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Seattle port fires, punishes employees over inappropriate e-mails

Seattle port fires, punishes employees over inappropriate e-mails

Port of Seattle officials announced Friday the firing or punishment of 15 port employees, including two managers, for improper use of port computers to view and e-mail allegedly sexual and/or offensive material.

   Eight port employees were fired following an investigation into the computer usage and messages, the port said. Seven others were handed varying levels of punishment ranging from time off without pay to verbal reprimands. According to port officials, the employees were all members of an engineering survey team at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is overseen by the Seattle Port Authority. Four private contractors hired by the port and connected to the incidents were also let go.

   'This is especially disappointing, as we have been clear with staff about our expectations that employees read, understand and abide by the port’s policies,' said Tay Yoshitani, Port of Seattle chief executive officer.

   The improper usage and messaging of the offensive material occurred over the past 12 months and was discovered by port technicians monitoring internal staff computer usage. No complaints about the material or messages were ever made.

   The port began clamping down on improper computer usage by staff following revelations last year that port police officers exchanged e-mails port commissioners described as 'sexually explicit, sexist and racist.' Ten officers were eventually reprimanded over the messages.

   Following the port police scandal last year, port officials implemented an online anti-harassment-training program and port supervisors were urged to review appropriate and inappropriate uses of a work computer with port staff. Yoshitani also sent a memo to port employees last year warning that a 'zero-tolerance' policy over improper use of port computers was in effect.

   Port officials describe some of the engineering staff messages, which often contained offensive images or video attachments according to the port, as being as equally offensive as those that led to the port police punishments.

   While the port provided two dozen pages of the inappropriate material sent by the engineering staff, port officials did not release the entire report on the incidents, including the names of any of the fired or punished employees.

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