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NEW YORK — Saying surfing the web is equivalent to reading a newspaper or talking on the phone, an administrative law judge has suggested that only a reprimand is appropriate as punishment for a city worker accused of failing to heed warnings to stay off the Internet. Administrative Law Judge John Spooner reached his decision in the case of Toquir Choudhri, a 14-year veteran of the Department of Education who had been accused of ignoring supervisors who told him to stop browsing the Internet at work. The ruling came after Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired a worker in the city’s legislative office in Albany earlier this year after he saw the man playing a game of solitaire on his computer. In his decision, Spooner wrote: ”It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work.” He added: ”For this reason, city agencies permit workers to use a telephone for personal calls, so long as this does not interfere with their overall work performance. Many agencies apply the same standard to the use of the Internet for personal purposes.” Spooner dispensed the lightest possible punishment on Choudhri, a reprimand, after a search of Choudhri’s computer files revealed he had visited several news and travel sites. Martin Druyan, Choudhri’s lawyer, called the ruling ”very reasonable.”

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