Sacked for sending porn: Employee loses appeal

An Australia Post employee who was sacked after sending pornographic emails from his work email address to a friend, had initially been reinstated, but finally the courts found his dismissal was justified.

It was explained to the courts that Australia Post had a number of policies relating to IT use, discipline, ethics, harassment and discrimination. Bulletins to staff, training programs and talks by management reinforced the messages. In addition, a pop-up box appeared whenever a computer was turned on, requiring the user to click ‘accept’ in order to access the IT system. The pop-up box said Australia Post could take disciplinary or legal action against anyone who didn’t comply with its policies, or who misused its IT facilities, including email and internet. Misuse was described as including “use, access or transmission of pornographic photos, animation, cartoons and images” and “sexually explicit, sexist, racist material”.

Initially, the worker’s dismissal was held to be disproportionate to the circumstances. It was found that he had a “naive disregard for the requirements of the Australia Post policies on email use”, was genuinely remorseful, and that the conduct did not threaten Australia Post’s reputation.

But on appeal the court found that an inappropriate email identified as being associated with Australia Post had the potential to cause damage to the organisation. Also, Australia Post’s policy training and the pop-up box gave employees ample warning of the implications of such misconduct.