Case law on the Internet and sexual harassment at work
Ms Morse was employed as the Head of Multimedia at Future Reality Limited from March to August 1995. She was the only woman to share an office with several men who spent much time viewing and downloading sexually explicit and obscene images from the Internet, some of which were brought to her attention. A visitor also brought in a toy gorilla which, when squeezed performed a lewd trick.
Ms Morse felt uncomfortable working in this environment, even though she accepted that her colleagues' activities were not personal or intended to intimidate her. No sexual advance were made towards her.
Morse v Future Reality Decision
The tribunal was satisfied that the images and general language had a detrimental effect on Ms Morse, and as a result had been subject to sexual harassment. Future Reality was held liable because no-one in the company had taken action to stop the men's behaviour.
She was awarded
- £11,940.26 for breach of contract and sexual harassment
- £9,793.65 for loss of 3 months' earnings
- £750 for injury to feelings
- £1,157,65 interest
The Morse v Future Reality case highlights the importance to employers of managing their staff appropriately when they are allowed to use the Internet whilst at work. Employers have a duty of care towards all their employees. Cases brought against organisations under these circumstances can be embarrassing and raise questions about the culture of the business which customers, suppliers and employees all find unacceptable.
London North Employment Tribunal 22nd October 1996, Case Number 54571/95