Pornography in the workplace is an extremely sensitive issue, but if left unchecked, it can lead to allegations of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. In order for businesses to mitigate and handle this issue in a swift and effective manner, the digital forensic specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics have provided several best practices for businesses to follow.
Establish the Company Policy on Pornography within the Employee Handbook
Every company should have an explicitly stated policy on Internet use broadly, as well as pornography and other obscene materials specifically, within their employee handbook. Be sure to also include the consequences of an infraction of the policy, as well as a clause that defines how this policy is impacted by the use of company property, company networks and personal devices. It is advisable to craft such a policy with the assistance of an experienced business law attorney, in order to ensure the policy meets any federal, state or local guidelines on termination and disciplinary action. Be sure to provide every employee with a copy of the employee handbook and have them sign it to confirm they have read the policies and agreed to them. This protects the business from potential legal trouble, should a former employee find fault with their termination.
Encourage Those with Concerns to Come Forward, and Determine the Scope of the Problem
Ideally, your business has cultivated an environment that encourages employees to share any concerns they have with the workplace environment. If an employee comes forward with allegations that another individual within the company is downloading, viewing, sending or otherwise accessing pornographic material within the workplace, listen to their concerns thoroughly, and ask them to provide a written and signed statement explaining what they witnessed or heard. Inform them that an investigation will be conducted and ensure them that their statement will remain anonymous.
Once a complaint has been made, consider the scope of the problem. Has the event in question created a hostile working environment—a more serious issue—or simply grounds for termination of one employee? Is the issue a chronic one, involving several employees over an extended period of time, or an isolated event involving one individual? Did the pornographic material show consenting adults, or minors? Are the alleged individuals within positions of power, as seen in a recent case involving an FCC official? Consider all the factors of a workplace incident involving pornography in order to best determine the severity of the event, as well as your course of action.
Collect Evidence of Wrongdoing from the Alleged Individual(s)
As stated previously, the company’s employee handbook should define personal use, company property and obscene material policies, which should provide legal grounds for the company to search company-owned devices, as well as any device that used company networks. This can prove to be a complicated task, depending on when and how the individual allegedly accessed pornographic material, however, collecting evidence in a swift and effective manner is absolutely critical. Accessing pornographic material on a company device or network can also leave the company vulnerable to phishing scams, hacking and data breaches, all of which can have serious negative effects on a company if not handled rapidly.
In such matters, it is critical to enlist the specialized help of a computer forensics firm, who will be able to discreetly, quickly and thoroughly assess the scope of the issue, handle any additional security issues and collect evidence that proves pornographic material was downloaded, viewed, sent or otherwise accessed. The data security and computer forensics experts at Atlantic Data Forensics have the knowledge and experience to handle these issues with the speed and attention to detail your business requires. Enlisting their help means taking control of the situation, which allows company management to enact the appropriate consequences if necessary. For more information about how Atlantic Data Forensics can help your business with any digital forensic or data security concerns, contact us immediately.