Mobile phone operator Orange has dismissed dozens of staff for downloading "inappropriate" material from the internet.
Orange said the dismissals, which are believed to be from call centres in Hertford and the north east of England, took place this morning. Up to 40 staff are reported to have been dismissed.
An Orange spokesman said: "Orange can confirm that a number of employees have been dismissed in accordance with company disciplinary procedure as a result of an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate material on company IT systems."
"Orange's company policy states that the creation or exchange of messages or attachments that are offensive, harrassing, obscene, racist, sexist, threatening or libellous is strictly prohibited," he declared.
He added that any failure to comply with company email policies may result in disciplinary action and dismissal.
Matt Tomlinson, business development director at MIS, said the case was, by far, the biggest of its kind in the UK.
"There have been many cases of this type in the US, where people have been sacked for inappropriate use of the internet. Staff were dismissed from the New York Times and Chevron for this. In the UK, there have been a few cases. Five staff were dismissed from Rolls Royce earlier this year and eight Barclays stockbrokers lost their jobs."
"The key is to have a policy and enforce it, getting staff to understand what it means. There is a lot of legislation that relates to this whole issue of pornographic material. If Orange hadn't had this policy in place, then the employees could sue for wrongful dismissal," he added.
"Companies should be aware that unless there is a policy in place, then the company directors are liable if someone finds something offensive. The policy can remove the responsibility from the company to the offender."
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