Work No-No Might Be a Maybe

We all do it. Sometimes we do it sitting at our desks or in our cubicles. Sometimes we do it to disconnect our minds and relax after an interval of intense concentration. Sometimes we do it while waiting on someone to return our call so we can finish up a project. Sometimes we do it (gasp!) to search for a new job. What are we doing? We surf the Internet.

I am always amazed at the number of clients I see who use their work emails to conduct a job search. Using your work email for job search purposes does two things. It flirts with disaster if/when your current employer’s IT administrators note and read your emails. It also gives a bad impression to potential employers because it makes you look like you are using company time to conduct private business (which you are).

What caught my eye today in the news was an article about a case that was decided in the courts in New York. Evidently, an employee, Toquir Choudhri, a long-time veteran employee of the Department of Education, had been fired for surfing the Internet while at work. He had not been to any porn sites or radical, weirdo sites but rather had visited news and travel sites. Surfing the ‘net was against company policy so he was fired.

Today in New York, an administrative law judge decided that he was wrongfully terminated because surfing the web is considered a “modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work.” I can agree with that. I don’t subscribe to a print-based newspaper anymore; I get my news online. I also use the ‘net extensively for research. I think most people do.

Evidently, the judge was thinking along the same track. He recommended that the employee only be reprimanded (probably for wasting time) and noted that city agencies allow workers to make personal calls as long as they don’t interfere with work. Sounds reasonable to me.

I still recommend that you don’t use your work email account for job search purposes, though. Even if your current employer “doesn’t mind”, you never know when your relationship with your employer will sour and those emails can be used against you in litigation. Not only that, potential employers don’t like to contact candidates at their work email addresses. The last thing you want to do in your job search is put any kind of hurdle in front of an employer for contacting you.

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