think. And i am not seeing upside down, only listening across the pond.

  5. For #10: Jeez, Richard must be one of those freaky die-hard conservative fascists with all his ranting and raving, which includes worshiping GW Bush. If you really want to meet a real stupid person, just look at yourself in the mirror, Richard. [sorry folks, I couldn’t resist. People who resort to knee-jerk name calling deserve to have it right back at them]

  6. Okay this is getting repetitive (see #19 and #20), but… once again… Norway is not the US! As long as you see this from viewpoint of the American workplace you are seeing upside down. In the US you apparently can dismiss an employee unless there is some specific reason preventing it, so you are all trying to think why these people couldn’t be dismissed. The reason is simple, in Norway you can’t dismiss an employee unless you have a specific reason allowing it. And that reason must either be in the law, negotiated by the trade union and the industry association, or must be in the contract of employment between the employer and the employee. The ConocoPhilips must have felt that one of the acceptable reasons applies to surfing porn, they were wrong. I am Finnish myself and the Norwegian system probably is slightly different and I know nothing about this particular case, but my GUESS is that they tried to claim that surfing porn distracted them to the point of gross negligence (taking the pay but deliberately not doing their work), but couldn’t prove that it had actually had a significant effect on the employees work performance.

  7. This is interesting that Aunty Spam would report this incident in this manner. What if an employee was surfing Lockergnome.com while at work? Is that grounds for dismissal? Inappropriate use of company bandwidth/equipment? If any non work related sites are acceptable then who decides which are moral and which are not? If someone of age decides to view porn while on a break, whether through the net or on a DVD, who says where the line is drawn? If there is a line – it had better be clear and it better apply to all staff including EXECUTIVES. I’m not condoning porn at work, but there are many more timewasters available on line that suck company resources just as quickly.

  8. On the face of it Bizarre but seems to me more like an example of the not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. As others have already pointed out, an oil rig is nothing like an office/factory/shop etc. I know because I work on one. You are typically away for 2, 3 or even 4 weeks at a stint working on a 12 hours on/12 hours off rota so you can imagine you have a large amount of free time to occupy and the Internet is one of the few ways of passing some of it. My employer (ChevronTeaxaco) has a clear usage policy in place backed up by strict filtering on it?s proxy server. Presumably Conoco Philips have (or had!) neither which a court could legitimately view as permitting it and I have little doubt that this played a large part in the reaching of the decision.

  9. Norway is not the US. Do not assume legal costs to be anywhere near what they would be in the US. In the nordic countries both trade unions and industry associations permanently employ lawyers specializing on labor disputes. This quarantees that if either the employee or the employer has a valid reason to take a dispute to the courts they can afford to do so. I’d assume both Statoil and the employees used union/association lawyers (experienced specialists) and paid ZIP over their normal membership payments.

  10. Norway not the US. People, the Norwegian labor market works entirely different from the US system. Employees have more rights and protections by law, industry wide contracts (between industry organizations and the unions), and the specific contract of employment they have with their employer. Specifically, an employer can’t dismiss an employee (unilaterally break a binding legal contract) without a reason SPECIFICALLY allowed under the terms of the contract. You can’t unilaterally and arbitrarily break legal contracts you make in the US either, can you?

  11. I bet that $40,000 was all eaten up, and more, by the costs of going to three different courts. It’s not as if there were a surfeit of dames and private internet access on some remote oilfield.

  12. I read this article several days ago and just checked in to see if anyone with any sense would comment. fortunately the last two comments seem to have peen written by people with some knowladge of the subject instead of knee jerk ranters.

  13. B.S.!!! Those guys would be dead meat forever if they worked for a U.S. government defense contractor as I do! It’s strictly forbidden and people HAVE been fired and never heard from again. Oil companies, maybe… but it wouldn’t be tolerated for a second here! In fact people have been fired from my company for just checking an eBay item they are bidding on to see if they won it. Our PC usages are strictly monitored. Law suit?? Good luck!

  14. I’m a Lockergnome subscriber and found this thread while looking for more information about the lawsuit. One report says this took place in the Ekofisk Oilfield which is offshore. Being a former parmedic in Texas, and having friends who have worked offshore, the company may of had a policy against viewing porn as part of their “sexual harrassment in the workplace” policy (required here in the U.S.). That they enforce their policys 24/7 for the 2-3 weeks you are on the platform may have been viewed by the Norwegian courts as too much control/invasion of privacy. Without all the facts, it’s impossible to support either side, but I think I would side with the courts.

  15. It says they were field employees. Regardless of the sanctimony about “on duty,” when you’re in the field you’re on duty 24/7 because your wife and family and dog and poker buddies and Tivo aren’t there. It’s absurd to say that people in this situation can’t use the computer the company gave them for recreation. I’m sure if they decided to do something more uplifting on a lonely weekend and fly to the nearest city to attend the ballet, the company would have refused to pay for it. So they’re stuck with what the company gave them: computers. Get a life. How many people would have complained if they’d been logging on to religion chat rooms?

