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What Florida Employers Need to Know about Liability for their Employees’ Viewing of Internet Child Pornography During Work

Although media attention surrounding crimes involving internet child pornography is increasing, many outlets are failing to cover one of the most important aspects of this crime, which is that employers can be held liable for the acts of their employees, even when those acts include viewing internet child pornography using work-issued equipment or during work hours.

According to statistics reflecting crimes involving internet child pornography, roughly 70 percent of all internet traffic to internet porn sites happens during normal work hours, which includes 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additionally, at least 2.5 billion emails sent each day to contain pornographic content, and 25 percent of all search engine inquiries are geared towards illicit content.

Some visits to internet child pornography sites are unintentional, with a reported 75 percent of employees indicating that they visited a pornographic site by accident more than 10 times.

In some instances, however, the employee was engaged in unlawful conduct involving child pornography on the internet. In a survey of 1,500 companies during the year 2000, almost one-third of them reported terminating an employee for inappropriate conduct on the internet.

Many employees use their employers’ internet access to view internet child pornography out of a false belief that the activity cannot be traced back to them. Viewing child pornography at work also enables the employee to keep the conduct hidden from their family, roommates, significant other, or spouse.

Despite these startling figures, many employers are still not taking adequate measures to monitor their computer systems and ensure that employees are refraining from viewing internet child pornography during work hours. Imposing these monitoring measures can go a long way toward preventing an employer from facing liability from their employee’s actions.

The federal laws applying to child pornography are extremely strict. Unlike other pornographic content involving consenting adults, child pornography is not protected as free speech under the First Amendment. The scope of material that falls within child pornography is also extremely broad. The content does not need to involve explicit sexual conduct. Instead, the mere image of a naked child may be considered unlawful sexually explicit conduct. Additionally, undeveloped video and electronically stored data that can be converted into a visual depiction of child pornography are also considered illicit conduct.

In 2006, for example, Mark Foley, one of Florida’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives, was caught sending inappropriate emails and instant messages to former congressional interns. This demonstrates how even the most seemingly upstanding of organizations can experience incidences of employees engaging in pornographic and inappropriate activities during work hours and while using work-issued equipment.

If you or someone you know is facing allegations involving internet child pornography, it is imperative that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible so that you understand your rights. Do not speak to anyone before consulting an attorney, even if you think what you have to say may help your case. Government officials and police often take statements out of context and do not have your best interests in mind.

At The Hoffman Firm, our team of child pornography lawyers has helped many South Florida residents defend themselves against child pornography allegations, including individuals and companies. We understand how devastating and life-changing facing these kinds of charges can be for you and your family. As a result, we treat every client with the dedication and compassion that they deserve.

Call us now at (305) 928-1669 or contact us online to set up your confidential no-obligation consultation.

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