Monday, June 06, 2005

Blog cartoon

Think again! People are being fired for blogging. I know this is hardly new news, but the fact that an Adjunct assistant professor, whose profession already pays at or below the poverty wage, with no benefits (including no sick leave and no health insurance), is fired for blogging is just .. too .. much.

cartoon linked from here.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

8 Peer Reviews:

Blogger James said...

You're hitting on something that many people assume it protected, but in fact it's not at all.

You have freedom of speech in this country, but that by and large applies to what you can say about the government. Our libel laws are also quite a bit more liberal than you'll find in many other places, England being a good example. But when it comes to saying something about your employer you're subject to the whims of said employer (here I'm not talking about releasing company trade secrets, that's a whole other category of beast) and that puts you in jeopardy as you can legally be fired.

To avoid the potential hassles associated with this there's a lot out there to help the committed blogger, who very much wants to make their work experience a part of their blogging endeavor, to go at this without fewer concerns. I'd recommend going to the following site:

AnonBlog - Global Voices

and look at what's said there, as well as going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (their web site is hyperlinked at the above site) and see what they have to say.

As with most endeavors in life that bring you a modicum of pleasure, you must practice safe blogging if you're going to bear your whatever.

9:37 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

I can understand firing an employee who is releasing trade secrets on the web (these secrets are not theirs to release and thus, they are in a sense, stealing), but firing an employee who is systematically abused and complains about it or who is whistle-blowing is unethical. Especially in this country where losing a job can mean forfeiting health insurance (the number one reason that people stay with a job they hate) and retirement. What happens to these people? They often end up unemployed/underemployed for significant numbers of years in their future, and many lose (almost) everything they own. If employers acted ethically theselves and treated their employees as people, a lot of problems would be solved.


9:53 AM  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

Where's your cynicism, Hedwig? Employers will voluntarily act ethically when the entropy of a closed system decreases.

But for all it's worth, so far the only employer you're badmouthing has no power over you because your contract with it is over. Unless you start bashing your new employers, you'll be safe.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Dr. Charles said...

that's just sad, adding insult to the many injuries of academe... although from the link you posted the fired prof seems to be thriving in a new enterprise!

2:56 PM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Hrm, I thought I was a cynic, Alon? At least, that's what I've been told ..

It's good to see you here again, Dr. Charles, and I agree; this is truly a sad statement about our academic system and the value that we give to our professors (you never see college/university administrators having these sorts of problems, but if there were no professors, there also would be no college/university adminstrators, although I know they would move on and "administer" something else and probably not even notice the difference).


7:30 AM  
Blogger Tabor said...

That is a good link from James...think I will read it before I complain about my current job some more.

7:33 AM  
Blogger James said...

Hedwig, While on some level I'm viscerally in agreement with you, on another I appreciate that legally and ethically it doesn't work as you'd like for it to.

First we have to establish a foundation for the rule of the worker: Your employer can pretty much fire you for any reason shy of one associated with race, creed, or disability. If you're caught bad mouthing your employer on the web, even if the employer has given you rave reviews prior to this, you can be fired for being a malcontent --- the fact is that an employer doesn't have to keep someone they don't like (so long as the dislike is not associated with the aforementioned) and sure and heck doesn't have to keep someone that bad mouths them, even if they deserve the bad mouthing.

Let's address the two cases you raise:

1. Employee who's abused: Instead of blogging they should be talking to a lawyer, or otherwise finding new employment. Someone who's abused merits some recourse to the treatment, but web blog catharsis, especially if it can be traced to them, can get them fired for being a malcontent, as noted earlier. Is it fair? Likely not, but here the onus is on the employee to show that somehow they deserved to blog in a negative way about their employer and that their doing so shouldn't have any bearing on their whether they keep their job --- that won't float.

2. Whistleblowers: Legitimate whistleblowers are legally protected, and once again it begs one to wonder why in the world they'd be blogging vice talking to a lawyer or the appropriate authorities to whom one would whistle to in that situation.

The case of the Phanton Prof is a good one. She has never said that conclusively she can tie her being let go (she technically wasn't fired, her contract wasn't continued, a risk all people in her situation face) due to her blog. The university explicitly states that the blog was not the issue --- now can that be proven? Likely not, and as a rule no one in the situation of the Phantom Prof has the resources to chase something like this down, especially when the university can very likely build a case to show why they had good reason, totally independent of the blog, to let her go. The blog may well have not been the deciding factor in her losing her position, but it may have been the straw that broke the camel's back and what possible legal recourse could one expect to have for such a "straw"? None.

However you cut it, your right to free speech is protected only in very specific situations. When it comes to a job an employer is not expected to have to put up with someone who has bad things to say about the company or them specifically --- if the comments were verbally provided vice through a blog would anyone argue that an employer shouldn't have to put up with that? No, and certainly the courts don't support this. If one wants to vent about their employer they need to do so anonymously, and the site I offered above allows for that. Doing anything otherwise provides fuel to an employer who may be looking for that little extra something to let someone go, and the less one offers against themselves the better in just about any situation I can think of.

8:47 AM  
Blogger roger said...

phantom prof's freedom of speech was not infringed upon or curtailed. she can still blog to her heart's content. her employer, or former employer can't stop that. would you expect to keep your job if you stood just off your employers property and railed at him/her? james has it right. we most of us work "at will." we are not protected in our jobs from firing due to our badmouthing.

of course employers should treat employees decently. if phantom prof had complained about abuse to the relevant public agency she might have been protected from retaliatory firing.

10:41 PM  

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