Back in March of this year, the Maine Unemployment Insurance Commission overturned a lower ruling and awarded unemployment benefits to an employee that was fired for illegally downloading 800 music files onto her work computer. The Portland Press Herald reported that after the employee was fired, she sought unemployment benefits and was initially denied. However, the Commission overturned the denial 3-0 stating, as the Press Herald reported, the claimant “made an isolated error in judgment when she downloaded the software on the company’s computer and that the action “does not constitute misconduct”.
What? I must have a different definition of isolated. Illegally downloading 800 files would not constitute isolated in my world. Also, not only did the employer have to pay wages to the employee for this unproductive time, but this could also open up legal action taken against the employer for copyright infringement and media pirating.
The Press herald goes on to report that the Commission ruled that the employer’s code of conduct policy “was not imposed, enforced, or communicated in an equitable manner.”
So what can we learn form this extreme case? Make sure that your policies, including code of conduct, computer and/or electronic usage policies are well documented, communicated and enforced. Contact StaffScapes to review your current policies for proper creation and implementation.