February 11, 2005 1:29 PM PST

Google blogger: 'I was terminated'

Mark Jen was fired for blogging, the ex-Googler confirmed in a Web posting on Thursday.

"On Jan. 28, 2005, I was terminated from Google," Jen wrote on his blog, Ninetyninezeros. "Either directly or indirectly, my blog was the reason. This came as a great shock to me because two days ago we had looked at my blog and removed all inappropriate content...If I was told to shut down this blog, I would have."


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Jen's departure came just 11 days after he joined Google as part of a wave of new hires and began recording his impressions of his new employer, including criticisms, in his blog.

Jen is just the latest employee to lose his job after a clash with management over public Web postings. Other examples include a Delta Air Lines flight attendant who was fired after posting photos of herself in uniform on her blog; a Microsoft contractor who took some pictures of Apple G5 computers being unloaded onto the software company's campus and posted them to his blog; and a Friendster employee who was let go over her Troutgirl blog.

The employee blog issue is doubly sensitive for Google, which became a prominent booster of blogging through its acquisition of Web logging pioneer Pyra Labs in February 2003. The company also has made a point of putting ethics before profits in its business operations, suggesting it holds itself to a higher standard of care for customers and employees.

Despite expressing shock over the dismissal, Jen wrote that he could "see where Google is coming from."

But Jen said that he disagreed with Google's decision, arguing that it is out of step with a trend that will likely grow only more powerful over time.

"I think blogging is the next big thing on the Internet...Corporations should embrace this technology just like the ones before it," he wrote. "Companies that are confident in their offerings should let employees spread the word. In today's age of information overload, blogging is quickly emerging as the fastest and most cost-effective method of marketing."

Google declined to comment, other than to reiterate its earlier statement that Jen is no longer a Google employee.

Blog at your own risk, legal expert says
Christopher Cobey, senior counsel at Littler Mendelson in San Jose, Calif., said that incidents involving blogging aren't really novel. Rather, he said, they simply extend legal concepts and issues that have been on the table since computers and the Internet first entered the workplace.

"This is an outgrowth of the continuing evolution of technology, from Internet access and use of computers at work, to similar problems we've seen with Web sites and e-mail," he said. "What it really comes down to is how people are using them, what they're using them for and how it's affecting their job."

Employers have considerable leeway to discipline employees over any public expression touching on the company's business or reputation, Cobey said. Workers in states governed by at-will employment laws, including California, are most at risk. But even workers covered by collective-bargaining agreements could run afoul of an employer's right to protect the company's public image, if they criticize the company or disclose confidential information.

Anonymity offers little protection if a blogger's identity is uncovered in a state with at-will employment, Cobey said. Nor are bloggers protected simply by conducting their activities from home on their own time, rather than at work during office hours, he said.

"Employers in at-will states have very wide latitude" to fire workers, he said. "Is it always fair or nice? No. Is it lawful? Yes."

26 comments

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Why?
Why do stupid people like to proclaim that fact to the world? If you think that blogs are 'new technology' then it shows you are very technical unsavvy and shouldn't be working in the industry. I think you were the only one surprised that you got fired.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Legal grounds for termination....
So I wonder what were the grounds for termination, if any. I know that many companies have a probation period of 90 days where they can let you go for any reason.

Can anyone in HR land speculate?
Posted by simspot (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Answer in story update
Good question. Since California is an at-will employment state, employers have very wide latitude to discipline and terminate workers. An employee who made any sort of critical comment about the company, or disclosed confidential information, would be fair game, according to Littler Mendelson senior counsel Christopher Cobey. More details about this issue are in the updated version of the story above.
Posted by (8 comments )
Link Flag
HR land
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_s40_v40_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_s40_v40_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Al Johnsons (157 comments )
Link Flag
Though 'grounds' and 'for cause' are certainly wise to help shield employers from frivolous lawsuits and unemployment claims, no 'grounds' are actually necessary to terminate an employee in an at-will state neither before nor after their 90-day probation. An employee can be terminated at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. Conversely, an employee my quit their job at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.
Posted by supermantat (1 comment )
Link Flag
This really shouldn't be a "surprise"
Jen was "surprised" that he was terminated, despite the fact that he revised his blog to remove certain references to the company.

What surprises me, is the fact that he was stupid enough to post CONFIDENTIAL information about the company (in the meetings he went to) in such a public manner! Why didn't Jen post the username and password to his account as well?

Of course, it's everyone else's fault that he really didn't use his common sense when he wrote those blogs, so it should be a surprise that he was fired over (let's say this again) LEAKING OUT CONFIDENTIAL CORPORATE INFORMATION!

Let's get real here. There were two reasons why he got fired:
1) Releasing confidential information
2) Lacking the common sense to do reason #1

IMHO, #2 is probably the reason why Google fired him - and I would agree with that.
Posted by Tex Murphy PI (165 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: Feel sorry for Jen
I feel sorry for Jen not for him getting fired but for his naivete about the business world.
Posted by penguinista3 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What a moron...
The guy, Mark Jen, who got fired from Google deserved it. If he thinks otherwise, he's just a moron. He had been with the company for 11 days and thought he was smart enough to comment on how the company is run. Eleven days? You don't even know where all the bathrooms are by the 11th day.

