Unauthorized Use of the Internet
If your job duties require you to have a computer and access to the internet,
chances are you have checked your personal e-mail or Facebook page, used
your work e-mail address to send personal messages, or surfed the internet
while at work. While these may seem like harmless uses of your employer's
resources, depending on what is accessed and when, a federal employee
can be charged with misuse or unauthorized use of government property.
The Chief Information Office Council has recommended that Federal Agencies
grant their employees the privilege of personal use of government property,
including computers, internet connections and e-mail accounts in a limited
capacity, as long as said use does not create an additional expense and
does not interfere with the official business of the Agency. Based on
this recommendation, most Agencies have adopted policies that allow federal
employees to use their government computer and internet access for personal
use during off duty hours. Generally off duty hours are considered to
be before or after the workday (subject to business hours); during lunch
or scheduled break periods; or on holidays or weekends.
Government computers and the internet access thereto are under the control
and custody of the Agency and your personal use of the same implies that
they have your consent to disclose any information you store or pass through
that device. Therefore, a supervisor has the right to read, monitor, access
or record any personal information you may store on a government computer.
With that said, common sense should tell you that it is wise to limit
your personal use of your government computer and only store or view information
that you would otherwise share or disseminate to your co-workers and supervisors.
In addition you should be careful not to use your government computer
for actives that are otherwise prohibited by standing Agency policies.
Such activities include, but are not limited to, viewing websites with
sexually explicit or pornographic content, distributing e-mails that are
offensive to co-workers based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation,
or engaging in illegal activity such as gambling.
Failure to adhere to Agency policy regarding use of your government computer
could result in a revocation of your internet access and e-mail privileges
or an adverse action such as a suspension or even termination, depending
on the nature of the misuse. A federal employee can appeal an adverse
action to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in an effort to reverse
the adverse employment action. Litigation before the MSPB is complex and
time sensitive. It is prudent for federal employees to with an MSPB attorney
to avoid potentially prejudicing their case.