Sunday, May 27, 2007

Can't Help Myself

A former IBM employee is suing the company after having been let go for accessing sexually explicit websites from his office computer. His argument is that he uses such sites as a form of self-medication for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition derived from having witnessed the death of a friend during the Viet Nam War.

His lawyers are arguing that his addiction should have been handled by the company in the same way as they would deal with an alcoholic or a drug addict, and that he should have been offered treatment for his condition.

This is an interesting case, and I wish that I knew more about it. On the surface, given just what I've been able to read so far, it seems a pretty open and shut case. Okay, let's accept that there is such a thing as "Sex Addiction." (It's still under debate, and I don't think that it's made it into the DSM yet.) And let's accept that this guy has it. Does that justify breaking company rules? I don't know the law well enough to know if a legitimate diagnosis of alcoholism would grant some sort of immunity to a company rule stating that you aren't allowed to drink on the premises. But I don't think that the common interpretation works that way.

It's tempting to view this as a somewhat creative excuse for bad behavior. Or yet another level of the "everybody's addicted to something" craze that never seems to go away. But this is going to be a case with pretty serious legal implications, and it will be interesting to see how it comes out in the end.

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