A high-ranking official in a federal agency helplessly wonders how to respond to an employee.

A high-ranking official in a federal agency helplessly wonders how to manage a typical employee. (Actor portrayal.)

We live in interesting times. I guess that makes us the butt end of a curse. Our time is one of pros and cons. Of good versus evil. Day vs. night. Light versus dark. Xbox vs. PS4. Rebellion verses Empire. And it’s not a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It’s us. Right now.

Pro: We have the internet, undeniably the greatest system for storing and sharing information the world has ever seen.

Con: Icky, icky, icky, sticky!

According to estimates from Scandinavian research center Sintef, 90% of all the data the human race has ever produced has been generated in the past two years.

Source: BBC.com – Web porn: Just how much is there? circa 2013

Back in June 2010 a net filtering firm known as Optenet put out a press release claiming that 37% of the internet was comprised of pornographic material. Even earlier than that, though, way back in 2003, the musical Avenue Q featured a little song called The Internet is for Porn.

Estimates vary wildly and the 37% figure has since been debunked. These days it’s estimated that 14% of searches and 4% of websites are related to pornography.

Although not backed up by any science whatsoever my personal hypothesis is that the first message ever recorded by beings similar to us on this planet took place about 42,000 years ago and involved a rock and a chisel used to produce a representation of a penis also known as a “dick pic.” I’m pretty sure I’m right about this.

While researching this story I did a search of Google News for “pornography.” I literally had to wade through pages of results of stories involving child pornography (which is criminal) before I found what I needed: Coverage of the recent pornography incident involving an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This week a member of congress proposed new legislation to deal with federal employees who surf porn while on the job. United States Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a great idea and he’s calling it the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act (EPEE). Not bad but I think it needs an acronym with more pizzazz.

The case that aroused his ire involved a work-from-home employee of the EPA who admitted to viewing pornography “two to six hours” of every work day using his/her work computer. The employee was placed on administrative leave but continues to draw his/her $120,000 a year salary. The employee has not been terminated yet because the head of the EPA say he is waiting for a magical entity known as an “official report.”

The identity of the employee has not been revealed even though we pay his salary. This has prompted some wild speculation:

The identity of the employee—who makes $120,000 a year—has not been disclosed, but everyone seems to be operating on the assumption that said employee is a man, which is a fair assumption.

Correction: It’s a very fair assumption. It is the cover story of Fair Assumption Magazine‘s 100th anniversary issue. It is the fairest assumption in the 4.54-billion-year history of Earth.

Source: Slate.com – EPA Still Hasn’t Fired Employee Whose at-Work Porn Habits Were Discussed by Congress in May

As we all know, this isn’t the first time a government agency had been found asleep at the switch (router, hub, whatever) when it comes to the behavior of their employees. Back in 2010 the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) had an embarrassing situation on their hands. A search for “sec pornography” uncovers titillating headlines like “SEC Porn Probe: Staffers Watched Porn As Economy Crashed.” (Probe?! Really?!) That particular case only involved “dozens” of employees of which 17 were identified as “senior level.” They were quick to point out that was a “small fraction of the overall work force.”

Cases like these are no doubt representative of a much larger problem.

[E]arlier this year a Federal Communications Commission employee was found to have spent up to eight hours a week watching porn, and a separate study showed that a worker at the Treasury viewed over 13,000 X-rated images in a six-week span.

Source: RT.com – Congressman wants to legally ban federal employees from watching porn at work

And, although not federal, here’s another incident as recent as September 2014:

At least eight prominent state officials — including the current head of the state police, Pennsylvania’s top environmental regulator, and a former spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett — were among the commonwealth employees who sent or received hundreds of sexually explicit photos, videos and messages from state email accounts between 2008 and 2012, according to documents made available Thursday by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Source: CitizensVoice.com – AG: State officials received porn emails

Curious to know more, I compiled my own list of large (+10,000 employee) government agencies that are probably having a hard time in this area: Department of Defense, Postal Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of the Treasury, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Social Security Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Commerce, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of State, Department of Labor, Department of Energy, General Services Administration and Tennessee Valley Authority. I’m willing to bet my non-federal paycheck they’re all getting a piece of this action.

In my mind all this sticky wicket raises many questions:

  • Set aside the issue of pornography for a moment. What about basic employee management? Should high ranking senior level managers be trained to actually notice when an employee is only working 25 to 75 percent of the time? What are managers for if not managing? Are they distracted? What is the fallout for a manager who supervised the consumers of porn?
  • I looked at a blender on Amazon.com. For the next six weeks I saw blenders all over the internet. Maybe the government could use this technology to track their own employees?
  • How is it the federal government has records of all phone calls made by everyone in the United States but is unaware of what employees are doing using equipment actually owned by the government?
  • Our I.T. department back in the 80s monitored plain text emails. Say the wrong thing and you’d be called into the boss’ office. How could they do a better job than the most powerful nation in the free world using the most recent technology that has ever existed?
  • Hasn’t internet filtering existed for decades by now?
  • The problem is so rampant I have to wonder: Is pornography part of the job description? Perhaps a way to test the agility, inventiveness and ingenuity of employees? Like an agility course where employees are required to be proactive and think outside of the box if they want that next rung on the ladder (wheelbarrow position). Or is it like an unwritten code where employees have to prove their loyalty to their peers by dirtying themselves to fit in? You know, like police officers do? Anyone too squeaky clean just can’t be trusted.
  • Isn’t it obvious that someone who spends up to six hours a day watching pornography is a terrible employee? Because, they’re not doing it right.

I think EPEE is a good start but ultimately falls short. Based on the scope of this problem, I propose a more global solution. Why don’t we merge all federal agencies into a single entity and call it the U.S. Department of Pornography? Voila! Problem solved. And overnight the government will need a lot less agency logos, too.

In the meantime, the next time you meet a federal employee make sure you disinfect yourself after shaking hands. You can’t be too careful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some things to click. I’m working too, you know.