  16. Keep it in perspective, folks. They didn’t say the company couldn’t take action–they said a firing was unjustified. Think about it, is a small infraction like that worth getting fired, explain to your family, conduct a new job search, draw unemployment, go through interviews, have your recent employer reference kill any chances you have of a new job, etc.? Does the punishment fit the crime? Do we even know what porn it was? What if they were on a 10-minute break, does it really matter? Could they be fired if they were caught reading a nudie mag or Page 3 in the bathroom during a break? That’s what administrative actions are for, counseling, reprimand, maybe even docking them a few hours or a day’s pay. Don’t shoot a mosquito with a shotgun. Correct the behavior with the least amount of discipline necessary–isn’t that the way you’d want to be treated if you did something wrong? If they printed it up and used it to harass women in the workplace, that’s a different thing. If it was kiddie porn, that’s a different thing. Both of those are breaking the law and present personality traits incompatible with continued service, on legal grounds if nothing else. Looking at nudies on the Web is not a crime. Doing it at work is a policy infraction at best.

  17. I think this report is bogus. It is certainly contrary to established law and practice. A citation is in order for such reports; otherwise we are just circulating an unfounded rumor.

  18. Jeez, Peter must be one of those freaky die-hard liberal socialist with all his ranting and raving, which includes makeing mention of GW Bush. If you really want to meet a real stupid person, just look at yourself in the mirror, Peter.

  19. In the U.S. employees might be under contract or at-will. An employee under contract would have certain specified circumstances under which he could be dismissed. This could include violating company internet policy but might need to be specified. An at-will employee can be dismissed at any time for any number of reasons.

  20. I just got done typing up this lnog ass lecture and now it didn’t even send so I am just going to recap the bare points, who cares!!? I mean seriously you guys out there are just ed off you didn’t find out about it first and take advantage of it. and the guy up there saying that us courts are flawless!? he is a dumbass who is just showing blind loyalty for his country. and I think he is the dumbest person I have ever met because I haven’t met George W. Bush yet. I bet he thinks that the war in Iraq is the best thing since sliced bread. don’t ya fatty? but you know what? just give it a rest cause you guys don’t have any reason to be “disgusted”
    you guys are blowing this way out of proportion too, with this other guy saying: “As a matter of fact, why bother coming in, it seems the company will be forced to pay you anyway” he is being a retard if I ever saw one, ever since the high school student I saw telling me that the us should take over the world because they could. you know what? I’m going to stop talking now because this makes my head hurt thinking of so many dumbness in a once great and lovely nation.

  21. ok, now just because they were looking at a bit of doesn’t mean that you people need to blow this out of proportion, I read some guy thinking “As a matter of fact, why bother coming in, it seems the company will be forced to pay you anyway.” you guys are just ed off you didn’t think of it first. of course they won’t pay you if you don’t come to work, so you are just making yourselves look like idiots who have a rod shovd up the rod up their bum. I mean seriously, I am not for these sick s, who need to do it at work, but give them a break, you guys have issues.

  22. While this appears mad, our (Irish) legal advice has been that you cannot discipline any employee for something unless you told them first that this was “against the rules”. Any company that does not yet have a written Internet policy in place should rush out and circulate one NOW. Find one in Google and use it, rather than have nothing. If you have the resources, get it checked by the firm’s lawyer first. If this sounds expensive, think of what you might pay out otherwise.

    Our advice – and case law in Ireland – shows that a written policy on when, and what may be viewed on the Internet by whom (include mail while you are at it) is an important first step to protect the employer against such a daft case.

  23. So, now employees can do what ever they want to do at work. Presumably this includes even bothering to show up at all. As a matter of fact, why bother coming in, it seems the company will be forced to pay you anyway.

    On the other hand, the company should welcome this as a unique way to save money. No more high salaried management personel will be required since employees can behave as they wish. No more high priced real estate to purchase or buildings to construct either since the workers will be staying home. Even though the human resources department will have to expand to handle the increased job applications and employee complaints,it would seem that there would be an overall saving for the company. Of course, income might go down a little, too.

  24. That is absolutely the most insane judgement since the O.J. Simpson case. Thank goodness it wasn’t a U.S. Court judgement. I don’t think U.S. courts cite foreign judgements, do they? I certainly hope not!

  25. That’s the most rediculous thing I have ever heard. Exactly how is that unfair? If you must have your porn at the office bring it in yourself, not that I particularly approve of having porn at work. I wonder if it was brought up in court that the porn sites probably put malware on the company’s computers?

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