Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday is Here - 54% of Workers to Shop Online at Work this Season

It's Cyber Monday! Do you know what that means? No, not great Internet sales - well, I mean that too - but this is an employment law blog after all. So, it means a blog entry about Internet shopping at work.

An AllVoices article discusses some interesting stats from a recent CareerBuilder survey, including the titular warning: Some Employers Fire Workers for Shopping Online. The interesting stats:

  • 54% of employees expect to spend at least some time at work online holiday shopping;
  • 10% say they will spend at least three hours shopping at work; and
  • 7% of employers have fired someone for shopping online at work.
The article is aimed at employees, and provides three rules summarily described as:
  1. Learn the Rules
  2. Don't Get Carried Away; and
  3. Show Some Restraint.
I think this provides a nice framework for me to lay down some rules of thumb for employers:

1. Explain the Rules - If you don't already have one, adopt a policy regarding Internet usage and include it in your employee handbook (which you've no doubt made readily available to employees, right?). Also, explain employees' expectation of privacy (or more likely, lack thereof) on work computers and networks. If online shopping has been problematic, you may even go so far as to send an email out reminding employees of the applicable policies.

2. Don't Let Employees Get Carried Away - It's one thing for an employee to pop over to Amazon on a lunch break, or even a "coffee break" - but it is quite another to spend over three hours shopping (reminder: stat above claims 10% of employees will). If it becomes a problem, do something about it.

3. Show Some Restraint - Nobody wants to be the employer who fired an employee for buying little Johnny a rocking horse for Christmas at work. This is probably an area where a warning is appropriate if online shopping becomes a problem. Unless you want to be viewed as a modern-day Scrooge, wait until you've explained the rule (see 1), identified employee(s) getting carried away (see 2), and warned them of the problem (see 3) to pull the trigger on a termination.