Saturday, July 08, 2006


by pam ashlund

Amazing how quickly employment law can be formed. It all seemed so simple, thou shall not write about work on the web (I better write that on the blackboard a 100 times). The blog Dooce became famous when Heather Armstrong, the blog’s creator, was fired for publishing gossip about her employer. She now has her own catch phrase: To be "dooced" is to be fired for writing a blog.

This from Heather:

"I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID (emphasis added). Never write about work on the internet unless your boss knows and sanctions the fact that YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT WORK ON THE INTERNET. If you are the boss, however, please don’t be a bitch and talk with your hands. And when you order Prada online, please don’t talk about it out loud, you rotten whore (emphasis mine)."

Looking more like Sarah Jessica-Parker in Sex in the City than a web rebel, Heather Armstrong defies being reduced to a stereotype. I’ve taken a few peeks at her blog site and don’t really see more than any other mommies personal diary (sorry Heather), BUT, she holds a place in history and although I wasn’t fired for writing a blog, I WAS “counseled”!!!!!! Just for her gutsy stupidity, she will always be my role-model.

In the shadow of Enron and other scandals, corporations all over the country are rolling out policies. Mandated by Sarbox (or SB1262 for nonprofits) these policies ensure that an employee will NOT suffer retaliation. Okay, this is the good part: blogging about work will get you fired, whistle blowing won’t get you fired, therefore, whistle blowing about your company in a blog will…. Nobody has tested it yet, but I can NOT wait.

Also see followup article: Whistle-Blogging Part II

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Albert Ruesga said...

This is an important issue, Pamela, and I too urge caution. Not too long ago, I started blogging anonymously, not about my workplace but about my industry. I always did this with heart in hand. Because I was "outed" on that blog, I decided to blog under my own name, with the full knowledge of my CEO and with all the usual legal disclaimers. I still feel existential dread each time I push the "publish this post" button.

It's part of the essence of blogging to be provocative in some way -- at the very least to provoke reflection. But the more you move in this direction, the closer you come to violating the unwritten rules of "message discipline."

Let Heather's example be a warning to us all, without, I hope, turning the Blogosphere into yet another source of irrelevant and uninteresting discussion.

Ken G. said...

This is one of the dangers of the modern age. I also blog about the nonprofit sector, and while most of my posts are pretty non-controversial (funding tips, resource links), I sometimes wonder if certain posts will come back to haunt me professionally.

It's just a sick part of my personality, I suppose, but I really don't care. If a client fires (or "counsels") me about something I've written, then I really don't want them as a client anyway. The worry is that a funder will hold something I've written against the client who stuck with me.

(Side Note - Years ago I was a whistle blower in the more traditional sense. Long story, but that's basically why I switched from the public sector to nonprofit.)