Doing A Google Search For 'Blonde' A Firable Offense For High School Teacher

from the seems-vindictive dept

After just talking about how organized workers can't easily be fired for bitching about their bosses on social media, we have a different employment case that shows how easy it is to potentially find some other reason to fire someone. In this case, a court upheld the firing of a school teacher, because he did a Google Image search on the word "blonde," which the school insists is a violation of its computer usage policy.

The teacher, who was the head of his union, contends that this was just an excuse to fire him over his union activities at a time when labor/management relations at the school were not going well. The court, however, has no problem with the firing, insisting that doing that search was a violation and thus he was fired for reasons that had nothing to do with protected collective activity. While I can understand where the ruling comes from, at some point, it doesn't seem to pass the common sense test. The "infraction" here seems minor. He didn't even click on any of the images he found. Everyone agrees that he spent a grand total of 67 seconds looking at the thumbnails on Google's results. It may have been against policy. It may have been stupid to do that at a school... but firing the guy for it seems to go beyond what would likely happen to another teacher in that situation.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Simon, May 17th, 2011 @ 10:48am

    But why?

    Why fire him when he's clearly a gentleman?

     

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  2.  
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    Spaceboy (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Maybe there's more to this story. If moderate safe search is off then you get porn hits with that search term. 67 seconds is a long time for some guys, maybe that's all the time he needed...

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    He also disengaged the p0rn filter right before doing it, making it look like he was doing something he knew he shouldn't. If he hadn't done that, there likely would be no case.

    But it was still relatively flismy even with the filter disengagement.

     

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  4.  
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    Mr. Smarta**, May 17th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    Do onto others as they do onto you...

    It makes sense. The school is merely doing to the Unions what the Unions do to the school: ask for way too much and demand it all now, and if they complain, smear it all over the press and make a statement.

    Nice to see it happening back to the Labor Unions once in a while.

     

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  5.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    Sounds like overkill to me

    Isn't blonde also a color of wood? Maybe he was just trying to match some furniture, and had to spend 67 seconds looking at the thumbnails in order to find the ones that were finish (opposed to Finnish) related... :-)

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    Re:

    correction:
    "But it was still relatively flismy CASE even with the filter disengagement."

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re:

    I looked up the pictures without any p0rn filter... there's no nudity at all. There are a few where you can almost see it, but those would be considered art and not pornographic.

     

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  8.  
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    Steven (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 10:59am

    At Work... Must. Not. Search. Blonde...

     

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  9.  
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    John Doe, May 17th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    What about redheads?

    I much prefer redheads so is it ok to search on that?

     

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  10.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 11:07am

    Re: What about redheads?

    Like, the beer, right? Me too!

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    John Doe, May 17th, 2011 @ 11:11am

    Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    I actually agree with you here. I worked in IT at a factory once and the guys told me a story of a union worker caught stealing from the company. He got fired and the union spent the next year trying to get his job back. He was re-hired and was given back pay. So it is nice to see unions on the loosing end sometimes.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 11:13am

    Re:

    If you go to the wired article it states that he explicitly turned off safe search just before the search, clicked a link to go to the next page of results, and clicked a link for "“more of these” adjacent to images from www.ardentes.free.frblonde.com". It's pretty obvious what the guy's intent was.

     

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  13.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 11:19am

    Make him stop!

    All I can hear in my head is

    Blonde?
    Dog?
    Bitches?
    Bitches come!
    Anarchy 99!


    Then I shake myself from chills equatable to somebody walking over my grave and think the penetrator mode binoculars are every little boys fantasy.

     

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  14.  
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    RobShaver (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 11:28am

    Computer Hacking Crime

    Isn't it a crime now to violate company internet policy? Why didn't they have him arrested?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re:

    Right, it's not a terrible offense and it's a pretty weak reason to fire someone. The search term isn't damning at all and is a pretty generic term that could be applied to many things that are legitimately fine.

    However, by disengaging the filter first, it makes it look like you were trying to do something you knew you weren't supposed to be doing.

     

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  16.  
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    Danny (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 11:44am

    Mmm mmm good

    I know sugar is bad for kids and all, but this is overkill for looking up vanilla brownie recipes.

     

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  17.  
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    Atkray (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Re: Computer Hacking Crime

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!

     

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  18.  
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    sumquy (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    dumb guy needs to be glad he doesn't live in turkey, or he would have been arrested, and just move on.

     

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  19.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re:

    If only we had adopted Turkey's filters.

     

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  20.  
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    Jay (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    Are unions even necessary anymore?

    I know of the Wisconsin debacle, but my point is, we can allow collective bargaining, but unions may not be the absolute best way to do so.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    This guy, they were looking for a reason to get rid of him, he just gave it to them.
    And the courts have upheld the dismissal. To bad so sad, now go to work.

     

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  22.  
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    crade (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    I really don't understand this argument at all.
    The employee market is a free market. You can get your employees from wherever you wish. If the employees that you get access to by using the union are not worth dealing with the union, just get your employees elsewhere. Whats the problem?

     

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  23.  
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    crade (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    hehe, I was thinking the same thing.. Don't push the red button!

     

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  24.  
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    Berenerd (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    I don't think the case is weak at all....

    The fact that he turned OFF the filter which is most likely there as policy would be the reason, not the fact he did a search for blonde.

