Internet Usage at Work

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Internet Usage at Work
The widespread use of the Internet and e-mail has transformed the way business is controlled in the typical American workplace. Written communication to almost anyone in the world now can be completed nearly instantaneously. Information about any subject encountered in a daily job task can be retrieved in seconds from the Internet through multiple search engines. These technological developments have benefited employers and employees alike, employers in accomplishing business goals and employees in performing their duties. But when it comes to internet usage a business must make sure that company policies are followed and the employee’s work product does not suffer as a result of unwarranted internet usage.

Without a doubt, the Internet and e-mail also have given employees a new way of escaping briefly from long days at the office. What sports enthusiast, for example, hasn't taken a quick peek at on the Internet during working hours to see the latest sports news? Who hasn't interrupted his or her work for a moment to send a quick note to a friend about the coming weekend's social events? Even a post on Twitter or a Blog about the company or an employee can lead to legal consequences.

A substantial percentage of employees appear to believe that employers should not have the right to monitor workplace e-mail and Internet use. The law, however, has answered differently to this point. Employees often mistakenly believe that their use of the Internet and e-mail at the workplace is private when, in fact, courts have found no reasonable expectation of privacy in such use and have consistently permitted employers to monitor and review employee activity. (Muhl, 2003) Employers have the right to monitor internet usage and therefore the employees who spend a lot of time online may be putting their jobs at risk. Also, when an employee uses a business email address, they are basically agreeing to have their email communications monitored if the company monitors emails.

Think of the legal implications of a Twitter post like this, from a proud employee: “To you naysayers, our disc brakes are fine. I’m an engineer on that product. We test to 5x tolerance on the label, so you can be rougher on them than you think. Don’t worry.” In this statement there is a potential product liability in less than 40 words (Nash, 2008). A damaged reputation resulting from the publicity of a long-drawn-out legal action may be the most difficult price to measure. Another example of how using social media outside the workplace can still effect your employment. Venting about work on a social network like Facebook can be risky. If you were to vent to someone about your lousy day at work, the rude customers that you had to encounter, or the fact that you are past due on a well-deserved raise, you may want to rethink who and how you vent to them. In a recent case Tatro v. University of Minnesota, a bartender vented about his night at work to his step-sister, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that the employee was talking about terms and conditions, in which other employees were not involved in the conversation. (Thompson, 2011) So, if you are going to vent on Facebook about your lousy day at work, make sure that you are not conversing with co-workers, or you may be dealing with the consequences. Social media is probably one of the one of the most dangerous sites for an employee to venture on, especially a teacher. In another article, it talks about banning teacher-student communication through social media. Missouri recently passed legislation restricting social media communications between teachers and students, including being “friends” on Facebook, and other internal and/or external social media sites. The intent of the law was to prevent any type of sexual relationships between teachers and students. (Thompson, 2011) Teachers should use a type of network communication that is open to the...
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