May It Please The Court

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Quote of the Day - A vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work. - Morris Fishbien
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They Hired The Right Employee To Keep Track Of Work Absences ...

Fine.  Call me Rush Limbaugh if you want, but this decision is just wrong. 

Here you've got an employee surfing the internet and the employer warning the employee to stop goofing off and start working.  The employee disregards the warnings.  The employer then disciplines the employee, and the employee appeals the discipline in an administrative hearing.

As if the surfing itself weren't enough, and just to top it off, the employee admitted in the hearing that he disobeyed the employer's orders to stop using the internet for personal reasons.  [As an aside here, I don't know whether the entry in that last link, complete with misspellings, was introduced as evidence at the hearing, but the employee made it on January 15, 2006, at 12:29:10, presumably while the employee was at lunch.]   But the New York Administrative Law Judge (in this link, the third one down on the right) let the employee get away with it, and ruled that the employer can only reprimand him for surfing the internet.  

The employer introduced evidence at the hearing that when the employer asked the employee why he was surfing so much, his one word response was "reading."  I would have never guessed.  [Just in case you're wondering, here's what he was reading:  lonelyplanet.com, google.com, renewnyc.com, humanesociety.com, chinaadviser.com, cnn.com, aircanada.com, cbsnews.com, escapeartist.com, and islandsun.com.]  The employee also admitted "regularly" visiting travel and government scholarship sites.  You can look too, but I don't advise "reading" any of those sites at work. 

To add insult to injury, let's add these facts into the mix.  Over the course of a year and a half, the employee was AWOL from work for 33 days, arrived late to work 49 times and left work early 23 times.  Given those absences, and the allegations of internet surfing, I'm betting the only thing he had time to do at work was surf the internet. 

Apart from his absences, the employee took his allowed vacation.  But not only did he take his vacation, here's a guy who also bought his vacation tickets before he put in a request to approve that particular time off, apparently assuming that it would be approved without question.  To put the icing on the cake, the ALJ ruled that the employee's absences weren't excessive.  If that's true, I'd love to have the ALJ's work schedule - he probably thinks working one day a week is too much.

Don't get me wrong here.  I like vacations as much as the next guy, but I think this ruling is over the edge.  That's just my humble opinion.

Oh.  One last thing.  They guy who was reprimanded is an analyst with the Division of Human Resources for the New York Department of Education.  His job includes the task of keeping attendance records for NY schoolteachers.  Go figure.  I guess that's the difference between government employment and private sector employment, but should it be that way?

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, April 24, 2006 at 17:11 Comments (2)


Comments

Comments by Peter J. Pike from United States on Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 10:48 - IP Logged
Obviously the writer does not have much experience in dealing with the various administrative law judges who sit in New York (otherwise, he would not be so "shocked" that this happened. Although I no longer reside, nor practice in New York, I used to defend clients at hearings at Unemployment and Worker's Compensation Board hearings. The general rule was "give the claimant the money", not, lets find out what was actually happening. Its not going to change until there is a wholesale attitude adjustment (from the top down) at all of these departments, that they are there to ensure fairness, both to employer and employee, rather than to just "give the claimant the money".

Comments by Robert J. Smith, III from United States on Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 01:28 - IP Logged
Based on the poor guy's track record, yes, I think it is reasonable to terminate his employment if he is allegedly surfing the internet, "for personal use" or not.
The big kicker is that a lot of employers, particularly hospitals, monitor internet usage and have close to a zero tolerance policy for internet surfing and e-mail abuse (i.e. correspondence that is not work-related). Imagine if hospital secretaries, assistants, and administrators surfed the web and abused internet access. I would fire them in a heartbeat, particularly because such a habit as surfing the internet at work is just that: a habit.
Sometimes judicial intervention in the corporate sector regarding employment practices is necessary and reasonable; this level of intervention, though, is somewhat frivolous, especially if the employee crossed the line of acceptable work ethic expected by the employer.


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