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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blogging! Some Legal Questions

According to Technorati, the "recognized authority" on the World Wide Web, there are currently 112.8 million blogs. Blogs, shorthand for Web logs, were started by reporters during the war in Iraq. Blogs are now becoming as essential to the American workplace as the Internet and E-mail.

There are some very compelling arguments for and against blogging.

On the plus side, blogging is an excellent way of storing expertise, improving internal communication, keeping abreast of professional issues, trends and resources, and blogs are a powerful online marketing tool. Further, blogs are updated on a regular basis and they are cited by search engines.

On the other hand, blogs have already shown themselves to be a danger to employers when sensitive information is leaked to competitors, or when blogs are used to disparage a company, superviors, customers, or other employees.

While some employers have banned blogging altogether the statistical research is clear - that kind of policy is not good for business. Contrarily, "overly restrictive" blogging policies may be in violation of employment laws. Marc Cote, writing for the Washington Law Review, argues persuasively that the National Labor Relation Act protects employee bloggers from policies that discourage blogging. The Act also discourages "individual adverse emplloyment actions against employees who engage in protected employee blogging." The relevant sections of the Act can be found in 29 U.S.C. sections 7 and 8.

Specifically, the Labor Relations Act inhibits an employer from restrictions that "infringe on employee rights to engage in concerted activity for their mutual aid or protection." Congress enacted the NRLA "to protect the right of workers to act together to better their working conditions" whether they are members of a union or not.

The most reasonable solution for an employer is to write a flexible blogging policy with provisions that protect them from any liabilities. To that end, Jennifer L. Parent has assembled a list of "tips" to include in any blogging policy. She also cautions that these kind of policies should always be reviewed by legal counsel.

Cote, Marc. "Getting dooced: employee blogs and employer blogging policies under the National Labor Relations Act. " Washington Law Review 82.1 (Feb 2007): 121(28).

Parent, Jennifer L. "Can employee blogging put employers at risk? New Hampshire Business Review 29.13 (June 22, 2007): 37(2).

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