Zurich sacks seven for ‘disturbing’ emails

Not pornographic, but deeply offensive

Zurich Financial Services has sacked seven staff found with "disturbing material" on their office computers.

The insurance company fired the unlucky crew for gross misconduct, as well as disciplining another six workers, all from its Swindon head office. Last month's action followed a random check by Zurich's IT security systems which picked up on large files flying around between email accounts.

The dismissable material was described by one Zurich representative as "offensive to everyone", but wouldn't give specifics on what was found. "It wasn't pornographic...It wasn't page 3, but it was deeply offensive," was all she would reveal.

The firings depended on: "how active or passive an individual had been at receiving and transmitting the information," she added.

Zurich has revised its in-house Internet guidelines as a result of the incident - staff are now not allowed to send material that others may find offensive, as opposed to the previous rule of not transmitting "offensive material".

"In a way, this has been a learning experience for us. We would urge other employers to follow our lead in setting and enforcing ethical procedures," it said.

Meanwhile, a study has revealed that nearly two thirds of companies in the US have disciplined workers for abusing the Web, with almost a third firing offenders. The research, by the Saratoga Institute, found that 56 per cent of companies admitted staff used the Internet inappropriately. ®

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