Apparently, we aren’t the only ones interested in what can and can’t be said by former employees. A recent post on The New York Times’ Shifting Careers blog examines just that in a Q&A with a top employment law partner at the firm Bryan Cave in New York. The post examines what, if any, recourse can be taken by an employer if a current or former employee posts their experiences with the company online.
Q. This is a free country. Aren’t ex-employees free to write or say whatever they like about their former employers?
A. People are certainly entitled to voice their opinions about their former employers, even if those opinions are not very flattering. I represent employers, and in the majority of instances when they see something online, I try to get them to calm down and look dispassionately at the facts and who will even read the postings.
But if a disgruntled former employee goes further and accuses a former employer of violating the law or defrauding customers, for example, those statements could likely be considered defamatory if they are not true. Employers also have rights if former employees post leaks about a former employer’s business strategies or other confidential information.”
We couldn’t agree more and state so in our Community Guidelines. Now, this is where it gets good:
Q. What if the postings are anonymous?
A. In those cases, it does get tricky. And it is even harder if a poster contributed to someone else’s site rather than maintained his or her own site. But employers can do a few things. They can contact the site’s service provider and put it on notice about objectionable material.
The attorney goes on to say that the employer can contact the site or take legal action to have the objectionable content taken down. We feel employees should have an anonymous voice to “tell it like it is.” Of course, if an employer feels a post falls outside our Community Guidelines (i.e., it’s bogus, defamatory, includes confidential information, etc.) then they should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve also gone one step further ─ we’ve invited employers to get involved in our Employer Advisory Panel to help us identify and develop the features they need.
The New York Times seems to suggest that blogs and Web sites where current or former employees share their experiences are these dark places for the disgruntled. We couldn’t disagree more. It’s about transparency. People like to make informed decisions about all aspects of their lives – and their work happens to be one of the most important. We have provided a constructive venue where people can share their experiences (both positive and negative) so that everyone is able to make better decisions about their careers. Transparency is a good thing, and if we have anything to say, the focus will change from those employees who have something to say, to those employers who are trying to keep them quiet.