Microsoft fires worker over weblog: “Michael Hanscom began keeping an online journal, commonly known as a weblog, several years ago. He started his job as a contract worker in Microsoft’s print shop last year. Last week, he mixed the two. This week, he’s looking for a new job, after becoming an unwilling case study in the fine line walked by corporate employees who write about work in their personal weblogs.”
Termination and unfair dismissal is a pdf from DoCEP which deals with unfair dismissal cases in Australia. What is important is the Federal governments Workchoices legislation excludes many businesses from regulation under this Act; however Unlawful dismissal is covered across the whole of Australia. Unlawful dismissal is what I will be the focus of my next essay; although not from a legal perspective.
Blogging rights (link requires subscription)
The authors point out that private blogs are those that are updated outside of work hours on the employee’s own computer; to update a private blog on a work computer would automatically create a case for the wrongful use of company equipment.
Between 2003 and 2004 the readership of blogs increased 58% to 32 million (quoting Per Internet and American Life Project)
The disclosure of trade secrets is off limits and would qualify as mis-appropriation by an employee.
Disclosure of company rumours on a blog could breach regulations in relation to market disclosure. Such rumours may include resignations or dismissals of key corporate staff where there exists a requirement to disclose this information to regulators prior to release to the market.
Whilst it may be legal to terminate a blogger’s employment, it may be unwise to do so. Staff morale and public perception of the company may both be damaged as a result of a poorly handled contract termination. It is noted that termination may be a particularly unwise move if the company does not have a clear, published policy on blogging practices.
It is noted that a well thought out blogging policy is as important as an email or Internet usage policy, however, a more proactive approach may be to create a “company blogoshphere” where employees can become involved and where the company can exercise some practical control.
The issue this article raises, but doesn’t directly address is what is considered public and private space. Rather than getting to a point where an unfair dismissal case occurs it is better practice to be openly proactive with staff.
Young people are running into trouble with their blogging activities as a result of the way they live their lives: It’s not unusual, this article suggests, for young people to post photos of their graduation alongside party photos; and this, the article suggests, is because young people have a new way of viewing what is sensitive.
The article notes that most companies don’t have blog policies, but many have policies on the use of IM, email, and Internet. The author believes this practice is inconsistent and needs to be addressed by managers.
The first hand account of Ellen Simonetti who was fired for posting “inappropriate” photos on her blog. Simonetti claims to have filed a sex discrimination claim with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Delta Airlines, and despite her best attempts, being unable to find a specific Delta Airlines policy in relation to posting photos or blogging.
CEO of Employment Law Alliance, Steve Hirschfield claims that a poll of 1000 adults, conducted in January 2006, finds that 5% of US workers maintain a blog, whilst only 15% of their employers have a policy directly dealing with blogging practice. The article concludes that there may be as many as 10 million bloggers in the US at the time of the report.
This indicates the potential for litigation and potential conflict between employees and employers is significant, and with the number of blogs growing daily the problem is not about to go away.