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July 17, 2000
Nude on the Internet: Your Co-Workers

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Employees shocked to learn newest cause of dismissal

It's a situation that's become more common than many employers would like to "see". Word gets out through an employee's email, or a water cooler conversation is overheard. The next thing that happens is employees are flocking to an Internet site where one of the company's employees can be seen posing nude. Amateurs have posted some of the photos as a lark, but others are on commercial - even hard-core ventures.

Both men and women are increasingly being discovered in the buff on the web by their co-workers. One incident that received considerable notoriety was a photo of a male manager from Coca-Cola wearing only a smile whose photo showed him sprawled across a bed. A sign with the photo said "Free Men for Women." Coca-Cola's official reaction to the news of its bare-all employee was reasoned. One news report quoted Kari Bjorhus, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman: "If someone is posing nude and they are not identifying themselves as a Coca-Cola employee, then that would be their personal business, as long as they're not breaking the law."

Employment at will comes as a shock to many

However in some other workplaces, the company reaction might be considerably harsher. Termination of employment for private behavior continues to be common. If the company was embarrassed by the nude photos of identified employees, or if other workers claimed they were harassed by them, the offending employee in many cases will be fired. Other types of private behavior that can be considered cause of dismissal, or at least a reason not to hire someone - are smoking at home, excessive drinking, adultery, even high risk recreational activities such as sky diving.

According to some legal experts the resulting firings from nude shots on the Internet have caused concern and outrage among employees. One expert, Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workplace Institute said in a news report in the "Star-Ledger" recently that: "People have no idea they the can be fired for no reason. Most have no idea their rights as American citizens stops at their employer's door." Employees are shocked to discover that their behavior outside the workplace can become grounds for dismissal.

Companies have their reasons

Companies, for their part, say that economics is the reason for their actions in such cases. Smokers and drinkers tend to have more health problems, which affects the rates companies pay. In the case of workers posing on web porn sites, employers cite the example of two nurses who discussed their pay per view sex web site at work. That situation, said the employer, created the basis for a hostile work environment and was adequate cause for termination.

Some experts say the hostile work environment/sexual harassment reason for dismissal would probably not stand up in court if the employee was silent about their off-duty exploits. Particularly since you have to choose to visit a web site, it would be hard to prove sexual harassment. In the case of a prominent employee such as a manager appearing in a nude photo on a web site, however, the resulting publicity would force the hands of most employees into terminating the manager.

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