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Can porn spam be concidered Sexual Harassment to employees?

By sostermann ·
We have a relatively new employee (manager) here who has recieved two or three pornagraphic spam e-mails in her inbox.

She has sent an e-mail to upper management stating

"This is now border line harassing! Some employees would consider this
sexual harassment."

We are doing what we can with our limited resources right now. We don't host our own e-mail servers, therefore rely mostly on the ISP's to filter to most obvious spam. To make matters worse we are using Outlook Express for now and rely heavily on e-mail for customer orders -- therefore we can't risk false positives in filtering spam. It's never been much of a problem before -- just a slight nuisance.

Nobody likes to get spam - I especially dislike pornagraphics spam. My qestion is: can the company be held liable for unsolicited e-mails in an employees inbox?

What do you think?

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If they were truly incompetent

by TonytheTiger In reply to Holy Mackerel!

and you couldn't get rid of them ethically, you might find yourself accused of being incompetent.

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Simple Solution

by markml In reply to Holy Mackerel!

Get rid of private email: Hire some people to screen all email traffic in your company. That's the only effective filter. And while you're at it, you can keep tabs on your employees to make sure they're doing their job correctly.

And let's face it: There's a good chance that the spam is the recipient's fault, since often times it is caused by said recipient posting their email address to a mailing list, getting a trojan, etc.

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you know your a cry baby

by thetracker1099 In reply to Wrong answer jmgarvin! P ...

You would say yes it is, anything would be to you like they say if you don't want to read it delete it. No one is forcing you to read it if you are then your just as bad. You blame the companys that send it they have to make a living as well as you, but your right, you do have the power sue your company for not doing enought, hey sue everyone, lets have a suing party, everyone is welcome, but no porn or computer. Remember people we open this door, now it's bugging us, delete it. You have the same deal here delete me.

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I Agree with You and George Carlin!

by Scoid In reply to you know your a cry baby

We have bred a generation of wimps with the legal system jumping in to become the protectors of everyone, no matter how petty the complaint. Notice how we're no longer encouraged to have personal strength of character and just 'suck it up' when faced with some sort of hardship anymore? (Sorry, that was probably a bad choice of words when writing about porn spam.) The legal system has encouraged everyone to play the victim. Even worse, playing the victim is a game with potentially huge cash prizes for the contestants and their lawyers! Remember the woman who spilled hot McDonalds coffee on her lap while sitting in her car, opening the lid to add cream and sugar and 'won' $2.9 million through her lawsuit? She wasn't expecting the coffee to be hot? She was holding a full yet flimsy cup over her lap while opening it and expected all the contents to remain inside the cup? Whatever happened to survival of the fittest?

I argue from the side of the firm: in a society of willing victims, it is the rational requirement for Management to create safe work environments, free of harassment and abuse of employees, sometimes at great cost. Also take into account the nature of those who need to be protected: the same 'victim' who will sue her employer for excess exposure to porn spam is the same imbecile that can't recognize spam just by reading the subject line without opening the message. This person will never just delete an email message without opening it first. You can't turn yourself into a fragile deer without first walking in front of the headlights, can you?

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McDonald's case.

by coolrobc In reply to I Agree with You and Geor ...

Not to thread jack, but the McDonald's burn case isn't a great example if you're familiar with facts of the case, rather than the anecdotes reported in the news.

http://www.centerjd.org/free/mythbusters-free/MB_mcdonalds.htm

Back to the case at hand, if she were to file suit, you may be found liable. It depends on if the judge or jury feels as though you took reasonable steps/action to mitigate the harassing emails.

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define 'harassment'

by dlmeyer In reply to McDonald's case.

coolrobc said: "Back to the case at hand, if she were to file suit,
you may be found liable. It depends on if the judge or jury feels
as though you took reasonable steps/action to mitigate the
harassing emails."
While this is true, the standard is much higher if the source of
the offensive emails is external to the company - outside the
company's control.

FWIW: if an employee raised such a complaint to me and, based
on TWO messages from an external source, threatened action ...
that would go into their personnel folder and would count
heavily against her come review time. Two messages from an
INTERNAL source would certainly warrant remedial action on the
company's part, as would two DOZEN such external emails ...
but TWO EXTERNAL emails? That indicates the person is a
problem waiting to happen, one the company cannot afford to
continue to employ.

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by coolrobc In reply to define 'harassment'

"FWIW: if an employee raised such a complaint to me and, based on TWO messages from an external source, threatened action ... that would go into their personnel folder and would count heavily against her come review time."

... and then the employee files a discrimination claim based on the fact that you held her prior complaints against her for review.

Look, I agree that it's extreme, but this is exactly the type of situation that gets a number of companies in trouble.

If all she received were the 2 emails, from an outside source, this would probably never get beyond discovery. However, if she continues to receive the offending emails, and you do nothing about it, your run the risk of creating a "Hostile Work Environment". Just about anything that makes an employee uncomfortable, can be construed as harrassment, it all depends on how good a lawyer they get.

As long as you can prove that you made a reasonable attempt to stop the offending emails you probably don't have that much of a concearn. But you should follow up with the employee to be sure that she's comfortable with what ever the final solution is.

It's better to be safe than sorry...

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Yes ... AND No!

by dlmeyer In reply to Wrong answer jmgarvin! P ...

Yes ... Porn SPAM very much IS "Sexual Harassment". Those
responsible for it can be sued, or worse. Which doesn't make the
COMPANY responsible! The new manager needs to show that:
- someone in the company sent it
- the company could reasonably have prevented it
- she had no way to prevent it
For example, a woman getting an email offering access to "XXX"
sites is hardly being "harassed" - unless it was sent by a
coworker. She could not have been offended unless she opened
it, and she obviously should NOT have opened it.

She should get a Mac on her desktop and train its Mail program
to Trash what she considers "offensive" ... or take some other
step towards PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!

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A Mac...??

by sprdave32 In reply to Yes ... AND No!

Hmmm, I never thought of that solution. Everyone should get Macs and all of the worlds spam would cease to exist. As would viruses and crashes and nuclear weapons...and...and...

God I hate Macs

Sorry I got carried away. You can use the inherent spam filter in any contemporary email client to filter out the crap (not just on a d@mn Mac.) problem is the user who has this sort of issue is not the sort of user who is capable of configuring client side filters. Users who would levy such a complaint in the context of sexual harrasment probably don't have a great deal of technical savvy in the first place. Thing is, my staff and I deal with users like this daily ...it's our job to train, support, and sometime pacify them. Moving right along...

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No, I do not believe it.

by mgordon In reply to Wrong answer jmgarvin! P ...

I can think of only one absolutely sure-fire way to prevent spam from reaching employees- terminate all email services and remove the server. Block all email carrying ports, including 80 and 443, (web, secure web) so that nobody can log onto any web hosted, but external email server.

Spam _is_ email. It is distinguished by one characteristic only: It is unsolicited. Now then, please tell me how your magical system knows whether any incoming message was SOLICITED?

Conversely, you may find some of your employees are "soliciting" porn; whitelisted in other words, and marches right into your enterprise.

Stopping porn and stopping spam are NOT identical goals. I've used Brightmail, and it is very good -- its strength is essentially zero false positives; vital for a business! It lets through more spam than some other solutions but you'll never lose a million dollar contract in "quarantine."

Your solution sounds too aggressive to me; I'll bet that you have lost critical documents in quarantine -- and browsing through quarantine to find them is worse than no spam filtering at all; you are wading through 99 % pure spam looking for a needle in a haystack.

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