Can You Charge An Employer With Sexual Harassment If They Don't Block Porn Spam?

from the questions-questions dept

It seems this question seems to come up every few years, with various journalists claiming that companies could be potentially liable in a sexual harassment suit if they fail to block out all porn spam. The latest such report does point out how problematic such an idea is, noting how it's basically impossible to perfectly filter out spam mail. However, what's still not clear is whether or not anyone has ever actually attempted to sue over this and how the courts have responded. So far, we just have half a decade of speculation from journalists without a well publicized case of it happening. It's certainly likely that some lawyer somewhere would file such a lawsuit, but it would be much more interesting to see how the courts responded. So, does anyone know of any actual cases filed over an issue such as this? If anything, it would seem that the company would have a pretty good defense in showing that they at least tried to protect the worker to a reasonable level -- and that the real harassment was the fault of the spammer, not the company.

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  • identicon
    Bob, 11 Apr 2006 @ 3:28pm

    Reasonable expectations

    I don't believe such a suit, if ever filed, would see the light of day. If a company has any spam filters in place and operating, I would suggest that they are making a resonable effort to keep spam from from your inbox. All spam is spam. Porn spam. Financial scam spam. Cheap prescription medecine spam. To differentiate serves no purpose. All spam clogs the network and consumes drive space regardless of it's type. The employer is not required to filter your company mail account. Nor is your employer required to provide you wih a company mail account. If I were an employer and someone tried to sue me for sexual harrasment due to porn spam, they better make sure that when I review their mail history, I don't find any outgoing mail that does not pertain to company business... Because most streets go both ways.

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

    • identicon
      DittoBox, 11 Apr 2006 @ 3:36pm

      Re: Reasonable expectations

      Mod parent up! +1 Insightful...

      Oh wait...wrong site!

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

    • identicon
      Andrew Fife, 11 Apr 2006 @ 3:38pm

      Re: Reasonable expectations

      "All spam is spam. Porn spam. Financial scam spam. Cheap prescription medecine spam. To differentiate serves no purpose."

      My take is that legally there is a difference. Getting offers for cheap interest rates may be bothersome but it is not offensive in the same way that pornography is to some people.

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

  • identicon
    BMR777, 11 Apr 2006 @ 3:35pm

    If you are getting porn spam...

    If you are getting porn spam on a corporate email account I would recommend looking at where that employee is using the corporate email address. Corporate email addresses should be used with business contacts only, employees should have a seperate personal email where they can sign up for junk and such.

    BMR777

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

    • identicon
      Nismoto, 11 Apr 2006 @ 5:04pm

      Re: If you are getting porn spam...

      If only it were that simple. There are numerous ways a person's email address can end up on a distibution list, not just because the person used their email address inappropriately.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 6:14pm

      Re: If you are getting porn spam...

      Unless ofcource there just sending the spam to every name combination at the domain for the company.
      a@yourcompany.com
      aa@yourcompany.com
      ECT...

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

    • identicon
      Woody, 11 Apr 2006 @ 7:18pm

      Re: If you are getting porn spam...

      that's just an ignorant comment from someone who obviously haven't been around much with the Internet. Most spam comes from stolen email addresses, not because someone gave their business email to a porn site. Duh!

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

  • identicon
    Benjamin, 11 Apr 2006 @ 3:44pm

    I'd say its legitimate

    I think that this is insightful and is definetely something that could be addressed. Perhaps you could sue for anythign these days... Could you win against a big corporation though? Unlikely

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 5:04pm

    wether or not the spam is offensive or not is not the question.. different people find different things offensive.. but to many courts they do use the community rule to whats offensive.. and since the internet is on a global scale.. for the courts to even rule on something like this is ridiculous.

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

  • identicon
    AnarChaos, 11 Apr 2006 @ 5:18pm

    Spam

    I guess this depends on the company's surfing and Email policies as well - obvious (or hopefully) no employee is surfing pr0n while @ the office or even registering on the sites. Besides - is this bulk unsolicited Email going to all business Email accounts or just one individual in the office?? (_/) (0.o) This is Bunny. Copy and paste Bunny into your (")_(") signature to help him gain World Domination.

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

  • identicon
    FunnyMan, 11 Apr 2006 @ 5:21pm

    Pie or Spam?

    I like pie, and cheese...

    That was spam, but it wasn't offensive now was it? So you see there is a difference, however unless the employee wishes someone to read their every mail before it is opened like some kind of prison, then I dont think the company is liable...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 5:49pm

    Hitler handled this problem the same way that local schools are handling it today - they require all persons to wear uniforms.

