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CA Fires Workers Over E-Mail

January 4, 2001

Several former employees of Computer Associates International Inc.'s Herndon office said they were fired over the holidays for sending sexually explicit e-mail.

Michelle Layne, who worked as an administrative assistant for the software company, said a supervisor called her into an office on Dec. 21 and told her she was being fired for violating the company's e-mail policy. Several other Computer Associates employees said they had similar experiences the following week.

A spokesman at Computer Associates headquarters in Islandia, N.Y., said the company had no comment regarding the firings.

It is unclear how many employees were let go, although those who were terminated estimated there were at least 10. The Herndon office has 750 employees.

Layne said the managers who fired her asked for her corporate identification badge and told her to leave immediately. When she asked to see the offensive e-mail for which she was losing her job, the managers would not produce it, she said. "They told me . . . I didn't need to," Layne said, "and I said, 'Yes, I do need to, because you're messing with my life right now.' "

Layne said that she is not sure whether she violated the e-mail policy, which is why she asked to see proof. She said that many people at the company, including senior managers, forward sexually explicit jokes via e-mail.

"If they know it's against company policy and we're getting these type of e-mails from the senior vice presidents and all the other people above us, what else would we think but that it's okay to do it?" she said.

Other employees let go by the company expressed similar disbelief at their situation.

"I was shocked. I was definitely shocked," said a former senior recruiter from the company who was also fired, adding that he admitted to management that he had indeed forwarded a sexually explicit photo via the company e-mail. "It was kind of like, a stupid e-mail. It leads me to believe they were hunting for people."

The recruiter said he had planned to resign on the same day that he was fired last week because he had gotten a new job, which he was to start yesterday.

One Computer Associates administrative assistant who was not among those terminated said that many people in the Herndon office are worried that the company could be sorting through e-mails and could fire more people.

Shares of Computer Associates have been flailing since last summer, when executives announced that earnings would be less than half the per-share estimates that analysts had forecast for the first quarter. In August, chairman and chief executive Charles Wang stepped down as CEO as part of an attempt to boost Wall Street's confidence in the company.

Computer Associates had revenue of $5.3 billion in 2000. Income for fiscal 2000, which ended March 31, was $696 million, compared with $626 million in 1999.

The company's stock closed yesterday at $21.31 on the New York Stock Exchange, up $2.93 a share. Shares of the company reached a one-year high of $75 on Jan. 26, 2000.

Sarah Schafer, Washington Post Staff Writer


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