Computer Sex Prevalent in the Workplace

February 10, 2004 ( - If workers seem extra happy at their desktop computer, there may be a good reason: many are hitting X-rated Web sites or participating in steamy chat room while in the office, a new survey found.

In fact, nearly one-quarter of workers (24%) have used company computers for sexual or romantic purposes, according to a poll commissioned by Employment Law Alliance, a network of employment and labor lawyers. Responding to the workplace computer sex trend, employers are increasingly banning employees from visiting sex-related sites and from participating in romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates, the survey said.

In the poll, 37% said their employers bar romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates while 7% confessing to have been involved in such a relationship.

Charles Huddleston, co-chair of the Employment Law Practice Team at an Atlanta law firm, warned that employers should be cautious when addressing workplace romance, saying that haphazard implementation of such policies can threaten civil liberties and put employers at risk for discrimination claims by employees.

“Employers need to ensure that new directives surrounding romantic relationships do not contradict existing rules and regulations in the employee handbook or infringe upon an employee’s civil liberties, and that enforcement of such rules is consistent across all levels of employees, from the executive suite to the loading dock,” Huddleston said, adding that litigation related to office romance has increased in recent years.

Findings of the survey include:

  • 43% said they believe sexually oriented online activities hurt productivity
  • 12% said they or a co-worker have accessed sexually explicit Web sites from a workplace computer (About twice as many men as women said they use the company computer to access sexually explicit Web sites.)
  • 12% said they or a co-worker have forwarded sexually explicit e-mail content to co-workers while at work
  • 10% said they or a co-worker have used the office computer for online dating services.
  • 6% said they or a co-worker have engaged in sexually explicit online chats/instant messaging while at work.

Research firm Reed, Haldy McIntosh & Associates of Media, Pennsylvania, conducted the poll January 30 through February 1, surveying 826 employees who have Internet access at work.