herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Woman who watched hard-core porn at work has dismissal upheld

'The WRC report states that a routine check of two computers in the office reception found that X-rated material was accessed on seven dates between September 30, 2015 and November 26, 2015.' (file photo)
'The WRC report states that a routine check of two computers in the office reception found that X-rated material was accessed on seven dates between September 30, 2015 and November 26, 2015.' (file photo)

A receptionist who accessed extreme hard-core pornography websites while working for a state-funded company has had her dismissal upheld by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The woman was accused of viewing violent scenes including non-consensual acts such as rape and the abduction of girls.

In its decision to sack her, the unnamed social community partnership company said the watching of such videos while working for an employer whose purpose is the provision of services to children and families "is wholly unacceptable and warrants dismissal".

Not only did the worker's "actions go against the grain of the organisation, but has the potential to put at risk the company's funding relationship with government services".

The company said that, given the serious nature of the administrator's actions, which were upheld in its investigation, dismissal was appropriate.

It decided to sack the woman in May last year after an investigation and she appealed the decision. The appeal failed and she lost her job last October.

Unfair

Throughout the process, the woman - who had worked for the company since 2001 and was paid €416 a week - denied accessing the sites, pointing out that two other staff members had access to the two computers in the reception area, and she sued for unfair dismissal.

However, the WRC upheld the decision and found that, on the balance of probability, the woman did access the sites.

The WRC report states that a routine check of two computers in the office reception found that X-rated material was accessed on seven dates between September 30, 2015 and November 26, 2015.

On three of the dates, the woman was the only person working in the reception area.

The company's IT specialist confirmed that a Trojan virus was not responsible for accessing the sites.

The report added that the worker "strenuously denied and continues to deny any involvement in these alleged activities".

Adjudication officer Eugene Hanly said he found that, on the balance of probability, the woman had accessed the sites and that her actions constituted gross misconduct.

"I find the sanction of dismissal was warranted," he said.

Mr Hanly found the company had a genuine belief based on reasonable grounds arising from a fair investigation that the woman was guilty of the alleged wrongdoing.

At the hearing, the woman said there was no evidence to show she was the only person to have accessed the sites.

She said the most likely explanation was that pop-ups occurred, which were disregarded by her employer, and that the decision to dismiss was not proportionate.

The woman said there are no secure passwords for the computers and colleagues had access to them. She said volunteers also have access and it appeared the sites were accessed on days when she had already left.

She has applied for more positions since leaving the company but has been unsuccessful because of the reason for her dismissal.

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