Setting the Standards for Employee Blogs
Employers have to stay flexible to keep up with the changing technology available in the workplace. Case in point: Your company may permit, or even encourage, the use of blogs published on the Internet by employees. These journals can be:
- Sponsored by a company and used to reflect work collaborations, new developments
Employer Blog Risks:
A Few Questions to Ask
Protection of Intellectual Property – What happens if employees intentionally or unintentionally disclose trade secrets or leak critical information?
Copyright issues – If the employee contributes to a blog during work hours on a company computer, who owns the copyright?
Libel and privacy concerns – Blogging employees might write something defamatory about the company or others. Or they may reveal damaging personal information about employees or customers. What is the company’s liability?
Evidence in litigation – Blog content can be potentially used as evidence in lawsuits, just as e-mails and instant messages can. Is your company archiving blog entries in case you are asked to produce them?
and other points of interest. In these cases, a blog can improve customer and employee relationships, result in increased sales, and position companies as experts in their industries.
- Set up by employees — in some cases, anonymously — and used to complain about a company’s management and reveal insider secrets. In some cases, blogs can deteriorate into attacks against the business by disgruntled employees and provide inappropriate, inaccurate or misleading content.
There are now millions of blogs. And along with them, corporations are navigating some tricky waters.
The potential for liability stemming from blogs indicates that companies should develop definitive policies. A well-defined blog policy should address the following issues:
- Corporate disclaimer – The employer should indicate that employee blog opinions are their own and that they assume personal responsibility for the comments.
- Confidentiality agreements – Bloggers must comply with established policies relating to trade secrets and proprietary information.
- Copyrights and trademarks – The policy must indicate the penalties for infringement and establish when employees are permitted to use the company logo and trademarks.
- Content matters – In clear language, the policy should prohibit employees from using the blog for attacks on the company, its employees and competitors, as well as related products and services.
One firm tells its employees that “blog postings may generate media coverage” and advises them to contact the public relations department before giving out any company information.
Finally, employers should define the times when blogging is permitted (at work or after-hours), and the type of conduct that could result in penalties — and possibly even suspension or termination of employment. Your attorney can help you craft a policy that will stand up to legal scrutiny.