The French Supreme Court has approved the dismissal of an employee for excessive personal use of the internet at work

In this particular case, the employee concerned regularly sent emails to his colleagues containing videos – the content of which ranged from humour to sex and sport – during working hours. When one of the employee’s colleagues complained about this, the employer investigated the employee’s internet use (helped by a bailiff), only to discover that he had sent 178 such videos. The employer dismissed the employee for gross misconduct, on the basis that his personal use of the internet at work to that extent was excessive and inappropriate.

The employee brought a claim, but the Employment Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that sending 178 videos containing sexual, humorous, political or sports content from the Company’s computer amounted to misconduct justifying dismissal. A separate court will now go on to consider whether such conduct amounted to “gross misconduct”, justifying immediate dismissal or whether some form of notice pay should be provided. The case raises some questions about how and whether something done within reasonable limits (sending colleagues little video clips) would be unobjectionable but done to excess could become not just misconduct but prospectively gross misconduct.