Most US firms have sacked workers for online misuse

Think you can get away spending all day at work on Facebook or emailing friends? Think again. If a US survey is anything to go by, your bosses are probably watching you.

Share

Think you can get away spending all day at work on Facebook or emailing friends? Think again. If a US survey is anything to go by, your bosses are probably watching you.

A new study by the American Management Association (AMA) and the ePolicy Institute found that more than a quarter of employers have fired workers for misusing email and one third have sacked people for misusing the internet on the job.

The vast majority of bosses who fired workers for internet misuse, 84 percent, said the employee was accessing porn or other inappropriate content. While this is an obvious no-no, simply as many as 34 percent of managers in the study also said they let go of workers simply for excessive personal internet use.

Reasons given for firing employees who misused email included the violation of company policy (64 percent), the use of inappropriate or offensive language (62 percent), excessive personal use (more than 25 percent) and breach of confidentiality rules (22 percent).

Perhaps most surprisingly, however, were the number of companies monitoring workers' computers. Forty-five percent of survey participants tracked content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard. An additional 43 percent stored and reviewed computer files.

Twelve percent monitored blogs to track content about the company and 10 percent monitored social-networking sites.

Although companies were generally not required to tell employees they were monitoring them, most (up to 84 percent) did.

The companies surveyed were keen to track employee email and internet behaviour in part due to legal fears. According to earlier AMA and ePolicy research, 24 percent had email subpoenaed by courts and another 15 percent have faced lawsuits based on employee emails.

In the latest study, 65 percent of the 304 respondents also used software to block inappropriate websites. Eighteen percent of the companies blocked URLs to prevent workers from visiting external blogs.

Find your next job with computerworld UK jobs