Okay, it seems ironic that a human resources professional is talking about blogs, let alone starting her own blog. Isn’t this the stuff that can get you fired? Well, let me assure you, I have a day job and I have no desire to put it at risk (mortgage to pay, cats to feed, etc.) There are ways to blog without putting your job on the line. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has put out a set of guidelines that has some good information, though some of what they say I can’t condone as an HR professional. What I’m very impressed with is the information regarding an employee’s rights in California. Much to my frequent consternation, HR folks outside of California like to refer to those of us who live here as having too many rights as employees. (I don’t know if too many is actually the case, but we have do have a lot). Just keep in mind, that there are also laws working for employers as well.
First and foremost, California is an “At-Will” state, which wikipedia defines as:
In most common law jurisdictions of the United States, contracts of employment without a definite term of service (for example, those employment contracts that are not in writing or part of a collective bargaining agreement) are held to be “at will” which means that the employer may dismiss the employee at any time for any reason. This is in contrast to most other common law jurisdictions (for example, Canada and England) where employment for an indefinite term can only be terminated on “reasonable notice” or for “cause”. As such, in many cases, an American employee can be fired immediately at any time for any reason.
Most employees in California are at-will (public employees are excepted and have a whole other set of rights) and in fact, the only state that does not recognize the at-will statute is Montana. This means that your employer can terminate your employment at any time, for any reason provided it does not violate any federal, state or local laws. This doesn’t mean that they can fire you for blogging. What it does mean is that your employment can be terminated for violations of policy such as blogging on company paid time, for revealing company secrets or representing yourself as an employee of a company and acting in a manner which would violate the company’s policies. If you can stay away from all of that, then you can blog to your heart’s content. If not, the company can justify a termination. Take the case of the flight attendant for Delta who was fired for posting pictures of herself in uniform in a manner considered to be suggestive. Although I might not necessarily take the same actions as Delta’s HR department (I’d consider issuing a warning first), they were justified in invoking their at-will clause, provided that they invoke it consistently to anyone else who does the same (or similar) thing. Consistency is the most important thing in HR. It’s the company’s responsibility to ensure that all employees are being treated in a fair and consistent manner according to company policy and procedure. And it’s the employee’s responsibility to follow that same company policy and procedure. And if everyone does this, then everyone can blog in peace.
Nothing on this site should be taken as advice. It’s just my opinion. I will be putting together a list of resources that can point you in the direction of answers. I’m also going to be keeping on top of any breaking HR news, both locally and federally and posting it here. I’m really looking forward to putting this together.