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I, as an owner/computer auditing worker, have been reviewing recent computer usage (for statistics) and happened to stumble across some serious delicate issues. There is an employee who does not have permission to access a certain computer, but has been doing it nonetheless (when "alone" or otherwise "hidden from view") and using it for personal reasons (accessing FB and reviewing his personal mail). He, in one of his escapades, forgot to close his personal FB page and left it open for the night (giving me a chance to overview it in the following morning).

The main issue here is that the worker in question has been found to "chat" about sensitive matters (such as planning to "stiff" ourselves by leaving his work behind "when he gets bored") and about his "unbecoming" behaviour while working (such as drinking our "for sale" liquor and over-mixing drinks to get an extra-shot for himself). All these actions would institute grounds for dismissal, but since he haven't actually found him to be doing them, it is not clear on how to proceed.

The background: This "restricted computer" is a PoS/Server computer for a restaurant, located near the bar area itself. The employee in question is a barman/server who happens to be "alone" at some times by under-staff issues.

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closed as off topic by ReallyTiredOfThisGame, Paul Brown, pdr, jcmeloni, gnat Jan 24 '13 at 20:36

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If he's dumb enough to do that on your company computer and leave himself logged on what's wrong with just firing him? Does a contract of some sort prevent this? –  enderland Jan 24 '13 at 16:14
    
I think there are no founded grounds on dismissal, since using the computer is not prohibited per policy (rather as a "common sense" rule not to use a computer if you are not supposed to, since his work as a barman/server does not need to use it). The question is more related to the things read on his FB account chat, rather than the action of using the computer itself. –  Ricardo Segovia Jan 24 '13 at 16:20
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What is your question here? What to do? We can not tell you what to do. If you have a practical answerable question you face then we can help with that. Voting to close –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jan 24 '13 at 16:28
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@RicardoSegovia the answer to the legal question is 100% dependent on where you work (country, state, etc) and terms of employment as this answer discusses. –  enderland Jan 24 '13 at 16:38
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@RicardoSegovia The Workplace is not for asking questions about whether something is legal or not. Please see What questions are off topic here? –  Paul Brown Jan 24 '13 at 16:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You found this out by using a computer you had every right to be on. I wouldn't consider this so much finding out "by accident" as finding it out during normal operations. I would treat the information as if you found it any other appropriate way, such as during a routine audit or as if someone reported the information to you.

As an owner it's potentially up to you and/or your contract with the employee to decide what to do. If you feel it's most appropriate to fire him and you're legally able to, it might be best to do so (if you're in the US most states are At-Will and you can fire anyone without leaving an explicit reason--and not giving the reason is usually preferable). Depending on your contract using Facebook might itself be listed as a firing offense or might not.

If there's a line manager or someone else managing the employee, have them watch for direct signs of the more concerning behavior; if you're the only one able to do so, watch over them yourself. But again if you don't feel this work is necessary for whatever reason (you don't need this employee, you strongly suspect them to be doing wrong, whatever) it may simply be better to start looking for a replacement immediately. The implied behavior is pretty serious so I wouldn't let any unnecessary formality get in the way of replacing an apparently untrustworthy worker.

Note they may be talking smoke; bragging and otherwise BSing to friends on Facebook, so don't necessarily take it at face value either. There are certain judgement calls to be made, but if you have good reason to suspect any of it is true that's plenty of reason to discharge an employee in an at-will state. If you have direct evidence of these activities it would likely be enough to fire them with reason (which is legally riskier in most cases, as if there's no evidence you can be sued).

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This seems to be a reasonable response to my inquiry, thanks for it. Also, thanks for the feedback provided in comments. –  Ricardo Segovia Jan 24 '13 at 17:56

You should not forget the employee may be chatting about a lot of things, but it is no evidence he is really doing this (like over-mixing drinks). People may write a lot on facebook or in chats when they are bored. It may be true but it may not.

If the employee should not have access to this computer maybe a simple password/login would help.

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@Holli - If an employee is saying he is stealing from me, then that employee is an employee that will find himself/herself looking for another job and likely in court for their statements on company property. People who are not stealing product do not claim they are stealing product. –  Ramhound Jan 25 '13 at 15:56

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