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Can you be fired for shopping online at work in Maryland?

The holidays are here and if you are like many Maryland residents, you multitasked this year by buying gifts online. You may have even tried to save time by doing some of your holiday shopping online during the work day--but, will that come back to haunt you?

A recent survey suggests that more and more employers are tolerant when it comes to shopping online at work. In fact, according to the survey by Robert Half Technology, only 33 percent of CIOs who were interviewed said that their companies block access to shopping websites. Just last year the same survey found that 60 percent of companies blocked such websites.

However, this year 55 percent of CIOs who allow access to e-commerce said they monitor employees' Internet use to ensure that they are not spending too much time shopping online and doing other non-work related activities during the workday.

The reason that employers' attitudes seem to be shifting when it comes to personal Internet use has been attributed to an increase in worker productivity, according to a news report on the study. Essentially, some employers have found that by letting workers take care of some of their personal projects at work from time to time, the workers will feel less stressed and thus be able to focus more on their work.

However, it should be noted that many employers do not want to pay their employees for time spent e-mailing family members, browsing for shoes and ordering photo prints, among other things. This very well may be against a company policy and it may be a terminable offense. So, before shopping online workers should review their offices' Internet policies.

And, even if online activities are not restricted, workers are wise to limit web surfing. An employer who allows online shopping probably would not be keen on paying for hours of wages during which no work has been accomplished. In that same vein, workers should think twice about shopping on their Smartphones at work in order to get around the issue. Many employers might frown upon that if it is causing the worker to spend an excessive amount of time away from work.

Source: San Antonio Business Journal, "Shopping at work? More employers are allowing it," James Aldridge, Nov. 26, 2012

  • More information about employment law in Maryland and Washington, D.C., is available on our law firm's website.

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