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July 29, 2000
Michigan Employees Fired over Explicit E-Mails
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Sexually explicit and violent E-Mails

Dow Chemical Co. recently conducted an audit of one week's worth of messages on its Michigan e-mail server. The audit, which was made in response to an employee complaint, turned up a number of violations of the company's computer policy. Ultimately it led to the termination or discipline of several workers.

The chemical company was silent about how many employees were fired or disciplined over the sexually explicit and violent material discovered in the audit. The newspaper account of the incident in the Detroit Free Press said, however, that "some employees say the number of reprimands and terminations could reach the hundreds."

Not all violators will be disciplined

A spokesman for Dow, Eric Grates, clarified that not everyone using the company's e-mail system for personal use was going to be disciplined, even though company policy does prohibit such use. "We're not talking about basic e-mails to family and friends," he said in the Free Press, "We're talking about content of a violent or pornographic nature."

Dow used a review board to examine each violation turned up by the audit and determine the punishment, which included verbal reprimands letters, suspensions, and terminations. Grates said the company does not monitor e-mail unless a complaint has been filed.

A growing problem

Although there has been much talk about the growing problem of e-mail used in violation of company policy, this seems to be one of the biggest cases to date involving firings and disciplinary action., which has done numerous surveys on e-mail abuses, found last September that more than eight in 10 people sent personal e-mail at least once a day, and almost six in every 10 surveyed said they had received sexually explicit or improper e-mail messages at their offices.

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