April 24, 2006 3:03 PM PDT

Judge: Worker can't be fired for Web surfing

A New York City employee cannot be fired for surfing the Web from work, an administrative law judge has ruled.

In his decision, Judge John Spooner said that agencies should apply the same standard to personal Internet use as they do to other personal activities. He noted that many agencies allow employees to take personal calls, or even read the newspaper, as long as those activities do not interfere with a worker's overall performance.

Toquir Choudhri, a Department of Education employee of 14 years, was accused of ignoring supervisors who warned him to stop browsing the Internet while at work. An investigation found evidence that Choudhri had browsed news and travel Web sites from his work computer.

"Look, at 4 in the morning, or because of the nature of the department, some city agencies have downtime. Surfing on the Internet--everybody does it," Martin Druyan, the union attorney representing Choudhri, told CNET News. "Choudhri was singled out in retaliation for discrimination charges that he filed against the Department of Education," he said.

"The judge ruled in our favor because they could not prove that work was backed up, or that phone calls went unanswered," Druyan added. "We don't advocate goofing off. The public should be served. But if there's not work, it's not his fault."

Choudhri was not fired, but Spooner reprimanded him in a letter that will go into Choudhri's employee file.

Druyan said he was pleased with the decision.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired a city employee in February during his tour of the city's Albany legislative offices, after noticing a game of computer solitaire on the employee's screen.

The Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings judges rule on New York City municipal policies. Because Spooner's decision directly affects New York City agencies, the decision could have an influence on Bloomberg's earlier action.

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12 comments

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Thanks CNET
that's heartening news for all of us who troll your forums and kill half of our work day ;-).
Posted by The_Nirvana (104 comments )
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I stand corrected
After looking at the commnets for "Apple debuts 17-inch MacBook Pro"artile (88 comments when I last looked)I realized most of your readers don't have any real jobs :-).
Posted by The_Nirvana (104 comments )
Link Flag
Government parasites
How pitiful is this country with a protected class of government
workers who can't be fired? There are producers and there are
parasites, and the latter group grows bigger every day.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
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the private sector is worse
Talk to any big corporation employee and they can tell you stories of waste and laziness that beats any government.

All the judge is saying that workers can't be fired for doing things that do not get in the way of their work. Did you read the part that the reason he was "fired" for surfing the internet was in retaliation for the worker filing discrimination charges against his employers.
Posted by fredtsui (1 comment )
Link Flag
i'll have to print and save this...
several months ago i was written up for surfing the web at work and told if i used the internet without permission from the owner of the company that i'd be fired. that would be fine with me but for one thing, i was the only person given this write-up. i work for a small company and the other employees come in and sometimes as soon as they get there log on and one guy opens 4-8 different chat lines at once and another guy checks out all of the personals sites. i say if the rule applies to me it should apply to all and if i do lose my job i'll take it to court. it doesn't keep me from doing my job and i use the internet for my job at times when i can't even get in touch to get permission. i think i'm being singled out and maybe this judges ruling will help me out sometime down the road!
Posted by scottinsteven (1 comment )
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The decline of Western productivity
....

this result is one more reason that the West is getting its collective @ss handed to it economically.
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
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"playing on the Internet" yeah whatever
When I'm multitasking at work I'll often be, amongst other
things, be checking out stuff like Ars Technica or Slashdot or
even (I'll admit it) the Jerry Springer stuff like news.zdnet.com
while doing other things, and I consider this time well spent, in
fact my employers should be down on bended knee thanking me
for taking an active interest in my work, and truth be told they
usually are (metaphorically speaking, of course). And yes I do
work alongside a few people who would likely gossip about how
that constitutes "playing on the Internet" and "wasting time at
work." But they're typically people with lifetime employment (e.g.
union) who don't have to keep up with technology (e.g. union),
who maybe have literacy issues (nothing against people with
literacy issues), who don't have to learn one more thing until the
day they retire in order to keep their jobs and keep their annual
incremental salary increases. Of course I don't encourage people
to spend half the work day fracking around on eBay, playing
online games, etc., but one gets lumped in with the other.
Posted by tipper_gore (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think that Judge ought to be thrown off the bench!
I feel that businesses should be able to not put up with employees surfing the web on their computers, and if they want to single out people for doing so, it should also be their right. You see, if we don't like it, we don't have to work there. Of course, those that think a company should be required to let employees surf, should buy their own business and find out how terrible it is to own something just to have someone else run it.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
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No Work
If there's "no work" there's "no work", what are people expected to do all day if there's nothing to do? Sit with their thumbs up their *****?
Posted by Draylynn (1 comment )
Link Flag
What a Surprise
The government just loves to waste our tax dollars.
Posted by MrHandle (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IT
Hmm, Sounds like the IT didn't properly implement the KILL FILTER for this user, of course, they probably did not at management's request so they could fire him. How hard is it to alter a user's permissions?
Posted by telestarnext (42 comments )
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