Airline Veteran: I Shouldn’t Be Fired For Watching Porn, Since I Was Actually Asleep On The Job

A 41 year veteran of Qantas lost his engineering job after two women complained about him watching porn on his company-issued iPad. His excuse? He must have momentarily dozed off and the porn just came on without his realizing it.

In other words, the man’s defense – that he brought to the country’s Fair Work Commission to dispute his firing – was that he was sleeping on the job.

The commission heard two women alleged to have seen Mellios looking at explicit material, including images and the video selection page of a porn website, on his work issued iPad in the Engineering hut of Brisbane airport.

The two female Caltex refuellers claimed to have witnessed the behaviour on multiple occasions between 2016 and 2018.

It took three hearings over nine months to withhold the employee’s dismissal. They considered the man’s “‘long’ and ‘unblemished work history'” before deciding Qantas acted reasonably in terminating him.

It’s difficult to get hired on as an employee in many professions in Australia because it’s so difficult to get fired, and because benefits can be so generous. Frequently workers are taken on as contractors rather than employees.

Qantas has learned this over and over, for instance when a flight attendant was awarded six months’ pay because the government determined it was ‘harsh’ to fire him after he was found with “a can and a bottle of beer in his jacket, two 50ml bottles of vodka in his trousers and a 50ml bottle of gin in his bag” as he got off a flight. Qantas accused him of stealing and lying about it, but in Australia that’s just a way to get half a year’s pay without working.

It took a year for Qantas to successfully defend firing another flight attendant who showed up drunk to a flight after 14 cocktails, but claimed he shouldn’t be held responsible because he was tempted by a bar’s drink specials – and because when the airline told him to take another flight home as a passenger rather than working, he did so.

Being actually drunk when coming to work in a safety position is grounds for termination in Australia. So is using a work computer to surf for porn where others can see you doing it. This is almost never a good idea, anywhere, though here too there are exceptions.

Nearly 20 years ago law professor Eugene Volokh obtained a license to surf for porn at work. He was visiting George Mason University, a state university, in fall 2001. At the time Virginia had a law that state computers couldn’t be used to access sexually explicit material, unless the employee’s “agency head certified that they needed to do so for work reasons.” One of Professor Volokh’s research specialties is free speech law, he was writing about domain names like nasa.com and whitehouse.com which at the time forwarded to porn sites, and to include this in an article needed to… verify that it remained true. So he obtained a letter from the law school dean authorizing him to surf for porn at work.

Absent such a letter, it is generally inadvisable to do so – even in Australia, where it’s nearly impossible to be fired for any sort of misconduct.

(HT: Live and Let’s Fly)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I don’t watch porn on work laptops but I do browse Instagram. Some Instagram profiles are effectively medium-core porn. One time I opened my laptop in a morning meeting while such as page was front and center on my screen. [redacted by gary]

  2. My sister used to work at Playboy doing marketing. On her first day at work, she needed to verify some affiliate site links. As porn came up on her screen, she said she was at first horrified, but then realized that Playboy was one of the places where it was not only ok for you to be looking at porn while at work, it might actually be expected. LOL!

  3. Porn related not travel related comment. Those who visit this blog solely for travel related material… exit stage right.

    My introduction to porn at work was just over 20 years ago when I got a call from the CEO’s administrative assistant. She had just opened an email addressed to the CEO, other officers and employees, the board of directors, and some outside accountants and lawyers that contained super hard core porn. The addressees were the company’s SEC Form 10k filing list. We immediately recalled the email from everyone who hadn’t opened it. An employee was sending porn to his pals at work but accidentally used the wrong email list. Big oops!

    IT now blocks most porn-related material. But the programs aren’t perfect and let some porn through while blocking some non porn info. A few years after that incident I clicked on a link to Elin Nordegren, Tiger’s girlfriend at the time. (I know, non work related.) My computer screen practically blew up with a warning about porn. I looked at the site at home and could find nothing that was close to porn.

    Company computers are provided for work-related use. But there is a tremendous amount of personal use including porn.

  4. Gary’s next article will be a series about the re-opening of the adult film industry offshore to avoid local mask laws.

  5. @ Gary

    Stick to the travel stories where you excel. Once again you drift off into areas of ignorance, in this case IR legislation in Australia (IIRC not for the first time on this subject).

    Go read up the fact sheets on termination of employment and unfair dismissal on Australia’s official website (fairwork.gov.au) and then try representing them with some sort of balance rather than wanton misrepresentation. You might find there is rather more balance in the rights of employer and employee than you presumed.

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