Comments on: was my company right to fire my coworker for accidentally sending me a graphic email? Tue, 19 Jan 2021 00:34:51 +0000 hourly 1 By: Marzipan Shepherdess Tue, 19 Jan 2021 00:34:51 +0000 In reply to Traffic_Spiral.


First off, being a conservative family man does NOT necessarily mean that he’s a homophobe, but it IS likely to mean that he takes commitment and responsibility to one’s family seriously (a belief that isn’t limited to conservatives or men!) In this case, he may have decided that a married man who isn’t taking his marriage vows (you know, the ones about “forsaking all others”) seriously probably isn’t taking OTHER forms of honesty and integrity very seriously either. Marriage vows are made before spiritual or secular authorities and usually in the presence of one’s family and friends. If he doesn’t take promises made under THOSE circumstances seriously, why on earth should his boss assume that he’ll take his word given to his workplace associates seriously either? Why should the boss assume that he’ll be MORE honest with his colleagues and supervisors than he is with his family? Given this spectacular example of dishonesty present on. a. workplace. computer. and shared with a colleague (WTH?!), the CEO had every reason to fire this guy.

No, LW, you were NOT to blame in this. You spoke up for yourself and were even kind enough not to lobby for this man’s instant termination. He was fired for what HE did, not what YOU did. Please believe this and go on, secure in the knowledge that you did the right thing.

By: Cheshire Cat Sun, 17 Jan 2021 05:49:32 +0000 In reply to The Original Stellaaaaa.

Yes to this. You don’t know for sure that it was an accident, or that it was the guy’s first offense. For all you know, he made a habit of “accidentally” sending similar emails to junior employees.

By: JessaB Fri, 15 Jan 2021 18:57:31 +0000 In reply to Renata Ricotta.

Also most P&P documents if they exist have a catchall category to cover things that nobody could expect to happen. Most people can’t cover every single possible infraction and in fact trying to can be countreproductive – If you have a massive list of things, and you leave something out, a rules lawyer type employee could use that against you because obviously if you didn’t want them to DO it, you’d have put it on the list.

Common sense says that unless the job involves sexual information – a legal brothel, Playboy/Girl Magazine, sex therapists, etc. It should not be dealt with at work.

By: JessaB Fri, 15 Jan 2021 18:53:09 +0000 In reply to Observer.

Especially since the email was cut and paste. This means he’d used the company computers in the past, to solicit sex whether legally or illegally – also if your boss is a lawyer, that means that they are involved in litigation of some sort, can you imagine the result if during a suit the opposition subpoenas that co worker’s computer? And during discovery this information comes out?

It was an accident that he sent it to you, a fellow employee, it was not an accident that the email text existed and that he sent it to other people. The only difference is the other people presumably wanted that information.

By: MCMonkeybean Fri, 15 Jan 2021 15:09:21 +0000 In reply to TootsNYC.

Yeah, I think they probably asked because if the OP had said “oh my gosh I’m horrified and I feel harassed and I could not possibly ever work with that man again” then it would have been a much easier call for him to fire the guy. But that doesn’t mean that they *shouldn’t* fire him just because the OP didn’t ask for it. There are a lot of other things to consider beyond just the impact to the OP.

By: EmmaPoet Thu, 14 Jan 2021 21:51:16 +0000 In reply to Jinni.

I once temped at a law firm and my boss told me the computer policy was basically, “IT can see when you download porn, so don’t do it on your work computer, because it will crash, and IT will laugh at you.”

By: Don Thu, 14 Jan 2021 17:14:10 +0000 Actually to be technical, people need to understand that using a company computer for ANYTHING Personal
is off limits. Most do e.g. general email. And companies can & do track it. You may break the rule for something awful as in this posting, or you may break it for the sheer amount of it your doing.
In this day & age you have a phone you can use for personal or even bring in your own laptop (unless that’s off limits too.
Outside of porn people run side deals, side businesses, and such.
In most cases the company knows there’s personal stuff flying around, just as it is on company phones. And in most cases they rely on people to self monitor & be reasonable. In this case the guy crossed the line . The odd thing is the dithering.

By: Kit Thu, 14 Jan 2021 01:56:28 +0000 In reply to caradom.

All of that is true, but irrelevant – the point was that as a woman, it is more likely to perceive a message as having been sent in error if the intended recipient is referred to explicitly as a man.

It’s a bit like the variety of voicemails I get – some are explicitly addressing me, and I need to use my discretion to decide whether they’re spam. Others are addressed to Louis, or Kenneth, or some other name that is not mine and is not in fact the name of anyone I’m even connected to, and it doesn’t take much discretion to realize that they’re not intended for me.

