Friday, October 5, 2007

Butt I was doing it on my free time

Findlaw is reporting on the termination of a Virginia high school art teacher who is suing his former employer over his termination after officials learned he moonlighted by creating paintings using his bare buttocks. School officials terminated Stephen Murmer after they saw a YouTube video in which he wore a swim thong and a Groucho Marx mask to demonstrate how he applies paint to his rear and presses it onto a canvas. The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU, claims that Murmer's termination violates his First Amendment right to free expression. According to the lawsuit, Murmer was terminated for art he created on his free time and under a pen name, all of which he kept private from his students. A copy of the Findlaw article is available here. If you are curious, Findlaw links to Murmer's website and the YouTube video.

Employees of private (i.e., non-governmental) employers have much less protection than their public counterparts. Given the explosion of websites such as YouTube and MySpace, not to mention personal blogs, into our collective consciousness, employees should be on notice that what they post is more or less fair game to their employers. If a YouTube video undermines an employer's confidence in an employee, the employer should be within its rights to terminate the employee for that reason, provided the reason is non-discriminatory.

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