Chinese Food, JC Penney, and the Need For Smart Employee Internet Policies

By Chastity C. Bruno

Who among us has not heard of Alison’s Gold’s YouTube hit video Chinese Food?

I must admit I am a bit behind on my pop culture these days, but when a co-worker forwarded it to me, I took a look. This video is similar to the numerous other videos that are out on YouTube. Chinese Food was launched last Monday and already has more than 7 million viewers.

Employers, you can bet your bottom dollar that your employees are spending company time on the Internet looking at YouTube videos or surfing the Internet. If you don’t believe it, take JCPenney’s word for it.

This is why you need policies

In January, 2012, JC Penney conducted an internal study which showed that in one month alone, employees watched 5 million YouTube videos. During that month, there were 20 work days and approximately 4,800 employees.

If you break it down, each of these 4,800 employees watched 52 YouTube videos while on the clock. According to The Wall Street Journal, approximately 35 percent of the Internet usage at JC Penney for the month of January was devoted to goofing off.

What can we learn from this?

Employers, you would be naïve to think that your employees are not using their work computers to watch YouTube videos, surf the Internet, or pay bills. Thus, you need to implement policies, if you haven’t already, that govern Internet usage.

Article Continues Below

What is excessive usage?

These policies need to cover many different topics, including, but not limited to, the amount of time that an employee spends on the internet for personal usage, downloading and content. Specifically, employers need to specify that brief and occasional usage of the Internet is acceptable, as long as it is done on personal time, i.e. lunch or break.

In addition, the policy needs to define what is considered excessive usage, i.e. interfering with normal job functions and responsiveness. The Internet policy should also prohibit selling or soliciting the sale of products unrelated to the company. Moreover, the policy should also define what is considered inappropriate content, i.e. pornograpy and discriminatory jokes.

Finally, the policy should also discuss dissemination of proprietary and trade secret information, as well as privacy expectations.

This was originally published on Montgomery McCracken’s Employment Law Matters blog.

Chastity C. Bruno is a partner in Montgomery McCracken's Labor and Employment Practice and serves as co-chair of the law firm's Trade Secret and Noncompete Litigation Practice Group. Bruno has spent substantial time representing employers and employees in matters concerning enforcement of post-employment restrictive covenants and alleged misappropriation of trade secrets. In addition, Bruno advises employers and employees on hiring and job transition matters, including effectuating job change while avoiding litigation.

Contact her at a cbruno@mmwr.com.

Topics