“Inappropriate” material: how far is too far?

by Chloe Taylor16 Oct 2014
Countless celebrities faced public humiliation recently as computer hackers leaked their private and very risqué photographs for the world to see. How would this have affected their lives were they business professionals?

If Jennifer Lawrence’s nude ‘selfie’ had been found on her office computer, would she have kept her job? Finding such material on work-based systems can force an employer into a difficult situation. Most employers now have filtering systems in place which prohibits the sourcing, sharing and storage of “offensive” or “inappropriate” material in the workplace – but a shared laptop or tablet device could cause issues if an innocent colleague stumbles across saved racy material.

“We use words like “offensive” or “inappropriate” to avoid arguments about whether or not the images or items are “porn” or “art” or a “joke”,” Athena Koelmeyer, managing director of Workplace Law, said. “The terms “offensive” and “inappropriate” can cover the full range from nude to gross to racist and this allows employers to take a solid approach to employees found with inappropriate or offensive material in their email, internet history or computer.”

Koelmeyer added: “I would think that the nude selfie would fit into the “offensive” or “inappropriate” category!”

Ultimately, the storage of anything which can be deemed to cause offence if stumbled upon in the workplace can be justified as grounds for disciplinary action. That is, if the employer can find a way to bring up their employee’s ‘naked selfies’ over the water cooler.


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