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 Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites 
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 Post subject: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:48 am 
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http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/10...html?tag=stack

Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites

Posted by Declan McCullagh
(AP / CBS)
It's not unusual for employees to be fired for browsing pornographic Web sites at work. But a Pennsylvania gun owner named Tony Jackson may have been the first person ever fired for looking at Web sites featuring gun parts.

Jackson worked at a Lotus Notes administrator at Planco, a subsidiary of Hartford, Conn.-based insurance company The Hartford. He's a firearms instructor and self-described Second Amendment advocate who, while at work in May 2007, visited Web sites including shotgun maker Mossberg and Impact Guns's online store because he and his wife were planning on going skeet shooting and she needed a replacement part for her shotgun.

When Jackson was searching the Web for a replacement shotgun stock, supervisor Christie Vazquez -- who admitted in a subsequent deposition to being "very anti-gun" and had quarreled with him before about politics -- noticed what he was doing. Vazquez said she was scared because it was only a few weeks after the Virginia Tech massacre (see CBS News video), so she promptly reported her colleague's Web browsing to Planco's human resources department. Vazquez also informed the HR department that Jackson owned guns and was a member of the National Rifle Association.

You can guess what happened next: according to court documents, the HR representative, Jamie Davis, replied that reporting the visits to Mossberg.com and other sites was "the right thing" to do, and ordered the information technology department to investigate Jackson's Internet activity. After receiving a list of Web sites visited, Davis recommended that Jackson be placed on leave, which the company authorized. Planco disabled Jackson's front door and computer access and arranged for undercover police to be at the building the next morning.

(A side note: Jackson suffered a heart attack and stroke in January 2006, and was on medical leave for three months as a result. Later that year, his annual review from Vazquez said he worked hard but did not meet expectations, a conclusion that Jackson believes arose from discrimination relating to his decision to take medical leave. In fact, just a few weeks before the gun-Web-site incident, Jackson told HR he believed the unflattering review was a response to his medical condition.)

There is no evidence that Jackson was a violent person, and Davis later acknowledged that the list of Web sites were shopping sites that didn't have any violent pictures or anything that alarmed her. Nevertheless, Vazquez and another supervisor claimed they were concerned for their safety, and Planco fired Jackson six days later.

In October 2008, Jackson filed a lawsuit against Planco in federal district court in Philadelphia alleging that the gun-Web-site issue was a transparent pretext to fire him because of his medical condition.

The lawsuit, filed by Exton, Penn. attorney Mark Scheffer, noted that Jackson and supervisor Vazquez had -- at least at one point -- enjoyed a friendly relationship. Jackson, who has a legal concealed carry permit in Pennsylvania, accompanied Vazquez when she was hunting for apartments in dodgy areas of Philadelphia. He gave her a tour of the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he used to work, and took Vazquez to a shooting range and showed her how to use a gun. (She confirmed in a later deposition (PDF) that she enjoyed the outing.) Another employee who worked in the same department said he heard Vazquez ask Jackson about purchasing a handgun for protection.

Planco's response to the lawsuit, outlined in a 31-page legal brief (PDF), is simple: it had "legitimate concerns about employee safety" because "Jackson, an admitted gun enthusiast who owns a sizable gun collection, including an Uzi," was browsing gun-related Web sites. Planco said its managers decided to fire Jackson, who has "an apparent fascination with guns," rather than "risk the potential safety of other Planco employees."

(On the other hand, why would Planco's supervisors, all of whom knew that Jackson was a gun aficionado, suddenly be alarmed merely because they noticed he was shopping for replacement gun parts? Especially when one went shooting with him outside of work hours and enjoyed it?)

Planco also argued that Jackson violated the company's Internet policy (PDF), which would normally block access to gun-related Web sites through filtering software, by visiting them when the filter was down for maintenance. The policy broadly prohibits accessing "offensive" or "inappropriate" material, but doesn't mention gun sites; Jackson says the policy didn't apply to sites like Mossberg.com, and notes that plenty visits by other employees to non-work related Web sites went unpunished.

On September 29, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell agreed with Planco and granted the company summary judgement, saying there wasn't enough evidence that Jackson suffered unlawful discrimination. "Jackson has not met his burden of showing that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated Planco," Dalzell wrote.

On Wednesday, I sent this note to Tim Benedict, the director of media relations at Planco's parent company, The Hartford:

Planco's policy says employees may not visit "inappropriate" web sites, but does not explicitly list gun sites as off-limits. Nevertheless, Jackon's at-work web browsing (he was shopping for firearms, apparently) alarmed co-workers and prompted him to be fired in May 2007. So I guess my questions to you are these: Does Planco/The Hartford believe employees should be fired if they visit gun sites at work? How about other time-wasting sites not relevant to work, like ESPN.com or Facebook?


