Monday, August 08, 2005

Employment Law Meets Blogging

Employment lawyers across the nation will see the increase in popularity of blogs as another opportunity to "sell" business owners and companies on establishing a "blog policy." Employers need not jump at every new technological development (or any other development for that matter) and establish a new policy that is as confusing as the other hundred or so policies the company already has in place. But the discussion of establishing a blogging policy is a good reminder of policies that employers should have (and hopefully are well drafted to already cover issues like blogging).

MSN published a great article about whether employees can be fired for blogging (click here for the article). Also, many blogs picked up a story about a Delta Air Lines flight attendant who was fired when the company found "inappropriate" pictures of her in her uniform posted on her blog.

Contrary to the hype blogs have recently received, blogs are not a vastly new means for employees to publish information about their employers - people seem to forget that web-sites have been around for 10 years now. If a company did not have a policy regarding employee web-sites - why would it now need a policy on employee blogs?

Employer's policies should be well drafted and give the employees an overview of what type of behavior - during and off work is expected of them. Remember, employers cannot control employee's behavior when they are not at work, but employers usually can terminate/discipline employees for posting negative information about the company (or company trade secrets) on the internet even if the employee posted the negative information on their own time from their home computer. The term "usually can" is used in the previous sentence because employers must be careful not to terminate employee's because they have "blown the whistle" about the company's possible violation of laws - this could set the company up for a wrongful termination lawsuit. In addition, California law protects employees' rights to certain communications. For example, Labor Code section 232 prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining or discriminating against employees who disclose the amount of his or her wages. Furthermore, courts have also said that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects certain employee activity, including participating in a group discussion about the fairness of compensation (note that employees do not have to be a member of a union to have protection of the NLRA).

Employers should review their current policies to make sure that the policy complies with the law and provides the employees with notice of what is appropriate behavior and what is not. However, employers should consult an attorney before implementing such a policy to avoid potential pitfalls.

I know you are now curious to see the pictures that Delta felt were inappropriate. If so, click here.

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