Employee fired over porn may be rehired

A decision by NCR Australia to fire a worker caught with porn on a company device has been overturned

NCR Australia has been ordered to reinstate an employee fired last year for storing pornographic and other graphic images on an NCR-owned work laptop.

The New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission (NSW IRC) has ordered NCR to reinstate Richard Budlong, an NCR employee for 31 years, following what has been ruled by the court as unfair dismissal.

In May, the unfair dismissal appeal by Budlong was rejected by the court. However, the full bench of the NSW IRC ordered NCR to reinstate Budlong earlier this month.

Budlong was dismissed from his job at NCR on June 7, 2005 for storing 175 pornographic images on his work laptop. NCR investigated the matter internally and found he had breached NCR ICT policy prohibiting the accessing, viewing, storing and sending of pornographic material. A colleague had reported Budlong.

The Industrial Relations Commission rejected outright NCR’s claim it had a zero tolerance policy to accessing pornography and said there was “no such policy in existence”, reinstated Budlong and noted his dismissal was harsh, unreasonable and unjust.

The Industrial Relations Commission stated there was an “air of automaticity” about signing NCR’s code of conduct and “a degree of mechanical, unthinking routine in employees making a commitment to abide by the code”.

Budlong claimed the NCR culture was tolerant of such images, which had been circulated to him by senior colleagues, including a director and general manager.

NCR says it is surprised and disappointed with the decision.

Graham White, an NCR spokesman, says the company would comply with the order to reinstate Budlong, but strongly denied the claims that NCR employees engage in mechanical, unthinking routine and found the terminology demeaning.

“NCR profoundly disagrees with the NSW IRC’s conclusion that this amounted to a one-off breach, albeit one that the NSW IRC concedes is a serious breach,” White says.

“Mr Budlong’s employment with NCR was terminated on June 7, 2005, following the discovery of excessive and explicit pornographic materials on his work computer that were accessed, received, stored and viewed over a number of years.

“NCR will comply with the NSW IRC’s decision, as it must, but strongly refutes the comments made by them.”

It is unknown whether Budlong will return to work for NCR.

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