Case Dismissed: IT Worker, Fired After Reporting Child Porn, Vows To Fight On - InformationWeek

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Case Dismissed: IT Worker, Fired After Reporting Child Porn, Vows To Fight On

Dorothea Perry, the help desk technician who got fired after finding and reporting child pornography on a law professor's workplace PC, has suffered another setback. A state court judge has dismissed Perry's wrongful termination suit against New York Law School.

Dorothea Perry, the help desk technician who got fired after finding and reporting child pornography on a law professor's workplace PC, has suffered another setback. A state court judge has dismissed Perry's wrongful termination suit against New York Law School.I've been tracking this case for more than four years. It started June 3, 2002, when Perry and co-worker Robert Gross discovered child pornography on the PC of New York Law School professor Edward Samuels, after Samuels sought help with his malfunctioning computer. Samuels was arrested, pleaded guilty, resigned from his tenured position, and served four months in New York's Riker's Island jail. Perry and Gross? Well, they got fired from their jobs just four months after reporting what they found on Samuels' PC to school officials. At the time, the two IT staffers were employed by Collegis, an outsourcing company that provided IT services to the law school and which as since been acquired by SunGard Data Systems. In light of the child porn discovery, however, their firings seemed suspicious. Indeed, both had previously received good performance reviews for the work they did at NYLS. They filed suit claiming the firings were in retaliation for the trouble they stirred up for Samuels and the school. State Court Judge Marcy Friedman last week ruled against Perry. Her decision hinged on whether Perry was employed under contract or "at will" at the time of the incident. The court ruled that Perry's employment was at will while her claim against New York Law School was a contractual issue. In short, Perry's suit was tossed on a technicality. But Judge Friedman acknowledged that Perry's suit raised "a triable issue of fact" as to whether New York Law School sought to induce her firing. "The fact that the plaintiff and her co-employee were terminated shortly after they reported finding child pornography, and despite unblemished employment records, raises a substantial question as to whether defendants were fired for reporting child pornography," noted Judge Friedman in her June 15 decision. Three years ago, a federal court judge sent a related suit (racial discrimination and retaliation) by Perry against Collegis to arbitration, while staying her claims against New York Law, pending a decision by the state court. So Perry's legal odyssey continues. She's mulling her options, which include requesting that the decision be reviewed and possibly appealed.

Samuels, an expert in copyright law, has tried to resuscitate his career. His Web site features copyright analyses written since his release from jail. Perry is determined to clear her name from the doubts raised by her firing. Her case serves as a warning to IT professionals about what to do if they encounter child porn on workplace PCs: Take action, but proceed with extreme caution.

For Dorothea Perry's tangled tale, see:

"Troubling Discovery," InformationWeek, May 12, 2003

"When Things Go Wrong," InformationWeek, Aug. 16, 2004

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