Preventative measures to forestall the need for "doocing".
By now, most employers know that a "blog" is a regularly updated on-line journal of information and opinions, some employers know that the term "dooced" refers to being terminated for inappropriate blogging about the workplace, but few employers understand how to deal with the potential legal risks of employees blogging on the job. These risks include harassment, disclosure of confidential information, disparagement and privacy issues.
Exposure to these risks is rapidly increasing, given the growing popularity of blogging. According to an article released earlier this year on Forbes.com,1 as much as 5% of the United States workforce maintain personal Internet diaries, 16% of whom have posted information that could be considered negative or critical regarding their employer, supervisor, co-workers, customers or clients. However, only 15% of employers have put specific policies in place to address work-related blogging.
Although to date there have been no reported cases dealing with a "dooced" employee, most of us are familiar with clashes between workers and management in companies such as Google, Delta Airlines, Microsoft and Friendster. Each of these companies has been faced with very public employee terminations as a result of employees posting inappropriate content and disparaging remarks on the Internet. In an effort to prevent such issues and manage employee blogging, employers effectively have two choices: (1) ban all blogging at the workplace; or (2) create and enforce a clear policy with respect to the use of blogs by employees. Given that the former option is difficult to monitor, most employers opt for the latter. The Forbes.com article suggested that blogging policies should contain at least the following provisions:
Blogging may not be done on company time or with the use of company computers.
Bloggers must comply with all of the company’s policies, including, but not limited to, the code of conduct and the discrimination and harassment policies.
Blogs are individual interactions, not corporate communications, and employees must not represent or imply that they are expressing the opinion of the company. Bloggers are personally responsible for the content of their blogs.
Never disclose any confidential or proprietary information concerning the company.
Respect yourself, your co-workers and your company. Do not put anything on your blog that will embarrass, insult, demean or damage the reputation of the company, its products and customers, or any of its employees.
Not only is it important to implement policies incorporating such guidelines, appropriate employee training must also be provided. Employees should be made aware of the existence and content of these policies and their obligations to uphold the employer’s reputation, refrain from posting disparaging remarks, maintain a harassment-free blog and ensure that an employer’s confidential information is kept secure.
1 Leblang, Kevin B, "Protecting Employers Against Bloggers" Forbes, (February 2006) online: Forbes.com
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