Likewise, I suspect that OP didn’t perceive this as attempted harassment because she clearly did not meet the description, and so ‘this was not meant for me’ was a simpler conclusion to arrive at.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 21:10:28 +0000 In reply to The Original Stellaaaaa.

Sexual harassment and the risk of sexual assault is not ‘edgy’ (but I don know your post is not suggesting that, I just wanted to expand) . Someone who insists on talking about sex is going to be a predator in some way, shape or form. People get off on it. It’s why a lot of sexual harassment outside consists of someone leering at you to the point where they are panting like a dog. They walk around whilst you try to look away so you can notice them because they get off on it.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 21:05:11 +0000 In reply to LGC.

You’re creating a situation that does not exist. He was sexually soliciting at work and if that is not bad enough he sent a very sexually charged email to a colleague describing his penis and sexual acts. It’s way beyond a random email.

It has nothing to do with anything else, it is simply the OP over reaching. It’s like me doing it and whining it is racism! We all know this rule so it is not in any way shape or form ambiguous.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 21:01:01 +0000 In reply to Oh Hi, it’s me, the OP!.

Hi OP, one clear work rule no can deny is you don’t solicit sex at work using the resources of work. Even worse he accidentally sent it to you when it could have been someone much more damaging. Every person accepts if you don’t get fired you are a very very lucky person.

The fact of the matter is the chances are higher that this is not a one off than the chances of it being a one off. Forget about it and think of it as a learning opportunity (i.e., don’t act unprofessional). No point thinking about it, he has learnt a lesson: don’t break one of the worst rules in the professional world.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:53:27 +0000 In reply to Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est.

Yes that was unprofessional. They needed to ask her about what happened and how she felt. They were also right to ask her if she could work with him. But they shouldn’t have asked her if they should fire him. But honestly, most companies are atrocious. In my workplace you go through training when you become management. Not perfect (one manager lived for gossip) but better than most.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:49:05 +0000 In reply to Not So NewReader.

They can disagree as much as they like but I’ve never seen one case where someone won a lawsuit because they were fired for this.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:47:22 +0000 In reply to Wintermute.

Eh? Bosses can’t tell employees stuff about other employees. We’re not even told if someone is off sick! Only the people handling their work load are told and they are not told the reason why. If you think bosses can talk about this sort of stuff to employees I am flabbergasted!

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:44:09 +0000 In reply to allathian.

‘but it wouldn’t affect me in the same way as a message that was intended for another woman would’

That is weird sexual predators don’t single out just females. Loads of sexual predators target boys and men. I’m also very very uncomfortable with you tying it to heterosexuality. Plenty of bisexual and homosexual people out there, and that doesn’t cover the full spectrum of gender identity or sexuality.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:40:59 +0000 In reply to Blackcat.

I have cognitive deficits so unfortunately this happens a lot. I once sent my prudish sister a sexual message not meant for her. Obviously this has not happened at work but last year I confused 2 students, twice!

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:36:29 +0000 In reply to TootsNYC.

Not really. The chances there is a history of this is high. It’s like saying someone punched someone. Why would you ever assume they hadn’t punched someone before? That’s why I have a strict policy when it comes to violence.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:32:41 +0000 In reply to Arvolin.

I don’t know what marriage has to do with it. I would be fired if I did it, and yes it would take them a few weeks to investigate. Frankly the rule is known by everyone: no sex stuff at work. It says a lot about a person that they can’t manage this.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:30:41 +0000 In reply to Rach.

WTF? He should have been fired. I don’t care what he was high on. It is an act of sexual harassment. This letter is about an accident. The person who did it in your comment wanted to sexual harass someone.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:28:51 +0000 In reply to Kiko.

I got a work laptop because of COVID it is simpler, the work laptop has everything on it. So when I access online sexual material I use my laptop.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:26:46 +0000 In reply to Not So NewReader.

Precisely, you can’t necessarily tell employees why a co-worker was fired. Yes she knows he sent the email to her but she won’t know the result of an investigation. We had a lecturer who would regularly take off months every year. Eventually they struck a deal and got her out. We were told she retired. A gossipy manager told me the truth.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:24:09 +0000 In reply to Observer.

Exactly, Allison (ironically) needs to realise that you can get in trouble is you do nothing.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:22:36 +0000 In reply to MK.

The sensible people realise they know very little IT. But if you’re not aware of your own ignorance then there is serious trouble.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:13:41 +0000 In reply to JM60.

Can people stop saying dithering? An investigation is launched so a few weeks is nothing.

By: caradom Wed, 13 Jan 2021 20:07:23 +0000 Everyone knows what happens if you use a work computer and work time to access sexual materials. It says a lot that these people lack so much control they can’t wait until they get home or simply use a personal device!