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

  • identicon
    Tim Howard, 11 Apr 2006 @ 5:58pm

    well

    from what i know my dad gets about 400 spam emails a day, no one knows why, and hes blocked so many of them that microsoft outlook cant even check all the emails as they come in thus i believe it depends on the person more then them not being able to block the porn spam

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 6:26pm

    Damn hell Mike... dont be giving em ideas!

    Damn hell Mike... dont be giving em ideas! Now the next 4 months of Techdirt, Slashdot, and every other tech news site out there will be reporting on the thousands of people sueing their employers with the excuse that their employer didnt block porn-spam!

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

  • identicon
    anon, 11 Apr 2006 @ 6:50pm

    porn spam

    I worked at a company that had every capability of blocking porn spam. However, numerous porn messages reached me on a daily basis. After some time it became clear to me that none of my mail colleagues were finding porn messages in their inbox. This I think was indeed a form of harassment. however, I believe it would be difficult to prove.

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

    • identicon
      anon, 11 Apr 2006 @ 6:56pm

      Re:Correction: porn spam

      In the above sitaution, My mail colleagues were *not* finding similar porn messages in tehir inboxes. It became slear to me that I was being singled out as the only female withing a large team of male engineers.

      There were additional forms of harassment about which I can sue. the pron messages were really the least of my worries, but irritating.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 6:57pm

      Re: porn spam

      could you help me?

      I am looking for a website to add my co-worker's email address to.

      I hate hate him and his "every 15 minutes" cigarette breaks, while the rest of us on staff have to cover his share of the work while he is away from the phones.

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

      • identicon
        Think Outside The Cube, 12 Apr 2006 @ 11:34am

        Re: Re: porn spam

        Hmm. If you hate him that much, just post a copy of his resume on Monster.com? Make one up if you have to, but include his work telephone extension on the resume. And in another few weeks, maybe he'll have a job working somewhere else more appropriate for his choice of lung ailments, like a coal mine or something. And if that doesn't work, maybe they'll fire him if your HR runs across his resume and thinks he's looking for work elsewhere. If you want to speed the process along, you could even make the inclusion of his work number a "typo" that goes to his boss or to HR. WARNING: IF HE IS A REAL IDIOT, BEWARE!!! IT'S POSSIBLE THAT ONCE YOUR COMPANY THINKS HE'S LOOKING FOR WORK ELSEWHERE THEY MIGHT TRY TO RETAIN HIM BY **GIVING***HIM***A***RAISE!*** OR BY PROMOTING HIM TO MANAGEMENT -- WHERE HE COULD BE YOUR BOSS. Or not. Hard to say. Life's fulla fun risks, anyway, though, and meddling like this could be fun. I say go for the fun aspect. Just don't use your company's network to post the resume or the gig's up -- yours, perhaps. HAVE FUN!!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 7:40pm

    Dating websites such as TRUE.com and eHARMONY.com often share your email addresses with it's porn/adult/sexual enhancement partners - which in-tun share those addresses with realestate & other fourth-parties...

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

  • identicon
    Matt, 11 Apr 2006 @ 7:43pm

    I think that the blocking of spam would fall under the same kind of lawsuit against ISP's that claim to block spam. ISP's that claim to block spam can be held liable for not blocking all spam. I know there was some case on this in the past, i dont know the outcome. but by the company saying that they WILL block spam and then not being able to deliver could be liable on their part. Although if they are smart the policies you sign in order to use their internet should exempt them

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

  • identicon
    Randy, 11 Apr 2006 @ 7:59pm

    As long as the company has reasonable SPAM filters in place, there is no legal leg to stand on to sue. My company receives thousands of SPAM messages a day. Majority caught in my filter are for accounts that do not exist within the domain. There are a LOT of pr0n SPAM messages that get blocked. VERY few ever make it to ones inbox, however, if one does, the user knows to move it to a public folder where I can add it to the blacklist.

    A company is responsible for the environment of the workplace. Anything they have immediate control over. Someone having pr0n pictures on their workstation, making lewd comments, etc. This does not stop someone from making the comment if they want. If an employee harasses another employee, the company is required to take action. If they do NOT take appropriate action, then the company would lose a lawsuit. If they take proper action, nothing further can be expected of them. You cannot control someones free will. In the same aspect, SPAM pr0n can be controlled so much. If the company has a filter in place, that is apprpriate action. If a message gets through, but the company has procedures in place to add it to a blacklist or delete it, that is appropriate action. The company cannot be held liable for the actions of someone who does not work for their company that is sending SPAM pr0n messages.

