Skip to content

Blog-related firings prompt calls for user policies

March 20, 2005

The Contra Costa Times has a piece this morning summarizing a series of firings resulting from employee blogging and why that requires employers to formulate blog policies (sub. req’ed.)

Though sensationalizing things a bit but the article makes a few good points to take away – especially for lawyers who have no idea what blogging is who will be asked to draft one sided blog policies for employers.

  • Many companies have Internet guidelines that prohibit visiting certain Web sites but few policies directly cover blogs, or Web journals, particularly those written outside of work hours.
  • As Heather Armstrong, a Web designer fired for commenting on her blog about goings on at work and interviewed for the story said ‘There’s this power of personal publishing, and there needs to be rules about what you can or cannot say about the workplace.’
  • With search engines making it easy to find virtually anything anyone says in a blog these days, companies are taking notice — and taking action.
  • Blogs are less formal so employes are more likely to say something that would offend their employer.
  • Employees do not understand the First Amendment doesn’t protect their job. The First Amendment only restricts government control of speech. Private employers are free to fire at will in most states, as long as it’s not discriminatory or in retaliation for whistle-blowing or union organizing.
  • There’s a need for employers and employees to have open communications about blogs – employers do not understand blogs and the good that may come from them.
  • A few companies actually do encourage personal, unofficial blogs and have policies defining do’s and don’ts for employees who post online. They recognize that there can be value in engaging customers through thoughtful blogs.

I agree with the less alarming – let’s use a little common sense approach mentioned by these folks in the article

  • Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li who says ‘There’s always a risk, but you always have that risk anytime you put an employee on the phone.’
  • Anil Dash, vice president at blog software developer Six Apart Ltd., said publicized firings have been generally not over blogging but over other violations that happened to be done through blogging.

Lawyers have an awful reputation. Blogs may be the best medium to come down the pike to improve the reputation of our profession. I hope lawyers, who have so much to gain from blogs, do not go out and try crush well intentioned employee blogs by drafting draconian blog policies.

Posted in: