Can you be fired for Web surfing?

It's not often that Blogma has a vested interest in a court decision, but we certainly did in this week's ruling that a New York City employee cannot be fired for Web surfing while on the job.

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But before you rush off to eBay or ESPN.com, consider this: The judge ruled that surfing can be allowed only "as long as those activities do not interfere with a worker's overall performance," as News.com reported. As we read it, that means a boss could conceivably still argue that browsing is an actionable offense for 911 dispatchers, stock traders, security guards or any other jobs that employers say require constant attention.

In the end, the New York ruling could be of limited use as a defense in other cases, given that the definition of "performance interference" is so subjective.

Blog community response:

"Wouldn't half the workforce be fired if playing solitaire during work hours was an offense punishable by termination? It's probably true that when office telephones were first introduced, a big argument over using them for personal matters erupted."
--TechBlog

"So, does that mean that Web surfers in New York City can ignore their bosses and company policy just because Spooner said only a reprimand, and not firing, is warranted in such cases? I don't think we've heard the last of this."
--The Blogging Journalist

"Maybe the question is not so much whether an employee should be fired for Internet browsing, but why are city agencies in operation at 4 a.m. when there is such significant down time? Sounds like tax dollars going down the drain, or, to MySpace.com."
--R.Enochs

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