Washington Redskins Tight End Chris Cooley apparently (and accidentally) posted pictures from the team's playbook on his blog. The Washington Post quotes Skins Head Coach Jim Zorn:
It "is quite interesting, I think for all coaches in today's technology-sound world," Zorn said. "At any level, not only the NFL level, but at any level there's MySpace, Facebook, there's blogging. I just think it's something that most coaches have never had to deal with or have dealt with. This will be my first experience. There's no rules, there's no laws.
"I think the rule of thumb that I'm going to have to contend with here is that if you have your own blog, and you're putting photos or you're even saying anything, that nothing really should be put in there that has Redskins playbook [on it]. That goes without saying. I think Chris used a little bit of poor discretion using that type of prop, if you will."
As this story illustrates, you can't always trust good intentioned employees to use good judgment, never mind disgruntled employees who want to harm your business. Coach Zorn says that there are no rules, but that does not have to be the case in your organization.
Companies should consider accounting for employee blogs and other social media in overall technology use policies. Do you want employees to blog at all? If not, say so in a policy. If so, consider implementing clear guidelines employees can follow about what they are and are permitted to say.
I also recommend taking a look at Dan Schwartz's (of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog) five tips for drafting a corporate blogging policy:
- Employees can be instructed that they should not comment or use any confidential information about the company or discuss internal matters. (Whether the employee should be allowed to identify the employer is a business decision for the company.)
- Employees should be told that blogs should be done during non-working hours and not using Company resources, unless authorized by the company.
- Employees should be told that the blog should have appropriate disclaimers that indicate that all views on the blog are those of the individual and have not been reviewed or approved by the [company].
- Employees should be told that the blog should not imply sponsorship, endorsement or support by the company, nor should the blog use any logos or trademarks of the company.
- Employees should be instructed that the blogs should not be libelous or defamatory, and that the blogs should avoid being written in a way in which it could be construed as harassing or discriminatory on the basis of a protected category.
Without some clear guidelines in place, employees don't know what's permissible and what's not, and like Coach Zorn, employers feel like they don't have and rules to fall back on. Common sense simply doesn't always work.