Workplace Internet Use – The Latest Termination Tool

I had been employed at a school district in Pa. six years. During these six years I had effectively performed the duties of my job and had even on many occasions gone above and beyond the call of duty to meet the demands of the job. I consider myself to be a highly qualified Technology Support Specialist and Computer Lab Coordinator.

One day while at work I received a call from my boss to meet with him at the administration building to discuss certain issues. I had no clue what this was about which I stated to him. On the day of the meeting I discovered that the purpose of the meeting was to expose my internet use and file storage on the districts server. This completely shocked me since everyone throughout the district uses the internet and as a tech I have viewed many questionable files of employees on the districts servers. Also as a tech I had the ability to access the internet without being detected. Additionally, there is nothing that states or implies that non- work related internet use is forbidden which is what I would have done if I had insight to the future or had something to hide. There is however a so called internet policy that is not fully enforced by the district nor approved by the board and is very gray in its explanation of usage.

When the internet is accessed a message is displayed stating that use of the internet is a privilege and that any abuse will result in termination of rights. This message indicated to me that the district permits internet use but discourages abuse. Keep in mind the district at the same time is free to exercise its power and authority to restrict any areas of access they so choose and with monitoring can site a potential problem and confront an employee at any time.

Immediately following the first meeting a hearing was scheduled. This hearing was to determine the course of action that should be taken. Should I be placed on probation or should I be terminated? At this point I felt these meetings were merely procedure and the outcome had been predetermined. The decision of course was to terminate me as I expected. This offense by no means warranted termination considering none of the legitimate causes for termination were present such as fraud, dishonesty, breach of trust, insubordination, absenteeism, incompetence, misrepresentation or sexual harassment. I began to suspect there might be an ulterior motive due to the manner in which the situation was handled and the swiftness of the proceedings. I was not given a warning or granted an opportunity to correct the problem.

Unfortunately most of us believe we have more rights in the workplace than we actually do. The truth of the matter is you can be fired by your boss at any time for any reason or no reason unless you belong to a union. And even that can’t save you when someone really wants to get rid of you. An employer is not obligated to give prior notice or warning, second chances, or even treat employees with fairness. But why wouldn’t an employer desire to see an employee improve unless the primary objective is elimination?

Using the internet as a tool for termination is wrong and completely unfair to the employee. If an employer has to terminate an employee he should be open and honest with that individual. Life sometimes calls for change. Change is a true reality of life. I believe any mature adult can accept this. I may never know the real reason for my termination or the force behind it. I can only conclude by discouraging internet use in the workplace as it could be used against you in the future.