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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

January 11, 2010

FRENCH COURT RESCUES WORKER FIRED FOR DOWNLOADING PORN

Register, UK - In a surprise ruling last month, France's highest court - la Cour de Cassation - ruled that an employee was wrongly dismissed for downloading smut to their work PC. . .

Peugeot justified the sacking on the grounds that it had put out various guidance notes over the years exhorting employees to "refrain from attacks on the personal dignity of their co-workers, and to exhibit the highest moral standards at all times".

Their decision was upheld first by le conseil de prud'hommes (equivalent of a UK employment tribunal) and again in March 2008 at the Rennes court of appeal. The latter noted that by storing these images on disk, the employee was effectively harassing other employees, as well as running the risk of damaging his employer's image.

He then took the matter to the Cour de Cassation. The two chief grounds for contesting his dismissal were that Peugeot had no right to access his files, as they were personal; and that passive use of an IT tool for limited personal ends was not a contravention of his terms of contract, so long as this practice did not impact his performance.

To the surprise of many, the second argument was upheld.

While this ruling, announced on December 8, 2009, would appear to give French employees a green light to download filth and frolics to their hearts' content, the court was clear that it has limited application.

If Peugeot had been able to demonstrate that the downloads had impacted on performance in any way, because the employee was busy doing things he should not during his working day, that would be grounds for dismissal.

Equally, it was determined that size mattered: if the downloads were so big that they interfered with the proper functioning of the system, or came with viruses attached, that also would be grounds for dismissal. Finally, if the content was itself illegal (featuring child abuse, perhaps) or if the terms of employment had specified more closely what an employee could - and could not - download, then Peugeot might have succeeded.

As it is, none of the above appear to have been the case, leaving Monsieur X in the clear - and in line for the receipt of (modest) damages.

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