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Legislature passes new child porn law

BISMARCK -- Employees who see child pornography on a co-worker's computer will soon be required under law to report it.

North Dakota legislators passed Senate Bill 2233 this session requiring anyone with knowledge or suspicion of child pornography on a workplace computer to report it to the Department of Human Services.

The law takes effect Aug. 1 and applies to all workplaces in the state.

The Attorney General's Office supported the bill at the request of a constituent who said there was nothing to compel someone or a business to report, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers said.

The Department of Human Services was selected because it already receives reports of child abuse and neglect for the state. Health, school and law enforcement officials, as well as clergy members, are among those now required to report abuse and neglect cases.

"When you come across child porn on a computer, there is a child being abused or neglected somewhere," Byers said.

There isn't a handle on how extensive the problem is in the workplace because companies aren't now required to report cases, he said.

The penalty for someone who doesn't report is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum 30 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. An employee who discovers child pornography will need to report it or, if it's reported to a supervisor, make sure the supervisor reports it.

Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, asked during a hearing how the public was going to know to contact human services instead of law enforcement. Byers said contacting law enforcement is fine if a member of the public doesn't know the process since law enforcement officials must report cases to the state.

If there is a diligent effort to pass along information or if someone is unaware of the law, there won't be charges, Byers said. A willful violation is needed for prosecution.

He said his office will work to get the word out to businesses about the new law.

North Dakota Chamber of Commerce President Andy Peterson said he sees no problem with the new requirement.

"I can't imagine that there's a single employer out there who would say that they would fight against this kind of bill," he said. "They would probably say it's a good thing to keep this kind of thing off company computers."

He expects to include information about the new law in an e-mail to the chamber's 1,100 company members.

Loren Haagenson of the Fargo Moorhead Human Resources Association said he isn't aware of human resources policies that specifically address child pornography or of discussions about the topic.

However, he said the issue falls under sexual harassment policies and inappropriate content on company equipment. He doesn't think the new law will dramatically change employer policies, though additional wording will likely be added.

"I think most employers are very good about communicating changes in policy," Haagenson said.

LuWanna Lawrence of the Department of Human Services said people can file reports of child abuse, neglect and pornography with their county social services office. Contact information for all of the counties is at www.nd.

gov/dhs/locations/countysocialserv. If a child is in eminent danger, call law enforcement directly, Lawrence said.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for

Forum Communications Co.

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