By Dan Gephart, February 13, 2019

In these highly partisan times, I think there is one thing we can all agree on,whether your politics lean left or point right, and that unifier is this: Geico makes the best commercials. Right?

(Disclaimer: I’m not a Geico customer. However, there may be a picture of me with a large gecko taken in a previous life).

One of my favorite Geico commercials is “Collect Call.” That’s the one where a brand new parent, hoping to save a few coins asnew parents are wont to do, makes a collect call from the hospital to a relative. He tells the operator: “Collect call. First name: Bob. Last name: Wehadababyitsaboy.” The relatives immediately reject the collect call. They don’t need to pay the phone company to know that Bob’s wife had the baby and it’s a boy.

Let’s call this action, a variation of which many of us of a certain age used to communicate to our parents in our teen-aged days, what it really is: Misuse of technology.

It’s almost as if some humans are always going to find a way to use the technology in a way for which it wasn’t created, whether it’s telephones or computers or tiny telephones that mostly serve as computers.

We all know tech misuse is a big problem in the federal workplace. And much like our collect caller, some federal employees have gotten pretty creative in their misuse of technology. Despite what the shock headlines tell you, it’s not all about porn.

Register for Barbara Haga’s upcoming webinar Tsk Tsk Tech: Computer-related Misconduct in the Federal Workplace on February 26 and you’ll hear the following non-pornographic examples, and many more.

There’s the VA housekeeper’s aide, who used his government computer to send promotional emails about the handbags and DVDs he was selling. His removal charges included inappropriate use of an agency computer. But removal was the least of his problems. He was criminally charged for trafficking in counterfeit goods. You didn’t really think that Gucci had three c’s, did you?

Then there was the EPA attorney-advisor who was removed for using his government computer to do his outside legal and real estate work. His excuse that he was mostly replying to emails? That didn’t really stick.

My favorites usually involve social media, and few beat the nurse who posted the following comments on her Facebook page:

• Just realized I never see my head nurse and Satan in the same place. Hmmmmm?????

• Off to work like a dog, for pennies, in unsafe conditions, being exposed to diseases and body fluids … no, not a third world country … I’M A VA NURSE.

The nurse, who also referred to her coworkers as d—heads, liars, and b—— in Facebook posts, was suspended for 14 days, although an arbitrator later mitigated it to 5 days. [Hopkins note: we only used the dashes so your firewall wouldn’t filter our newsletter as junk mail. If you need to know what grown-up words the employee used, email us. J]

The range of misuse is wide, and how you choose to handle it will depend on the type of misuse. Was the employee’s misconduct criminal? Did it violate the Hatch Act? Did it disrupt the workplace? Did it interfere with agency work? Did it involve harassment? What agency policies were violated?

The key to finding the right discipline is to not be overwhelmed, and to approach your actions in a strategic, knowledgeable, and efficient way – the FELTG-Way© as we like to say here. And I can’t think of a better start than Barbara’s webinar later this month.

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