    On the other hand, how stupid is their IT people to allow a user to make that change...

     

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  25.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Sounds like overkill to me

    While looking for either one separately is probably OK, I would not recommend doing a Google search for both "blonde" and "wood" at once.

     

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  26.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    I know of the Wisconsin debacle, but my point is, we can allow collective bargaining, but unions may not be the absolute best way to do so.

    Huh? How would you do it otherwise?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    TypoCynic (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Computer Hacking Crime

    It's OK for employers to monitor their employees unless you're a law enforcement officer, in which case it's not OK.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    NullOp, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Schools

    This was obviously an anti-union move. Even though schools are quite capable of pointless stupidity all on their own!

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    B Morgan, May 17th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

    Searching at work

    I work for one of those 3 letter agencies that you love to poke fun at and I love reading about.

    My rule at work and I tell my employees the same: don't do any personal internet (regardless of what the employee manual says) at work.

    This place is run like Stalin was still alive. I'll use my G1 and browse the web without fear of getting tossed out due to a petty whim of a supervisor.

    My 2 cents.

     

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  30.  
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    Cowardly Anon, May 17th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Sounds like overkill to me

    I feel you should look up the words 'blonde' and 'wood' right now and see what comes up. I'm willing to bet it's not any more work safe.

     

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  31.  
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    FUDbuster (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 3:45pm

    I prefer brunettes. ;)

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    I worked in IT at a factory once and the guys told me a story of a union worker...

    "Story" is the right word.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 4:13pm

    ?????

    Ok did the Google Image search for "Blonde" with no filter. I'm scratching my head in confusion. Just a bunch of perfectly clean photos of blonde women and a few men. That's like getting fired for....

    No good damn reason.

    He should have at least punched a kid on the way out of the building so there was a good reason to lose his job.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 5:32pm

    The hypocritical moral outrage from parents is absurd in the extreme. A female friend who worked as an admin assistant was fired after a topless photo of her (taken 2 years prior to starting at the school) was distributed amongst students. She was sacked for gross misconduct as she (according to the school) could no longer be trusted around students. She did not play a part in distributing to students (which the school acknowledged to be true) She challenged the ruling and was successful. Then 2 weeks after she resumed work she was fired for "theft" when all she did was take a pen with her when she went to another area in the school to fill in some forms.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Jason Leonforte, May 17th, 2011 @ 5:55pm

    Blond or Blonde?

    I have made the exact same search because I constantly wonder if I am making a mistake by typing Blond or typing Blonde. Google is one of the greatest dictionaries and spell checkers!

     

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  36.  
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    Jay (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 8:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    The problem with unions is that they try to perpetuate themselves, at the behest of those they supposedly represent. My personal experience with a union is negative.

    Ultimately, more things can be solved without a third party. If you want to collect everyone together and ask for better conditions, then you should be free to do so. I just don't see how this third wheel can do it much better, when the direct approach has more impact.

     

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  37.  
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    Joseph K (profile), May 17th, 2011 @ 9:10pm

    Am I crazy?

    Looking through the comments, two separate people said they got nothing with the safe search off. I on the other hand definitely did see pornography: 2 pictures on the first page, 5 on the second, 4 on the third page, and on and on. Either you people don't have the safe search really off or my google is much more porn-prone than the rest. This makes it hard to say whether it was a flimsy reason or not.

    But even if it's a flimsy reason, a school has every right to fire whoever they please, so long as it doesn't violate their contract. Why doesn't anyone here believe in freedom of association, freedom of contract and so on?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2011 @ 10:40pm

    Re: Am I crazy?

    The search results change depending on the country you're in. Local results are first unless you specify otherwise.

     

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  39.  
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    Svante Jorgensen (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 1:50am

    Overreaction

    What is this, the 17th century? We can fly to the moon and instantly communicate with anyone anywhere on our planet. But pictures of (not even completely) naked human beings? I can understand firing someone for not doing their job. But fired for just looking at pictures? If the guy is doing his job whos business is it what else he is doing?

    It's sad to see people so uncomfortable with their own species that they can't even tolerate other people looking at pictures of them.

     

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  40.  
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    ChrisB (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    > The employee market is a free market.

    Only in right-to-work states. Otherwise, the employer _has_ to hire union employees.

     

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  41.  
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    imbrucy (profile), May 18th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    This is the biggest problem with unions in my opinion. If the employers could hire people not in the union then you have a balance against the union. Since the employers can't hire anyone not in the union, the union gains increased bargaining power. This leads to problems at the negotiating table. If the employer has the ability to higher non union employees then the union has to be sensible in its demands or the employer has the ability to work around them.

     

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  42.  
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    Jeff Rife, May 18th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Since that domain does not exist, I suspect there may be something to his claim that he was fired for a different reason.

     

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  43.  
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    crade (profile), May 20th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Do onto others as they do onto you...

    Yeah, doing it that way makes no sense to me at all. The only reason anyone Unions have any power here is because they refuse to work with you if you hire outside the union so it's "all or nothing" and they have convinced enough workers to join them that it matters. There is certainly no law that says you must use them. I'm kinda surprised that is law anywhere.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    From a Blonde, Jan 11th, 2012 @ 9:06am

    Response

    Turning off safe-search though.... that is naughty.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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