Well, we certainly are a litigious society, aren't we?
The other day I read that a former IBM employee who was canned for hanging out in adult chat rooms while at work is suing Big Blue for $5 million, claiming that "he is an Internet addict who deserves treatment and sympathy rather than dismissal." Further, the employee claims that he goes to chat rooms "to treat traumatic stress incurred in 1969 when he saw his best friend killed in Vietnam."
According to the court papers filed, the stress caused the employee to become a sex addict, and that condition was compounded by the Internet, which turned him into an Internet addict. Further, the man claims that he didn't visit porn sites, didn't waste anymore time online than the average IBM employee, and that he's the victim of age discrimination. Seems he got nicked because he had 19 years in at IBM and only needed a year until retirement.
While I have no doubt that being in Vietnam (or any war, for that matter) is more horrific than I could ever imagine, I'm certainly no expert on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have no idea whether you ever get over it, whether it causes sex addiction, or whether there really is such a thing as sex addiction (as opposed to what we used to refer to as someone being "out of control"). I believe that the first time I heard the term "sex addict" was when Red Sox star Wade Boggs was nabbed for some hanky-panky and claimed addiction.
Now Internet addiction I am down with.
Not that I am one, but I can certainly see how one could become one.
I mean, before my friend John got me blogging, I could go months without even looking at a blog. Now, well, I wouldn't say I'm exactly an addict, but if they ever make an Internet-related version of Reefer Madness, I'm sure that it will all start out pretty innocently. That funny cigarette that someone offers unsuspecting you a puff of at a party? Well, you want to find the Internet pushers - look no further than friends who convince you that you should be blogging. Sheeeshhhh. Between looking for things to write about, writing about them, and reading and commenting on the blogs that other Internet addicts - errrrr, Internet users - write. Well, I've had to all but give up my Sudoku hobby. Now I go days without a fix. No time for those little numbered boxes. Once baseball season starts, it will be interesting to see if I slide back into bad habits and keep a few Sudoku puzzles on hand for watching Red Sox games. (And, by the way, this spellchecker brings up the word "studbook" as a possible substitute for Sudoku. So maybe Sudoku is a form of sex addiction after all.)
And my serious reading? I used to get into bed with Orhan Pamuk or Edna O'Brien. Now it's The Economist. (Whose idea was this business-related blog anyway?)
But "chat room at work" addiction?
Okay. Everyone gets online during lunch to check personal e-mails, look on Bluefly for discounted duvet covers, and check out what Britney Spears' new lack-of-hair-do looks like.
But running into a chat room for a quick chat? Isn't that what the coffee machine, water cooler, and bathrooms are for? Isn't that what you do when you show up on time for a meeting and everyone isn't there yet? Isn't that what you do on the elevator? Of course, while the chats you have at work are with adults, they're not exactly adult in the same sense as what I'm sure is the scintillating conversation you find in adult chat rooms.
Didn't this guy have enough work to do?
The one thing I feel a smidgeon badly about is that the guy had 19 years in towards his retirement and, apparently, lost everything.
Although I have spent such little time working in companies that are still standing, let alone that have a pension plan, I would think that IBM could have given this guy some credit for time-in and seen that he gets something for his troubles. At least give him credit for those years before Internet access was made available and he started logging all that time in chat rooms. (I assume that when he was just a plain old sex addict, he was addicted on his own time.)
The good news for our plaintiff, I suppose, is that now he has all the time in the world to indulge in his twin addictions. If only IBM would cut him a teensy little break on his pension.
Here's a link to an article in Information Age on this. It's not the one I saw originally, which seems to have disappeared.