March 8, 2005 4:00 AM PST
FAQ: Blogging on the job
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that blogging isn't singled out for special treatment in those state laws. "The broader issue is, 'Can your boss fire you for something you do in your private life he doesn't like?'" Maltby says. "In five states he can't. In 45, he can." (The Michigan legislature soon may consider a similar measure.)
That sounds pretty broad. Are there any limitations on an employer's ability to fire me?
Aside from the ones mentioned above, the general rule in the United States is that you can be fired for anything other than an impermissible reason such as your race, sex or sexual orientation. If you happen to disclose your religion or sexual orientation on a blog and you're fired as a direct result of that disclosure, you might have a case. Organizing a union through your blog also is protected under federal law.
What about the First Amendment? Doesn't that protect me?
Not if you're working for a private employer. Read the text again: It says "Congress shall make no law" that abridges "freedom of speech, or of the press." That doesn't say anything about private employers. The First Amendment protects you only from censorial governments.
Are there any court decisions involving bloggers being fired?
A Lexis search through federal and state cases didn't turn up any to date.
What if I'm a union employee? Do I have more protection?
Yes. Union employees generally are protected from being fired without "just cause." Translated, that means you would have to do something pretty evil on your blog--like divulge confidential company information.
How about if I'm a government employee, for example, in the federal civil service?
"A government worker who's at home maintaining his or her own Web site doesn't lose their rights simply because he or she is a government employee," says Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union. But Steinhardt cautions that if you're spending a lot of time at work on personal business such as updating your blog, that's a different matter.
Can high school students be disciplined for the contents of their blogs published from a home computer?
Students at government-run schools have been disciplined for this kind of activity before, but the school district may back down when lawyers get involved. "A high school student who produces electronic speech off-campus ought to be protected," Steinhardt says. "If you're using the school's computers, it's a different matter."
Can I blog anonymously?
Of course. If you do that, though, and ruffle enough feathers, your
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