Computer tech’s job deleted for using secure computer as personal one

Employee downloaded movies, porn and gave several people access to college’s secure server
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 01/19/2011

A computer technician who was fired for using an employer’s computer and then made a rude Facebook posting about it won’t be getting his job back after an Ontario arbitration board upheld his termination.

Steve Rowe, 36, was an infrastructure analyst for Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Oakville, Ont. He had been employed with the college from 1997 to 2009 without any record of discipline and had a high level of access to college computers.

While on the job, used a surplus computer for personal uses, such as downloading video content, music and games, which he stored on the computer. He also downloaded pornographic videos and had sexually-charged online chats with his girlfriend.

Rowe also installed personal programs on the computer that allowed family, friends and co-workers to access the computer so he could circulate downloaded materials to them. However, the computer was linked to the college’s network servers, which processed millions of dollars in online transactions annually. None of the people to whom Rowe granted access had security clearance.

The college investigated, found out Rowe had been doing these things for almost 10 years and, on Sept. 26, 2009, it fired him. The day of his termination, Rowe posted a picture of the rear end of a mountain climber with a caption telling his manager to “kiss this.” The union recommended he take it down and apologize, which he did.

The union grieved the termination, arguing the college knew he had been using the computer for some personal reasons and it was too harsh for someone with no previous discipline.

The arbitration board found the termination was appropriate, since he was in a position of trust and violated that trust. It found he had signed the college handbook which set out the rules about personal computer use, so he should have been aware of the limits. He was also given a chance to explain his conduct during the investigation, but instead tried to delete the offending material from the computer, said the board.

The board also found the college didn’t know the extent to which Rowe had been using the computer for personal things, nor was it aware he had granted access to others. In addition, the Facebook posting showed a lack of remorse for his conduct and he only apologized after the union recommended he do so, said the board.

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