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So you think you're safe sharing jokes around the office? Make sure you look at your contract of employment first.

A Huddersfield engineering firm has won a case of unfair dismissal against two employees, who had being the most active members of a group of 40 exchanging jokes and sexual explicit cartoons. The tribunal unanimously rejected the claim because the messages were in breach of clear policies set by Holset Engineering Company.

Holset Engineering Company, which makes turbo chargers, didn't see the funny side of the exchange of the likes of cartoon frogs in blenders and what was described by its human resources director, Sandra Bateson, described as sexually explicit jokes, cartoons and lots of innuendo.

This sounds like relatively tame stuff, but the messages were enough to upset one employee who, having received a message in error, shopped the jokers to management.

All 40 involved in the 'joke ring' were disciplined, with even those who had only received the emails - but didn't delete them or report the senders - earning a severe reprimand.

It'd be hard to say here that the punishment matched the crime, and in fact when asked by The Register why Holset had such strict guidelines on email abuse, Bateson said she had nothing to say on the subject.

The bottom line is that under employment law an employee has to show an employer acted unreasonably to win and unfair dismissal claim. So either you work for an employer who doesn't take a strong line on intra-office smut (unlikely these days) or else it's time to start deleting. ®

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