New York Daily News -
Surf's up! Judge OKs Web crawls
Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Breathe easy, city workers - a judge says you have the right to surf the Web at work.
The ruling by Administrative Law Judge John Spooner deemed that on-the-job Internet use is equivalent to reading a newspaper or talking on the phone - which flies in the face of Mayor Bloomberg's quick firing of an Albany clerk playing solitaire this year.

"If using the Internet doesn't interfere with work, then this is a very reasonable ruling," said lawyer Martin Druyan, who is representing the Department of Education employee whose case Spooner handled.

That employee - Toquir Choudhri, a 14-year veteran at the DOE - was brought up on charges by his supervisors for browsing the Internet while at work, Druyan said.

Choudhri's bosses checked his computer over two days and discovered he had viewed several news and travel sites, but Spooner gave him the lightest possible punishment, a mere reprimand.

"It was very fair," said Druyan. "The workload at that particular office was such that there was downtime - all the people in the office were going on the Web now and then when the phones weren't ringing."

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will now decide the severity of Choudhri's punishment, Druyan said.

"This is a longtime employee," Druyan said. "The punishment should fit the crime."

Druyan also said that the decision may strengthen the case of Edward Greenwood, a clerk in the city's Albany lobbying office, who was summarily fired by the mayor in February for having solitaire on his computer.

"[The ruling] is not binding authority," he said. "But, if he was to go to court to get his old job back, this could help his case."