Blogs are cool, but even in the old days if somebody had been hired at a company and started a newspaper column talking about their new company...bad or good comments, they would have been fired. I hope he didn't expect anything different to happen to him.

He should have waited at least a few months and then posted an anonymous blog. At least he had guts to use his real name...but not intelligence.

Robert Gaustad
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Blogging is a Form of Expression
Google's decision to fire those indiviuals based on there actions was correct in every fashion.

Today's blog's are mainly filled with the everyday live's of ordinary people. Ordinary people with very obscure views about how things "should" and "should not" be in just about every topic you can imagine.

So with that said. When you start trashing your company because of the way you think things "should" or "should not" be, your creating a discomforting workplace for both you and your employer's.

The easy fix to this is to "keep your trap shut" if you like were you work, yet fell it necessary to trashing your paycheck!

For those that never heard this before, listen, "You don't throw stones if you live in glass house!"

Justin
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Form of expression?
Come on!!!

This is NOT a form of expression. It's the same old thing. There is NOTHING special about blogs, for the only exception people are talking about them. The phrase "incredibly average" comes to mind. What ANY blog is, is the exact same thing as any website on the net. I can goto any blog and view it's html code just as I could any website. The content is also the same. When you have a website, you can setup that site to say anything you want. It doesn't even need to be a website, it could be nothing more than a webpage that you create using the small amount of space given to you by most ISP's (often given to setup your personal start page). By it's very defininition....this post is a blog. This post fits all required criteria to be considered a blog. However, CNET does not label it as such.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
obscure views
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_262_264_265_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_262_264_265_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Al Johnsons (157 comments )
Link Flag
obscure views
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_baja_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/subaru_baja_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You...;)
Seems always an appropriate consideration in these situations. If you have criticisms of your employer my advice is to keep them in house; better yet, if you are new to the company I'd keep them to myself until I could verify that they aren't merely misconceptions based on your ignorance of exactly how the company functions.

And if things just seem to you to be intolerable then look for and find another job with a company more to your liking--and then go whole hog with your blog about your ex-boss if you choose...;) Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of your speech, contrary to some popular opinion. I am constantly amazed by the number of people who think that it does--people who ought to know better. So, think first, act later, is my heartfelt advice.
Posted by Walt Connery (89 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Employers Reach further than you think
This seems similiar to the company's who've fired employees for smoking - Weyco in Michigan, and an employee at Miller Brewing Company for drinking Bud Light at a social event, outside company time.

Some companies seem to have a more outstretched reach on you, after you leave the company grounds.

But, I take it as poor form, for this guy blogging negatively about his new employer after only 11 days of employment. Unemployment is high, and many people don't have opportunities to work, let alone be hired to work for an innovative company such as Google.
Posted by A2Panther (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I will try and make it a point to not use Google
I think that its unfair and a company should be exactly what it states it is. So from now on my home page will be either MSN or Altavista whoch should cut down my Google usage at least 95%
Posted by darcydj (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Altavista
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
We can now do something about Google/Yahoo screwing us.
After reading more and more nightmare stories about how people are being screwed
by corporate giants Google &#38; Yahoo, I thank god every day that we have a real alternative
search engine now, which is AnooX (www.anoox.com)

Why is AnooX better than mega Wall Street backed corporate giants Google &#38; Yahoo:

1- AnooX search results are Optimized by majority Vote of the people, that is us, rather
than some silicon valley insider schemes, which are Google &#38; Yahoo methods.

2- AnooX shares its Ad revenues with its search users, that is us again.

3- AnooX Ad rates are like 90% less than Google &#38; Yahoo, because AnooX is essentially
a not for profit company.

Mind you AnooX does not have the luxury of Google &#38; Yahoo of being armed with
Billions of dollars, so it currently runs on few servers and thus its search results are
a wee bit slow and it Indexes home pages of web site, so it is good for finding
businesses. But with our support, it will become one of the top Search engines,
for our benefit. After all AnooX is a people driven search engine, for the benefit of
the people, unlike Google &#38; Yahoo which are for the benefit of silicon valley (wall streets)
insiders.
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No Way
Thanks to your numerous replies in these TalkBalk areas, I tried you so-called 'search engine', AnooX, today and I have to say it returned the worst results I have ever seen for an engine. What you fail to say here is that most voters have a self interest. While Google applies the PageRank algorithm (not perfect, but very effective), your site applies people (which you hope will give honest results above and beyond the failed algorithms you apply initially). Sadly, the people that appear to be voting to 'improve' results on your engine appear to be spammers. Or idiots. Or both.

You've had a year to deliver something good. You and NetDIVE haven't. My recommendation: Pack it in.
Posted by stephenpace (72 comments )
Link Flag
Google & Yahoo
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_740_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/volvo_740_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Al Johnsons (157 comments )
Link Flag
Don't California Statutes Protect You From This?
232.5. No employer may do any of the following:
(a) Require, as a condition of employment, that an employee
refrain from disclosing information about the employer's working
conditions.
(b) Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that
purports to deny the employee the right to disclose information about
the employer's working conditions.
(c) Discharge, formally discipline, or otherwise discriminate
against an employee who discloses information about the employer's
working conditions.
(d) This section is not intended to permit an employee to disclose
proprietary information, trade secret information, or information
that is otherwise subject to a legal privilege without the consent of
his or her employer.
Posted by compossui (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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