Answers to tricky HR questions: What if we think an employee's accessing banned Web sites?

Our team of experts fields real-life everyday questions from HR managers and gives practical answers that can be applied by any HR pro in the same situation. Today’s question: How do you proceed legally when you suspect an employee is using his work computer to access banned Web sites? Question:
We suspect that one of our employees is using his company computer to access pornography.
We have a company policy banning such use of our computers and Internet access. Are we on safe legal ground if, without the employee’s permission, we examine his computer to figure out which sites he’s been accessing and whether he should be disciplined?
Answer:
Generally speaking, employees have little or no expectation of privacy when it comes to company equipment and resources, including employer-provided Internet access. That’s the opinion of Larry Peikes, an attorney who specializes in employment law for the firm of Wiggin and Dana.
Consequently, it’s difficult for an employee to claim the employer invaded his or her privacy by inspecting or monitoring the use of its own computer. You’re wise to publish a specific policy about Internet use. That eliminates any claim that the employee was unaware of the potential for monitoring.