Internet-Surfing 50-75% of Workday, Fired Employee Reinstated

The Public Service Labour Relations Board has reinstated a 27 year federal civil servant who was fired for spending between 50 – 75% of his workday surfing the internet, including pornography.

The adjudicator held that the employer did not have a clear-cut computer-use policy and in particular, it did not define excessive personal computer use (some undefined amount of personal use was permitted by the employer). In addition, the employee had an excellent record, was long-term and he apologized immediately and explained that the only reason for the excessive computer use was that he didn’t have enough work to do.

The adjudicator said that this wasn’t really a time theft case, as time theft usually indicates a fraudulent intent to steal time. However, she found that the employee violated employer policies, misused the employer’s equipment that was for work purposes and engaged in behaviour “that has no place at work”.

Although the termination was overturned, the employee was given a lengthy without pay suspension from the date of termination (November 2009) to the date of the decision (August 2011) due to the serious nature of the misconduct.

Andrews v. Deputy Head (Department of Citizenship and Immigration): http://pslrb-crtfp.gc.ca/decisions/fulltext/2011-100_e.asp

Catherine Coulter

About Catherine Coulter

Catherine Coulter (She/Her/Hers) practices employment and labour law as a member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution group of Dentons’ Ottawa office. Although she principally represents and advises clients on employment and labour matters, she also acts in the fields of general commercial litigation, insurance litigation and privacy and data management.

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