Have you accused someone of hacking, spamming or running a website that someone else told you and you don't REALLY know for sure?
Have you accused someone of watching porn, online shopping or online postings just through checking their IP or by assuming?
Are you really sure?
- Elaine Buckley, 50, was fired from her £19,000-a-year job for using the internet for personal use at work
- Her employer accused her of watching hard-core porn but she denied the claims and tried to appeal
- She was unsuccessful and so took her case to the employment tribunal
- No evidence was found to suggest that Mrs Buckley had viewed porn
- The court heard that sites could have been accessed by pop-up sites that Elaine did not know were there or by other people
- Mrs Buckley went through a ‘dark time’ and had to receive counselling
By Sarah Johnson
A churchgoing mother has won a £20,000 unfair dismissal case after she was wrongfully accused of viewing hardcore porn at work.
Elaine Buckley, 50, has been married for almost 30 years and regularly fundraises in her local community. But in 2010 the finance manager was called into her boss’s office to explain why she had been looking at porn sites during working hours.
She strenuously denied the claims but her employers at Waters Edge Ceramics, a dental laboratory in Oldham, fired her for gross misconduct.
The mother-of-two said: ‘The whole experience has been so humiliating. I was just horrified when they first told me of the allegations. I am a normal 50-year-old mum. I like walking my dog, spending time with my children and friends and generally being a mum - not looking at pornography. I believe that what happens between a woman and a man or a man and a man or two women in their bedroom should be kept private between them.'
Mrs Buckley said that in November 2010 the company announced that redundancies would take place. A week later she exchanged cross words with Gemma Taylor, her boss’s daughter, who had been brought in as her line manager after finishing university.
The next day she was invited for a disciplinary meeting at which it was revealed that her computer had been used to view hardcore pornography. IT consultant Paul Burton printed off a report of her computer use - which revealed that the machine had been used to view hard-core pornography. Elaine said: ‘They kept using the words "obscene" and "pornographic" websites.
‘If it was a cooking website then that might make sense because I could be looking up a recipe for a colleague but not a pornography site. I kept denying it. I couldn’t understand why they thought I had been on the sites. I had been working with the company for ten years, they knew me. My computer was used by other people too and the site could have been a pop up site where the cookies saved to the machine. But they didn’t believe me. It was such a dark, dark time for me.’
On November 11, Elaine was handed with two letters announcing her suspension. On 17 December, she was sacked from her role by a further letter. It stated that she had ‘accessed inappropriate and obscene websites’, spent a ‘wholly unacceptable’ amount of time on personal sites and failed to follow an order not to do so. Elaine tried to appeal within the company but was unsuccessful and so took Waters Edge Ceramics to employment tribunal in February 2011.
Manchester Alexandra House heard that the sites could have been accessed by pop-up sites that Elaine did not know were there or other people who used the computer. The hearing was told the company had no evidence that Elaine had viewed pornography.
On November 2, 2011, Employment Judge Diana Kloss recorded that Mrs Buckley was ‘unfairly dismissed’ under section 98(4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Mrs Buckley, who has undergone counselling as a result of the ordeal, said: ‘Going to the tribunal was nerve wracking. After I had taken to the stand, I was literally shaking all over.
‘I never drink but my husband took me to a pub just down the road and ordered me a Grand Marnier on the rocks. The court accepted that I wasn’t to blame and I was innocent. But my boss has never apologised, he fought it to the death. The money was not an apology, it was for a loss of earnings. I had to have counselling for eight months, up to three times a week.’
Elaine now works as a book keeper for the RSPCA, earning £8.50 an hour.