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.

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Comments on “Doing A Google Search For 'Blonde' A Firable Offense For High School Teacher”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Mr. Smarta** says:

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.

John Doe says:

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.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

crade (profile) says:

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?

imbrucy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

B Morgan says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Joseph K (profile) says:

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?

Svante Jorgensen (profile) says:


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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