Friday, January 6

Does Monitoring Websurfing Actually Increase Legal Risks?

A New Jersey appellate court has held that businesses that police employee Internet use may be liable if they don't act when the monitoring turns up a potential child pornographer.

The ex-wife of a convicted child molestor sued his employer to recover damages, saying her daughter would not have been abused if the man's supervisors -- who caught him visiting porn sites at work and admonished him to stop -- had gone to authorities to report the activity. After finding the theory plausible, the court remanded the case to determine if harm to the child would in fact have been averted had the company acted.

Interestingly, the company actually had a policy prohibiting such monitoring. While some horrified employment lawyers see the case as imposing new duties on businesses to track employee Internet use, I have another reading: It was vital to the plaintiff's case that supervisors knew about the man's actions and didn't report them. Ergo, if you don't know what your employees are doing -- because you don't monitor them -- then you have no duty. Seems pretty straightforward to me.