HR Strange But True!
July 21, 2011

A company in Maine suspected that an employee was illegally downloading music files while at work. When her computer crashed, the IT department found 800 illegal files, file-sharing software—and 12 viruses—on her computer. So the company fired her for cause.

According to an article in the Morning Sentinel, the termination letter read:

"By your actions, you have engaged in illegal activity using a company computer while on company time, compromised the security of [the] computer network, and exposed the company to potential legal liability for copyright infringement ... a blatant and severe violation of the company's code of conduct.”

The company thought the reasons for the firing were obvious and that the employee would be denied unemployment benefits. And she initially was.

But, reports the Kennebec Journal, “the Maine Unemployment Insurance Commission overturned the denial. The employee said she was unaware she had violated any company policies.”

“The Commission ruled that the employee had made an isolated error of judgment when she downloaded the software on the company's computer,” says the newspaper, and that the action does not constitute “misconduct” as defined by the Employment Security Law because she had made a good-faith effort to perform the duties of her job.

According to the Morning Sentinel, while the Commission thought that the company’s policy was adequate, “it was not imposed, enforced, or communicated in an equitable manner.”

The employer at first appealed the decision to the Kennebec County Superior Court but withdrew the appeal just before oral arguments were to begin. It often takes up to 6 months to get an appeal decision.

Bloggers are wondering how performing 800 downloads can be an “isolated” error.


Morning Setinel
Kennebec Journal

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