By: MCMonkeybean Wed, 13 Jan 2021 17:37:09 +0000 In reply to Observer.

I agree, I certainly don’t want to discount the far-too common discrimination that definitely happens but I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that’s what happened here. I think the time spent deliberating was probably just because the boss had no idea how to handle the situation but ultimately decided that keeping the guy on was too great a liability. This is a reasonable thing to fire someone for in my opinion.

By: Crooked Bird Wed, 13 Jan 2021 17:23:15 +0000 In reply to allathian.

“Marital status is not a protected class in the US and cheating on your spouse isn’t a crime.”

This is true legally, but if all legal bases are covered, cheating says something about the cheater’s ethics and willingness to lie. If it’s truly impossible to know whether the marriage is actually open, an open mind should be kept, but it’s often perfectly possible to know. Whether it’s grounds for immediate firing, I can’t say (and I am not a manager), but I just want to note that it’s not neutral information about an employee.

By: pamela voorhees Wed, 13 Jan 2021 17:22:15 +0000 In reply to Firecat.

I once was online shopping before a meeting, and when I realized the meeting started in five minutes, copied a link to a hoodie I wanted to buy so I could close the page and find it later. I was nervous about the meeting, though, so when I tried to post my notes without thinking five minutes later, I, you guessed it, sent all my coworkers a link to where they could buy a spooky hoodie from a horror game — and only realized it when one of them jokingly sent back “this doesn’t come in my size.” You’d be amazed at what being in a rush/anxious can do to your critical thinking skills.

By: TootsNYC Wed, 13 Jan 2021 14:57:15 +0000 In reply to Willis.

Plus, who’s to say this might not happen again? It’s not minor.

By: Oh Hi, it's me, the OP! Wed, 13 Jan 2021 14:26:55 +0000 In reply to allathian.

Just want to clarify that I am in a country where, even at the time this happened, it would not have been legal to fire someone for a same-sex relationship.

By: Oh Hi, it's me, the OP! Wed, 13 Jan 2021 14:22:35 +0000 In reply to Batgirl.

You hit the nail on the head. I genuinely didn’t think he would get fired when I reported it (though I was so flustered, I wasn’t thinking clearly anyhow). AND if he was fired for being gay or into kink, I want no part of that.

By: Oh Hi, it's me, the OP! Wed, 13 Jan 2021 14:18:45 +0000 In reply to allathian.

Yes, I don’t think I mentioned it before but I am a heterosexual woman. I did not view it as harassment, though I can understand how someone else might have. And I genuinely believed (and still do believe) it was an accident.

And I also agree that employers should not police the morals of their employees – for me (if it had been up to me, of course :)), it would have been the “on company time/on company equipment” factor that potentially warranted a firing. I say “potentially” because if it had been first offense (and others have pointed out that it may not have been and I wouldn’t have known), I would have given a stern warning as Alison suggests.

By: ManagerKS Wed, 13 Jan 2021 14:18:10 +0000 Its defientatly not your fault!

I don’t agree with Allison’s assertion that “it sounds like the boss made a personal decision”, which sounds as that comment is based mainly on the OP’s personal perspective that the CEO was a ‘conservative, family man’.

Considering this was a small company, the CEO may have just been unsure as what to do and didn’t want to make a rash/quick call, and there may have been other issues in play with this employee. As Allison always says, employees are not always privy to issues of other employees and there may have been more going on that the OP wasn’t aware of.

Unpopular opinion – As much as I love this site, and it has helped me in my management a great deal, it feels the ‘boss’ is 90% at fault, when in reality that conclusion is based on the perspective of 1 (usually) bias party. It would be greatly helpful if more responses could encompass both sides in perspective.

By: RebelwithMouseyHair Wed, 13 Jan 2021 13:39:52 +0000 In reply to Clisby.

At my previous company, the boss was a marathon runner and suggested some employees join him for them to run as a team in company colours. All those prepared to give it a try joined a discussion list with his running friends. One female employee joined and was shocked to start receiving very explicit photos and filthy jokes.
This was the boss’s own list, so she didn’t even try to change anything except drop out of the list and the training sessions.
All this was pre-metoo, I hope nowadays she would have been able to speak up.

By: RebelwithMouseyHair Wed, 13 Jan 2021 13:33:29 +0000 In reply to Julianna.

Yeah too generous is better than not generous enough. After all, even if you’re getting benefits you still don’t have a job.

By: agnes Wed, 13 Jan 2021 13:28:32 +0000 His behavior got him fired. Work basics 101–Work computers are for work.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 11:36:32 +0000 In reply to LGC.

I’m so glad things have improved for a sizable minority with equal marriage legislation and other legislation to protect the rights of LGBT+ folks in the workplace.

