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Dow Chemical sacks 50 over porn emails

'We're not talking about letters to mom' says company

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Dow Chemical has sacked 50 staff and disciplined another 200 over dirty sex emails sent from company computers.

The US chemical company said the action was taken "to protect our other employees." Material found included pornographic and violent images, AP reported.

"This sort of activity creates a harassment environment that we can't tolerate," said Eric Gates, a representative of Dow's Michigan Operations.

The move followed an investigation into the company's email system - sparked by a staff complaint in May.

According to Gates, the company is not in the habit of snooping at employee emails on a regular basis. But on the back of the complaint it decided to monitor all email use during a one week period in May.

Officials soon realised the problem was rampant, and ended up hauling staff at all levels into interviews. Those who had simply opened emails and deleted them were let off - but the company was more interested in those who downloaded, saved and distributed objectionable stuff. These faced suspension or the sack.

No illegal material was found, but the representative said: "We're not talking about personal use of the computers and letters to mom."

"There was a whole range of things, from mild pornography to very graphic pornography and some seriously violent images."

Suspended Dow workers had to agree to a special one-year probationary period. Those who refused were fired.

The action has already ruffled the feathers of a local union - The United Steelworkers of America local 12075 said it plans to investigate the firings.

But Dow remains unswayed - it says it distributed books setting out company policy to employees last March. These publications apparently warned that computer use for personal and objectionable subject matter was a hanging offence.

Last year the New York Times, Xerox and Rolls Royce all gave out P45s to workers accused of checking out offensive online material at work. ®

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