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

  • identicon
    Patrick, 11 Apr 2006 @ 8:02pm

    I think if the legal system wants to hold employers accountable for not removing the pornographic spam solicitations, then companies should hold the government responsible for not making these types of email illegal. I never see my physical mailbox outside my house filled with porno, and even if it was, it would have to be covered per government regulations. Why doesn't the government do this? Perhaps if they will allow spamming to continue, maybe pornographic spam emails contain an html code that first says "click here to open this explicit material". Then you know you can delete it. I know I'm getting off topic, but my point is, if employers are held accountable for this, then the legal system should be held accountable for allowing this spam nonsense to continue.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 8:07pm

    Can I sue my boss over spam?

    At a recent potluck luncheon, my boss brought spam casserole. I had the choice of not eating it and potentialy getting fired for not being a team player or eating it to keep my job. I was pressured into eating spam. Can I sue?

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

    • identicon
      Spam Cookie Cutters, 12 Apr 2006 @ 11:28am

      Re: Can I sue my boss over spam?

      Hmm. Well, it depends on if it was pornographic or not. What was the spam shaped like?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 8:43pm

    Don't forget that many corporate email addresses are lists for workgroups etc. so one person misusing the list address will create a spam problem for all those on the list.

    Additionally, many spam bots search websites for email adresses so even if the address was used only for legitimate corporate use, the recipient may still receive spam.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 8:46pm

    The only way to block 100% of the porn would be to have humans filter all the email for the company first. Of course this would then bring up some privacy lawsuits.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2006 @ 10:09pm

      Re: people filtering porn-spam

      not to mention lots of IT guys spending time staring at spam they are supposed to be filtering - hrmmm... why the sudden thousand-fold increase in porn spam - why all the more porn for the IT/email filtering guys to stare at!

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

  • identicon
    Darknet, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:44am

    Messed up...

    This is a pretty messed up concept man, I hope it gets thrown out.

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

  • identicon
    Chris, 12 Apr 2006 @ 12:52am

    Filtering

    I often have to hear some of the schools claiming that they recieve spam to their inbox. Maybe at the rate of one a day for a couple of the employees (none as yet have been pr0n - most are v1agra spam).

    They run spam filters in Outlook as well as running a Barracuda spam filter. This seems to work fairly well - so when they complain about recieving spam I simply say "well, you recieved one today, its blocked over 900, thats a fairly good job if you ask me" ;). That quiets them down just a little.

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

  • identicon
    Annoyed, 12 Apr 2006 @ 1:48am

    Can Beat Stupic People With Great Big Sticks If Th

    Seriously. Please? Please please please?!

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

  • identicon
    Grant reynolds, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:05am

    workplace harrassment

    What ever hasppend to old fashioned taking care of business? If your harassed kick em in his nuts if its a woman doing it pull her tits HARD!

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

  • identicon
    Grant reynolds, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:08am

    workplace harrassment

    What ever hasppend to old fashioned taking care of business? If your harassed kick em in his nuts if its a woman doing it punch her in the tit. Settle it like back in the old days. Every body needs to grow up.
    Check my site.

    What is this the USA the land of the free or the land of the immature crybabies. Take self defense classes. When your assaulted break his/her wrist/s I guarantee they won't try iot again for a long time at leat 3 months. GR. C.F.O.

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

  • identicon
    Grant reynolds, 12 Apr 2006 @ 2:08am

    workplace harrassment

    What ever hasppend to old fashioned taking care of business? If your harassed kick em in his nuts if its a woman doing it punch her in the tit. Settle it like back in the old days. Every body needs to grow up.
    Check my site.

    What is this the USA the land of the free or the land of the immature crybabies. Take self defense classes. When your assaulted break his/her wrist/s I guarantee they won't try iot again for a long time at leat 3 months. GR. C.F.O.

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

  • identicon
    Zeroth404, 12 Apr 2006 @ 5:57am

    Porn Spam may be harassment, but nothing more than solicitation harrassment.

    This is just silly.

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

  • identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 4 Feb 2007 @ 8:06pm

    Er...Delete?

    IS that hard? Just flag it a s spam, do whatever you have to do to get the addresss blacklisted, and get over it.

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


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