Porn emailing probably common in many offices

After the latest revelations about state prosecutors’ sharing sexually explicit emails at the office, some women — and even a few men — may be tempted to sneak a peek at the computer screen in the next cubicle.

If lawyers in the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office were sending raunchy and racially charged emails while they were on the clock, many workers may be wondering if such stuff is circulating in their offices, too.

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To some extent, it probably is, say business leaders and experts on employment law. Sending risque emails at work is more widespread than people may realize, they say.

They highlight statistics indicating that workplace harassment based on sex or race occurs regularly. With the prevalence of email and social media apps, those actions have found another frontier — one where the employee might be discreet and the evidence deleted.

“People think they can get away with things online that they can’t in person,” said Fatima Goss Graves, a senior vice president at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C.

The Internet and other aspects of modern life may have influenced what people find tolerable, and what was offensive 20 years ago may not be so much today, said Deirdre Kamber Todd, an Allentown attorney who specializes in employment law. She pointed to Howard Stern’s once-shocking radio show as an example of how attitudes can shift over time.

That doesn’t mean certain content is now acceptable in an office environment — she recommends keeping interactions with colleagues to a PG-13 level — but women may not be quite as offended as some may expect, she said. Some, such as attorneys and those in law enforcement, might be so accustomed to seeing offensive content while handling criminal cases that they may have become “desensitized” to certain images, she said.

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