Whether he was cheating on his spouse with a man or a woman is to me irrelevant (easy for me to say as a cishet woman, I suppose). The fact that he was looking to cheat on his wife is equally irrelevant, because employers shouldn’t police the morals of their employees. Just the fact that he used company tools on company time to solicit sex was enough to get him fired. The fact that he sent an email to an employee who reported it simply meant that he got caught. No doubt they found other messages when they checked his account.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 11:11:24 +0000 In reply to miro.

Yeah, this is a fair point. Although if I’m completely honest, as a heterosexual woman, if a male coworker sent me a message with the intent of soliciting sex from another guy, I doubt I’d see it as sexual harassment. It would undoubtedly make me feel uncomfortable and I’d definitely report it, but it wouldn’t affect me in the same way as a message that was intended for another woman would. It’s far easier for me to accept that this solicitation of gay sex was sent to the OP’s email by accident than if the intended recipient of the email had been a woman. It’s also true that you don’t have to be the intended victim to feel harassed, but I’m also a bit uncomfortable with the notion that some behaviors are automatically classed as harassment whether or not the “victim” feels it is harassment.

In any case, sending that email was unacceptable, using work-issued devices for soliciting sex on company time was unacceptable, and getting fired was a justified consequence of both. Just because the coworker claims he sent the email by accident, which I’m inclined to believe in this case, doesn’t mean that he should get away with it. Some accidents are serious enough to be fireable offences on their own, and this I feel is one such. I’m not questioning the guy’s morals, but I certainly am questioning his work ethic.

The fact that he’s married and cheating on his spouse is to me irrelevant in this case. The fact that he’s looking for gay sex while married to a woman is equally irrelevant. Employers shouldn’t police their employees’ morals as long as the cheating happens on the employee’s own time and doesn’t involve their coworkers. There may be some exceptions to this in particularly sensitive jobs in positions where the employee might be open to blackmail, but I definitely think that in most cases, it’s none of the employer’s business.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 10:23:28 +0000 In reply to TootsNYC.

I don’t think the delay was necessarily due to dithering on the CEO’s part. No doubt they took a look at the guy’s email and found more messages with the same kind of content and decided to fire him.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 10:18:36 +0000 In reply to MK.

Yeah, and if they truly want their business to succeed, they’ll surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are and welcome the occasional dissenting voice without feeling threatened by it. Big bosses who are in it for the ego and demand unquestioning loyalty end up running their businesses to the ground sooner or later, because competent high-achievers will go elsewhere.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 10:11:13 +0000 In reply to Jennifer Thneed.

Yeah, this. But if he had been using his own device and his own email address to solicit sex during his lunch break, that would not have been stealing time from his employer. Of course, then the risk of sending the email to his coworker by mistake would have been much smaller if not non-existent, and there’s no reason why the company should have intervened. Even if he’s cheating on his spouse, that’s neither a crime nor a fireable offense in and of itself, not unless you’re working for a religious organization or some such. And if I’m honest, I wouldn’t want to work for an organization where simple adultery would be a fireable offense.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 09:59:38 +0000 In reply to Violet Fox.

Yeah, I doubt that was the only incident. He’s probably been soliciting sex at work for a while.

That said, company IT also has some responsibility to ensure that employees can’t access porn sites using company devices and that any attempts to do so are automatically logged and flagged.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 09:54:04 +0000 In reply to Red Boxes and Arrows.

Ouch, that’s awful. And the company’s going to look odd if they release a statement saying “Contrary to what has been said in the press, Mr. Employee was not let go because of his age, but because he accessed porn on his work computer when he should have been working.”

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 09:41:03 +0000 In reply to Oh Hi, it’s me, the OP!.

That said, with the risk of malware and wasting company time, that would have been sufficient reason to fire him, even if he had been single. You don’t want employees spending all day soliciting sex at work, even if they’re single.

Marital status is not a protected class in the US and cheating on your spouse isn’t a crime. Simply cheating on your spouse isn’t, and shouldn’t be, grounds for firing someone, if the cheating doesn’t impact the person’s work in any way. It becomes more complicated if they ask or require their coworkers to be complicit in it by covering for them, or if it’s a couple in the office who make others uncomfortable with their PDA. But even in such cases it rarely justifies an immediate firing.

By: allathian Wed, 13 Jan 2021 09:31:37 +0000 In reply to JM60.

I can see your point. However, marital status isn’t a protected class in the US and cheating on your spouse isn’t a crime, at least not in most jurisdictions in the West. Using company devices on company time to solicit sex online should have the same consequences regardless of whether the perpetrator is married or single. Employers really have no business dictating the morals of their employees, but firing this guy on the grounds that he solicited sex when he should have been working, and was careless enough to use company devices to do so, is absolutely fine.