Receptionist at state-funded child and family services company fired for accessing hard-core porn

by Gordon Deegan

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld a decision by a State-funded company, which provides services to children and families, to sack a receptionist for accessing hard-core porn websites while at work.

In its decision to sack the woman, the un-named Social Community Partnership Company stated that the violent scenes viewed of non-consensual acts such a rape and forced sex and the abduction of girls, in an employment whose purpose is the provision of services to children and families “is wholly unacceptable and warrants dismissal”.

The employer stated that not only do the un-named worker’s “actions go against the grain of the organisation but has the potential to put at risk the company’s funding relationship with Government services”.

The company stated that given the grave and serious nature of the administrator’s actions which were upheld in the investigation, dismissal was deemed the appropriate sanction.

The company decided to sack the woman in May 2016 after an investigation, and she appealed this decision internally. The initial decision was upheld, and she was lost her job in October 2016.

Throughout the process, the woman - who had worked at the company since 2001 and was paid €416 per week - denied accessing the porn sites pointing out that two other staff members had access to the two computers in the reception area and she sued for unfair dismissal.

However, the WRC has now upheld the decision to dismiss the receptionist and has found on the balance of probability that the woman did access the sites.

The WRC report states that a routine check of two computers in the reception of the workplace found that x-rated material was accessed on seven dates from Wednesday, September 30, 2015, to Thursday, November 26, 2015.

The porn was accessed at times ranging from 1.28pm to 16.40pm on the various dates.

On three of the dates, the woman was the only person working in the reception area.

The company’s IT specialist confirmed that a Trojan virus was not responsible for accessing the sites.

The WRC report stated that the worker “strenuously denied and continues to deny any involvement in these alleged activities”.

Adjudication Officer in the case, Eugene Hanly stated that he found that on the balance of probability that the woman had accessed the sites and that her action constitutes gross misconduct.

He said: “I find that the sanction of dismissal was warranted."

Mr Hanly found that the company had a genuine belief based on reasonable grounds arising from a fair investigation that the woman was guilty of the alleged wrongdoing.

At the hearing in Dublin, the woman argued that there is no evidence to show that she was the only person to have accessed these sites.

She stated that the most likely explanation is that Pop Ups occurred which were disregarded by her employer and that the decision to dismiss was not proportionate. She stated that alternatives to dismissal were not considered.

The woman stated that there are no secure passwords for the computers and colleagues had access to these computers at reception.

She said that volunteers have unlimited access to the computers as well and it appears that these sites were accessed on days when she had already left the centre.

She stated that she had 18 years participating in these schemes without any problem.

The woman was seeking reinstatement or compensation. She has not worked since. She has looked for work but has been unsuccessful because of the reason for the dismissal. She has applied for 30+positions.


KEYWORDS: court

 

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