Best Post for Week of 2/23/2008

February 23, 2008

Perhaps “Best” Post is the wrong adjective this week, but this definitely fits the requirement of “makes me shake my head and say ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ “.  CNN recently fired producer Chez Paziena because of “the nature” of what he had been writing in a personal blog.  The nature of those posts was termed “opinionated” by his boss.  Chez details the events leading up to his firing and it understandably doesn’t cast his former employer in a forgiving light.

Paziena is unfortunately not the first (and probably not the last) person to be fired after their employer discovered something about their extra-corporate life that didn’t quite jive with the corporate strategy.  But how far into a person’s personal life should an employer go to protect that strategy?

  • Scenario 1: Employee Bob is leaking trade secrets.
  • Scenario 2: Employee Sally is trash-talking her employer.
  • Scenario 3: Employee Vance is competing with his employer on the side, thus taking business away.
  • Scenario 4: Employee Anna is a hard-working loyal employee, but her opinions about various topics don’t align with those of her employer.

Of the four scenarios, Paziena most closely fits the last.  It should be clear that the employee would be within its rights to address the situation with the employee in some way (which may or may not include terminating them).

I don’t think the fourth scenario is as clear, even when the employer has a rule “that anything you write for anyone but us needs to be pre-approved”.  An employer can defend themselves from attack, but they can’t dictate what their employees write.  There’s a little bump on that road called the First Amendment.

Even if you totally disagree with me, and back up CNN’s actions, ask yourself this.  Paziena was fired for things that he wrote.  If you agree that an employee can fire someone over something they wrote, how long will it be before someone gets fired for something they read?  “Fahrenheit 451” anyone?


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