Should you be fired for blogging?

A visitor to this blog alerted me to a very interesting story happening in Wales. A government employee was fired when it was discovered that he was blogging about coalition negotiations.

What’s interesting about this story is that, according to numerous people, his blogs were neutral and rational. According to the government, he broke several codes, including one that stipulates you should not use information obtained in your job to further private interests.

People are lining up on opposite sides. One group says that his blogging about politics, under any circumstance, was wrong because of his job. Others are saying the government was far too heavy-handed in its decision, since his blog was fair and neutral. The case is being taken to an Employment Tribunal. Here is one blogger’s take on the situation.

There are many examples of people in the United States fired for blogging too.

  • Ellen Simonetti – Former Delta Airlines flight attendant
  • Mark Jen – Fired from Google for blogging about Google (some of it was negative)
  • Chez Pazienza – CNN producer fired for blogging. He says it was because his blog had a strong liberal bias, and CNN does not want its journalists breaking neutrality. CNN says it is because he did not ask permission to write for another outlet. (Interestingly, he was later denied a job from Gawker also because of his blog)
  • Jeremy Wright in 2005 – For “divulging company secrets” in a blog
  • Drew Townson – This one is the most fascinating to me. He says he was fired for blogging after just five posts. The company lists other reasons. You should check out the entry from right after he was fired (March 18, 2007, I believe). Quite interesting.

There are many more examples, but I need to go to sleep at some point tonight!

Personally, I think that if a person is writing a vulgar blog that can make the company look bad, if they are criticizing the company, or if they are blogging company secrets, then a firing is justified. I mean, if you show up drunk to a company meeting, you could get fired. Or if you insult your boss, you can get fired. So if you do the same thing online, the same thing can happen.

BUT… If your blog is totally innocent and has nothing to do with your job, can there still be harm? What do you think? In what situations is it fair to fire someone for blogging?

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10 responses to “Should you be fired for blogging?

  1. Heh, The Montreal Gazette once called me Montreal’s angriest blogger for talking some serious smack about Heroes. But I also talked some serious smack about my firm and some of my clients (without ever mentioning company names mind you) I guess I’m just lucky no one has ever found my blog yet 😐

  2. My blogging and political activities are also why I’m back in Indiana to finish my degree instead of still working in DC. I still have to be careful about what I write though… I’m not allowed to talk about all the BS that happens in the government.

  3. -Dave – Montreal’s angriest blogger? LOL! That must have gotten you some additional readers!

    – Kevin – I’ve had family who worked in the government, so I have some idea what you’re talking about.

  4. When I blogged about a client and project we did at work, I told the company and gave them a preview of what I was going to write. I think doing so forced them to think about what their policies were before something was published. This meant I got constructive advice on how to keep my intent, keep my job; but also still post it. The company appreciated the heads up and recommended some tweaks in the language that didn’t affect my meaning at all; but gave them some clearance if anything bad appeared as a result.

    They now seem happy to separate a personal blog from a business blog; but any company will think bloggers are walking a thin line. If it was my company, I’d be pretty tense about employee blogs too.

  5. I would go back to anonymous blogging in a second. I felt pressured to put my name out there to advertise an essay I wrote in an anthology, plus a couple people had made comments (not even directed at me, but I’m so sensitive) about people commenting and being cowards for not putting their name on it.

    In retrospect, I wish I’d’ve stayed anonymous. I’m pretty open and honest either way, but I would’ve liked to have stayed completely anonymous. It gives one the freedom to be completely honest.

  6. I tend to think along the same lines as you. I have a friend who is a journalist who blogs anonymously online. He’s not supposed to have a blog at all, apparently. He uses it to make all the political and social commentary that the editors would never allow him at work. If they found out, he could theoretically be fired.

    But in his case, I would consider it quite unfair. There is no way to associate him with his particular paper, so why should they care? He is expressing his personal views without getting them involved. He’s been going for several years without incident.

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  8. Typhoon – That is a really great, wise way to handle the situation. I bet a lot of people wouldn’t think of approaching their company first. Good call!

    Kaylee – Welcome back! 🙂

    Janna – Yea, being your own boss takes care of a lot of issues, doesn’t it? It’s pretty nice. 🙂

    Spy – I can understand wanting to stay anonymous. I actually considered doing an anonymous blog too. But because of my business, I decided to have my name attached to it. But it does limit some things I’d be tempted to write about. 🙂

    Janet – Interesting anecdote. I agree, since his blog is anonymous, it would be unfair for him to be fired for it.

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