COSTLY FREE SPEECH
March 18, 2005
The first Amendment protects speech from government restriction, but it doesn't force companies to employ those who speak freely about them. Private employers in most states are free to fire their employees at will, as long as the firing is not discriminatory or in retaliation for whistle-blowing or union organizing.
With the popularity of Web journals, or blogs, the number of employees being fired for comments made about their employers is on the rise, says Dan Perkins.
- Google, for example, fired Mark Jen for discussing life at the company.
- Flight attendant Ellen Simonetti lost her job after posting suggestive photographs of herself in a company uniform.
- Web designer Heather Armstrong was fired for comments regarding a company Christmas party.
- And Microsoft fired Michael Hanscom for violating security by describing a company building.
According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 7 percent of online U.S. adults maintain blogs, while more than 27 percent read them. Those numbers are likely to increase in the next few years.
And with search engines capable of finding virtually anything on the Web, employees are cautioned to check with their employer regarding the company's policy on blogging before posting to their personal Web site, says Perkins.
Source: Dan Perkins, "Costly Speech," World Magazine, March 19, 2005.
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