‘Blogging’ poses challenge for employers

U.S. study shows millions of people maintain blogs, but vast majority of employers have no specific policy to deal with them

As the popularity of web logs, also known as blogs, explodes on the Internet, few organizations have put in policies addressing work-related blogging, according to a recent study out of the United States.

The study, conducted by the Employment Law Alliance, a San Francisco-based group, found that millions of Americans are maintaining online personal diaries. As much as five per cent of the workforce might have a blog, but only 15 per cent of organizations have specific policies addressing work-related blogging.

“Work-related blogging was once thought to be benign,” said Stephen Hirschfeld, the chief executive officer of the Employment Law Allliance and a partner in the California-based labour and employment firm of Curiale, Dellaverson, Hirschfeld and Kraemer. “But it is now one of the hottest, and most complex and far-ranging issues in the workplace.”

He said blog-related issues cover a broad spectrum well beyond concerns by employers over the web posting of company secrets.

“For example, can the employer regulate off-duty blogging because they believe the content injures the company’s reputation, is embarrassing to the company or disparages a company’s products, management or customers? There is intense debate over blogs, but no debate over the need to have clear blogging policies,” said Hirschfeld.

Survey results

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted by telephone over the weekend of Jan. 22, 2006. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Besides finding that five per cent of U.S. workers maintain personal blogs and 15 per cent of employers have a policy directly addressing blogs, it also revealed that:

•59 per cent of employees believe employers should be allowed to discipline or terminate workers who post confidential or proprietary information concerning the employer;

•55 per cent think employers should be allowed to discipline or terminate employees who post damaging, embarrassing or negative information about the employer;

•23 per cent support fellow workers being free to post criticism or satire about employers, co-workers, supervisors, customers or clients without fear of discipline.

Of employees polled who work for a company with a blogging policy:

•62 per cent said the policy prohibits posting any employer-related information;

•60 per cent said the policy discourages employees from criticizing or making negative comments against the employer;

•58 per cent said the regulations deal with all blogging regardless of content.

The Canadian perspective

Stuart Rudner, an employment lawyer with Miller Thomson in Toronto, covered the blog issue in the Nov. 10, 2004, issue of Canadian Employment Law Today. To view his article, click on the link below:

The blog monster

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