The AP wire ran a story (see below) about a man IBM fired for spending time in an adult chat room on the internet. He is claiming to be a sex addict. And he very well may be. He suffers from emotional illness brought on by memories of his involvement in the Vietman war. Again, I don't doubt that is true.
What people who go online via their company's server do not seem to understand that no matter what innocent intentions they may have, no matter what devastating emotional illness that needs to be addressed, the company is liable for what they do online. If an employee goes on an adult chat room and forgets where s/he is and gets lewd and crude to the point where another chatter complains to the IP, the company can be held liable for that behavior.
If you log onto a chat room and walk away from your desk (as this man did) and another employee, a pedophile, sits down and takes advantage of your screen name to chase little boys or girls online, the company can be held liable.
It's not any different than if you allowed a stranger you sort of knew (which is what most employees are to companies) log onto your computer and it turns out s/he is a pedophile or has a history of cyberstalking. Whatever that person does on the computer is traced back to you. If it turns out the kind stranger is a whack job and racks up a host of violations that can not only shut down your IP but get you arrested, you can then understand what it is companies fear about employees accessing the internet and wanting to control what they do there.
Filters don't always work. Threats of being fired for accessing places you should not go do not stop some employees from venturing where they should not go. It comes down to being vigilant in protecting yourself.
This employee who filed this suit against IBM knew he had a problem but evidently did not choose to seek treatment himself. It's only after being caught all this talk about needing treatment and sympathy comes into play.
He had the cognition to know he was at risk for behavior that could get the company, and himself, into trouble and he continued to engage in the behavior without getting the help needed.
Do I feel sorry for him? No. Should IBM be sued? No.
WHITE PLAINS, New York (AP) -- A man who was fired by IBM for visiting an adult chat room at work is suing the company for $5 million, claiming he is an Internet addict who deserves treatment and sympathy rather than dismissal.
James Pacenza, 58, of Montgomery, says he visits chat rooms to treat traumatic stress incurred in 1969 when he saw his best friend killed during an Army patrol in Vietnam.
In papers filed in federal court in White Plains, Pacenza said the stress caused him to become "a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict." He claimed protection under the American with Disabilities Act.
His lawyer, Michael Diederich, says Pacenza never visited pornographic sites at work, violated no written IBM rule and did not surf the Internet any more or any differently than other employees. He also says age discrimination contributed to IBM's actions. Pacenza, 55 at the time, had been with the company for 19 years and says he could have retired in a year.
International Business Machines Corp. has asked Judge Stephen Robinson for a summary judgment, saying its policy against surfing sexual Web sites is clear. It also claims Pacenza was told he could lose his job after an incident four months earlier, which Pacenza denies.
"Plaintiff was discharged by IBM because he visited an Internet chat room for a sexual experience during work after he had been previously warned," the company said.
IBM also said sexual behavior disorders are specifically excluded from the ADA and denied any age discrimination.
Study: Some choose Internet over food, sleep
If it goes to trial, the case could affect how employers regulate Internet use that is not work-related, or how Internet overuse is categorized medically. Stanford University issued a nationwide study last year that found that up to 14 percent of computer users reported neglecting work, school, families, food and sleep to use the Internet.
The study's director, Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, said then that he was most concerned about the numbers of people who hid their nonessential Internet use or used the Internet to escape a negative mood, the same way that alcoholics might.
Until he was fired, Pacenza was making $65,000 a year operating a machine at a plant in East Fishkill that makes computer chips.
Several times during the day, machine operators are idle for five to 10 minutes as the tool measures the thickness of silicon wafers.
It was during such down time on May 28, 2003, that Pacenza logged onto a chat room from a computer at his work station.
Diederich says Pacenza had returned that day from visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and logged onto a site called ChatAvenue and then to an adult chat room.
Looking for 'titillating conversation'
Pacenza, who has a wife and two children, said using the Internet at work was encouraged by IBM and served as "a form of self-medication" for post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he tried to stay away from chat rooms at work, but that day, "I felt I needed the interactive engagement of chat talk to divert my attention from my thoughts of Vietnam and death."
"I was tempting myself to perhaps become involved in some titillating conversation," he said in court papers.
Pacenza said he was called away before he got involved in any online conversation. But he apparently did not log off, and when another worker went to Pacenza's station, he saw some chat entries, including a vulgar reference to a sexual act.
He reported his discovery to his boss, who fired Pacenza the next day.
Pacenza says he would have understood if IBM had disciplined him for taking an unauthorized break, but firing him was too extreme.
Pacenza: Couple who had sex on desk merely transferred
He argues that other workers with worse offenses were disciplined less severely -- including a couple who had sex on a desk and were transferred.
Fred McNeese, a spokesman for Armonk-based IBM, would not comment.
Pacenza claims the company decided on dismissal only after improperly viewing his medical records, including psychiatric treatment, following the incident.
"In IBM management's eyes, plaintiff has an undesirable and self-professed record of psychological disability related to his Vietnam War combat experience," his papers claim.
Diederich says IBM workers who have drug or alcohol problems are placed in programs to help them, and Pacenza should have been offered the same. Instead, he says, Pacenza was told there were no programs for sex addiction or other psychological illnesses. He said Pacenza was also denied an appeal.
Diederich, who said he spent a year in Iraq as an Army lawyer, also argued that "A military combat veteran, if anyone, should be afforded a second chance, the benefit of doubt and afforded reasonable accommodation for combat-related disability."
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