A man is suing IBM for US$5 million after he was sacked by the company for visiting an adult chat room during work time.
James Pacenza said the company failed to treat him with sympathy and respect and claims he visits chat rooms as treatment after he witnessed his friend killed during the Vietnam War. Claiming protection under the American with Disabilities Act he says the stress caused by the incident led to him first becoming a sex addict and then an internet addict. Pacenza also says the company failed to inspect his medical records properly, which include details of psychiatric treatment he received.
Pacenza’s lawyer, Michael Diedrich, says his client did not violate IBM rules by visiting pornographic sites at work. He also states that age discrimination may have been a factor, mentioning that Pacenza had been at the company for 19 years and was due to retire in a year. IBM has denied any age discrimination was involved. Diedrich says Pacenza should have been treated in the same way as employees with alcohol or drug addictions, who are offered recovery programs by IBM.
Pacenza’s job involved operating machines that made computer chips. There were often periods of five to ten minutes when the machine was working and he had nothing to do. This was when he visited the chat sites. On the day he was fired, Pacenza had returned from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and logged onto a site called ChatAvenue and then an adult chat room. Pacenza says other employees of the company have received less severe punishments for worse acts.
IBM claims that Pacenza had received a warning four months earlier for a similar incident and is asking Judge Stephen Robinson for a summary judgement, saying that the company’s rules are clear.