Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Blogging Dangerously

Heather's in LA (my neck of the woods). I did cruise around her way-cool blog, and I see - it's evident, but she actually does cop to it - that she's a web designer. If she had an employment or severance agreement - which entails a promise of some kind of job security or severance by the employer - this could make a difference, but the vast majority of us knowledge-workers are "at will" employees, who can be fired at any time, for no reason, with no severance, wham, bam, don't let the door hit ya on the way out. You can't be fired because of your race, gender, national origin, disability, religion, age or pregnancy status, and you can't be fired for complaining about harassment or discrimination you may have experienced or witnessed. But, as an at-will employee you can be fired for just about anything else.

There is an exception that might apply here, though. Specifically, there is a gray area that enables someone to sue for wrongful termination if they were let go for reasons that are against public policy. Terminating an employee for exercising a constitutional right - like First-Amendment protected speech - might expose an employer to this kind of liability. The California First Amendment Coalition has a number of resources which could help, including an "e-mail your legal question" feature and a referral system to help find a lawyer versed in First Amendment issues. I woulld also urge Heather to talk to a competent plaintiff's employment lawyer in our area to see what she or he thinks (I am in the process of gathering some names).