Can Workers Be Fired for Off-Duty Blogging?

For most jobs — maybe not mine — you can probably be fired for blogging during working hours unless the boss approved it as a work-related activity. But what about off-duty blogging? On controversial topics? This interesting article from today's New York Law Journal looks at the rights of bloggers (especially bloggers in New York) relating to their jobs.

And New York has some interesting relevant law,

In New York, an employer may not discharge, discriminate against, or refuse to hire employees because of their participation in “legal recreational activities” off the employer's premises during nonworking hours unless the activity “creates a material conflict of interest related to the employer's trade secrets, proprietary information or other proprietary or business interest.” N.Y. Lab. Law §201d(2)(a)©, (3)(a). The statute defines “recreational activities” as including “any lawful, leisure activity, for which the employee receives no compensation and which is generally engaged in for recreational purposes, including but not limited to sports, games, hobbies, exercise, reading and the viewing of television, movies and similar material.” Although very few courts have interpreted this statute (and none have applied it to blogging), courts that have analyzed the statute have declined to give “recreational activities” an expansive interpretation. See, e.g., McCavit v. Swiss Reinsurance America Co., 237 F3d 166 (2d Cir. 2001) (holding that dating is not a “recreational activity” protected by the New York legal recreational activities statute).

Employees can be expected to argue that blogs that may be offensive or embarrassing to the employer are lawful recreational activities under the law. Employers, however, can be expected to press for a narrow interpretation of the law that recognizes the employer's right to manage its business and protect its reputation and confidential information.

There's lots more where that came from.

Update: Ack! It's behind a paywall. I try never to link to stuff like that if I can avoid it, but now that I've posted this, I don't think I can very well take down this item.

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One Response to Can Workers Be Fired for Off-Duty Blogging?

  1. Just type, fired for blogging, in a search engine to view a list of those claiming it happens. I am more concerned about the one-sided advantage of the employment-at-will doctrine. Even more disturbing than that is checking your free speech at the door. Of course, before I knew that to be the case, it was a problem; not so much anymore. Unless I simply consider that it is not right.

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