Everyone Can Hear You Bitch on the Internet, or Why Communication Policies Need a Refresh

Ann All

I wrote last week about an article on Workforce.com cautioning human resources professionals that they could open themselves up to employment discrimination lawsuits by checking out job candidates on social networking sites like Facebook.


Echoing this item, I found an out-law.com article warning companies that employee posts on such sites, even when done during non-work hours, could create ugly publicity problems -- or worse, potential lawsuits -- for employers. Says employment law specialist Ben Doherty:

... anyone can be a publisher now, at work or at home, and office policies sometimes overlook that. They're too focused on Web 1.0 sites.

An example of the kind of posts that can lead to trouble: More than a dozen UK police officers were issued written warnings after they posted photos and anecdotes about collisions in their work vehicles on Facebook. The officers were part of a larger Facebook group called "Look I've had a Polcol."(Polcol is slang for police collision, according to the article.) Not surprisingly, the group apparently no longer exists.


out-law.com reproduces a portion of Metropolitan Police policy that says staff:

must not use MPS systems to author, transmit or store documents such as electronic mail (e-mail) messages or attachments ... containing racist, homophobic, sexist, defamatory, offensive, illegal or otherwise inappropriate material.

Doherty encourages companies to update their policies to inform employees that they will be subject to disciplinary action if non-work activity adversely affects the employer's reputation. Don't forget to convey updates to staff so that any resulting disciplinary action is "far easier, less risky and less controversial," Doherty tells outlaw-com. Bonus: The article links to a free, downloadable policy that some companies may want to adopt.


Even anonymous Internet activity -- and really Virginia, there is no such thing -- can get folks into trouble, as I wrote back in March, citing the case of Rick Frenkel, a Cisco employee being sued for defamation after two Texas attorneys alleged he harmed their reputations by mentioning them in anonymous posts on the Patent Troll Tracker blog. The attorneys sued not only Frankel, but Cisco, because Frankel wrote that his supervisor at Cisco knew about his posts.


It's a can of exceptionally wriggly worms, to be sure, but one that many companies blithely choose to ignore. While Dell and IBM require employees to reveal their professional affiliations when blogging about topics related to company business, a number of other companies -- including Google, Yahoo and Sun Microsystems -- hadn't yet addressed this issue in their policies at the time I wrote my post.

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Jun 26, 2008 8:23 AM Rick Rick "Fourstrings" Lauzon  says:

Hi! Sorry,  no website, but, I am so surprised to find that this article or "warning" had to be written and then publicised, as for one thing, I am on auctions and selling lists, and my "ad/contract" is written so full of "CYA" statements that I sometimes feel that is one reason why I do NOT sell so greatly or grandeously. I cover things such as "NO RETURNS" for electronic supplies such as :"Pick up's for guitars" and other stringed instruments for the Very Simple reason that some turd out there will kill himself or just shock him/herself trying to do what they do NOT know how to do what they are ordering the pick up for, and they could "buzz" themselves, and sue you for NOT warning them of the hazards of shocks from :"Amps, Guitars, Pick-ups, etc",. and nowhere can you go in the electronic world that has a "RETURN" on electrical parts, as who knows what this buyer knows or doesn't know, so I require that any "pick-up" or other part that is plugged into an electrical source" MUST BE INSTALLED by a Fender Technician, or other authorized Electronic Technician" as I do NOT wish to go to your "funeral" or hospital, or answer a suit for NOT explaining this to you" My Mystery Books like those written by Jonathan Kellerman,& John Grisham are NOT for sale to minors under 15 as it contains graphical grossly described materials written by professional people that are well- known for  writing such imagry that could frighten those minds that are NOT  yet able to handle such imagry, w.o. psychological damage, when a youthful mind is exposed to the materials within. And, "Parents are to detrermine if their minors are able to withstand the imagry described within these horrorific & terrorifying books." So, with these examples I am surely surprised that anyone who deals on the internaet does NOT "C.Y.A." [cover-your-asses"] with these disclaimers. No, I'll bet that I don't sell much of my materials, for there is a "deep -pocket" mentality out there waiting to pick a disabled Vet clean! Bother those Bastards! So, I end up with a sales for 8 years of 330 items, and 98.9 %, feedback, and am not doing well at all, but I cover eBay, Amazon.com, Cris'list, and all others that I know will give birth to a law suit or try to defraud me as one person tried when he tried a "Pigeon - drop" on me when I tried to sell a "Time share in Ft. Myers, Fl." for $2500.00..a rarity of a gift, but a con was waiting, and told me his lawyer demanded that he grab such a piece of real estate, but, when I tried to contact the phone #'s that he said were his and his 2 lawyers in England and in Ga., USA, they were ALL defunct and not working #'s. Plus I wondered why he thought that I would return $4500.00 when he "mistakenly issued a Banque Check " for $6500.00 "by accident", but for being "put out" I  could keep an extra $200.00 if I would send him his change by mail." As Dr. Phil says:"DO I HAVE 'SUCKER' Tatooed ON MY FOREHEAD"???? He ws turned into Interpol; as this was an Inter-country Fraud and con", also I sent the items emails to the www.tips@FBI.GOV" Have a good day, and oh, yes..."Caviat Emptur-in Obverso"..[ Let the seller Beware"].Richard


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