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Keying Into Employee Blogs at Work

Advanced technology has both positives and negatives. Case in point: The employees in your company may be using their computers to create personal “blogs.” This practice may seem harmless at first, but employers are now waking up to the potential dangers.

What is a blog? Essentially, it is a Web site journal displaying a running commentary by the author (i.e., the blogger). It may also include links to comments on certain postings. According to a recent report, an estimated 30 million Americans are readers of blogs, while about 8 million take credit for being bloggers.

In a blog, the commentary can cover virtually anything and everything, ranging from personal information to politics and sports to random observations. It requires only basic computer skills, and the necessary software is readily available.

What's the harm if an employee is a blogger? The employee may use the blog for issues relating to his or her employment. He or she could include discussions about the employee's supervisor or co-workers, human resource issues, details of the employee's job and other proprietary information—just to name a few examples. As you might imagine, the repercussions from such disclosures can be significant—in some cases, it could even lead to the downfall of a company.

Increasingly, employers are taking proactive steps to reduce their risks. In several highly publicized cases, employers have even terminated employees for the comments they have posted on their blogs. Other employers are in the process of developing company-wide policies concerning blogging.

Some of the common features of such policies require employees to

*Identify themselves on the blogs,

*Establish that they speak for themselves, not the company,

*State their connection to the company if they discuss employment matters,

*Preserve the confidentiality of sensitive materials and

*Avoid discussions of any customers, clients, vendors, suppliers, etc., without written approval.

These precautions may be especially important to employers in industries that deal with sensitive business information. Develop a formal policy that can stand up to legal scrutiny.

Finally, don't simply turn a “blind eye” to employee blogging. This seemingly innocuous practice could have dire repercussions if you are not careful.

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