Benedict replied on Thursday afternoon, pointing me to Planco's legal briefs and saying "I can't comment beyond that." If any readers know more about Planco's and The Hartford's Internet policies, I'd love to hear about it.

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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:39 am 
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I'm very tempted to move this to Posted Victim Disarmament Zones.

I have no Hartford products, nor will I ever, but that's because I've met more assholes who work there than any other reason.

-Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:03 am 
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First I'm an IT exec, and at the companies I work, I am responsible for the internet usage poilcy(along with wording from the legal folks) and the firewall blocking software.

That said, if their policy is broad and only terms sites as inappropriate but does not define the term, the company does not have a leg to stand on. Second, without a clause to specifically limit gun sites, they are going to have a hard time enforcing him shopping for an item that is legal to own and puchase in that state. If they try the first question his lawyer should ask is if all internet purchasing is forbidden, if not the next person that buys a lamp off ebay would fall in the same category.

I also hope the track everyones interent usage, including the executives and HR becuase that will also be looked at in a trial. Companies need to beware of not applying their policy consistently. So if ms. HR is buying make up or shoping for vacation hotels, she better be ready to explain why she can spend company time doing it and he can't.
Their logs better show not only the sites but time spent surfing and again have some way to identify how these logs show he is abusing the system more than anyone else not being fired.

If this guy gets a lawyer worth anything and the facts are as they are presented here, he is going to be paid big time.

The only internet usage firing I have ever seeing stand up was a guy surfing kiddy porn and he had been warned one in writing, given a leave of 2 weeks , then fired ont he third offense. Even then we gave him a severence because we were concered he was going to plead mental defect due to tha fact he was seeing a shrink.


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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:36 am 
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We have WebSense at work, set to block the category "Weapons", but kinda random whether a particular site is on their block list or not. This site, and MN Gun Talk, seem to be below their radar.

I bounce off the Websense filters for one thing or another about a hundred times a day, but it's been a year or two since I got my last 'talking to' by the bosses -- they must have more important things to pay attention to.

I see web surfing at work as the moral equivalent of looking out the window. And they didn't give me a window.

But I do see it as one of the more likely ways I might find myself suddenly in retirement one of these days.


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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:05 pm 
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I was part of a "talking to" several years ago. It was determined that since the policy was overly broad and not enforced consistantly, we could not do much more than "talk to" an employee. The funny thing was that the HR guy I was working with said, when they reviewed a sample of employe's sites visits, more HR people abused the policy than any other department.

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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:38 pm 
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Our company has zilch for restrictions (and I'm on the IT admin staff).

Only once in my IT career have I ever supported internet blocking, and that was at a hotel chain where we had front desk workers ignoring guests to post on (then-new) Facebook.

If people are doing their work, I see no need for blocking in any form, and I actually find it quite despicable.

Then again, I think the proper job of a manager is to hire good people and then keep obstacles out of their way so they can do their jobs properly. I must be a rarity.

-Mark


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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:17 am 
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mrokern wrote:
Our company has zilch for restrictions (and I'm on the IT admin staff).

Only once in my IT career have I ever supported internet blocking, and that was at a hotel chain where we had front desk workers ignoring guests to post on (then-new) Facebook.

If people are doing their work, I see no need for blocking in any form, and I actually find it quite despicable.

Then again, I think the proper job of a manager is to hire good people and then keep obstacles out of their way so they can do their jobs properly. I must be a rarity.

-Mark


Will you be my boss? :D

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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:19 am 
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Jeremiah wrote:
mrokern wrote:
Our company has zilch for restrictions (and I'm on the IT admin staff).

Only once in my IT career have I ever supported internet blocking, and that was at a hotel chain where we had front desk workers ignoring guests to post on (then-new) Facebook.

If people are doing their work, I see no need for blocking in any form, and I actually find it quite despicable.

Then again, I think the proper job of a manager is to hire good people and then keep obstacles out of their way so they can do their jobs properly. I must be a rarity.

-Mark


Will you be my boss? :D


Heh. I'm getting that a lot these days. Reality, unfortunately, is more ironic. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:47 am 
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Pat Cannon wrote:
I see web surfing at work as the moral equivalent of looking out the window. And they didn't give me a window.

Nice. I'm going to file that one away should I ever need it. Although, "looking out the window" 7+ hours per day might be a problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Man Fired For Looking At Gun Web Sites
PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:51 am 
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macphisto wrote:
Pat Cannon wrote:
I see web surfing at work as the moral equivalent of looking out the window. And they didn't give me a window.

Nice. I'm going to file that one away should I ever need it. Although, "looking out the window" 7+ hours per day might be a problem.


Explains a few people around here at my company... :lol:


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