HR Policies for Employee Bloggers

A recent article in the New York Times entitled “Edwards Learns Blogs Can Cut 2 Ways” drove home the importance of having HR policies in place to cover internet activities of employees. There have been some very public terminations in the past which have created controversy and embarrassment for the companies involved.

One need only view the July 20, 2006 article on Lawyers.com entitled “Reed Smith Launches Women’s Career Forum and Sacks Female Blogger” which was subsequently republished on “Real Lawyers Have Blogs” and elsewhere on the web, to understand the possible embarrassment and legal liability which can occur in the absence of a sound, well-written policy and appropriately educated staff.

The legal liability of blogging is the subject of an article by Lawrence Savell of Chadbourne & Parke. And as mentioned in Larry Bodine’s article mentioned later in this post, it raises more questions than it answers. But one answer is clear: a written policy is a must nowadays. If you haven’t dusted off your employee manual in a while to take the world wide web and internet activities into account, the time has come.

One resource to assist employers is the ePolicy Institute. Their stated goal is “helping employers limit eRisks through the development and implementation of effective eMail, Internet, and software policies.” Toward that end they offer several comprehensive publications.

There’s also a great press release on the web site of the American Management Association. In this eye-opening release, the author explains why the First Amendment does not protect an employee from being fired for what they write on a personal blog, even on their own time.

IBM has been applauded for their blogging policy, as has Sun, Microsoft, and others. It’s summed up well on Larry Bodine’s LawMarketing Blog post entitled “The Definitive Blogging Policy.”

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