Laing O'Rourke email sees 12 sacked

11 February 2011

Twelve people have been sacked by contractor Laing O’Rourke for forwarding an inappropriate email, Building reported.

A further twelve employees were given a final warning as a result of the email which was forwarded around the business and contained an inappropriate image. The exact nature of the email is unclear at the time of reporting.

A Laing O’Rourke employee based in the North sent the offending email to colleagues. Following a disciplinary procedure a further 12 employees were placed on a final warning by the contractor.

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, approved of the tough stance and said businesses were right to take a strong line on inappropriate behaviour.

“Sending out inappropriate images is never a good thing in the workplace, especially in construction which has a difficult reputation for its macho image.

“Any behaviour that makes people feel uncomfortable at work is something we need to take seriously.”

The number of staff sacked is high for an incident of this nature, although punishment across other industries for similar offences has been increasing.

Twelve staff at Nottingham County council were disciplined for having “highly inappropriate” images on their computers in 2009 after managers conducted a sweep of all the council’s machines.

Jill Andrew, employment partner at law firm Marriott Harrison, said: “If you send round sexually explicit images […] you may be dismissed for breach of the Sexual Discrimination Act. All email traffic of an inappropriate nature is covered, including people who forward material on.”

The tough stance marks the latest step in Laing O’Rourke’s increasingly hardline ethical and behavioural policy.

The company has attracted attention in the past for its zero tolerance drugs policy.

In 2006, one in 10 workers of 1,500 subjected to random drug testing were sacked after failing the test. Of those 124 were subsequently sacked for using cannabis, 41 for cocaine and 28 for using both.

Laing O’Rourke declined to comment.

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