Hi! Recently I was talking to a few nurses about my blog. My blog is where I talk about my family and rarely ever talk about work. Well, one nurse told another nurse and before I knew it there were multiple people reading my blog. Many people liked it, saying it was cute. Next thing I know a friend/nurse informs me in private that upper management has a problem with my blog and what is written in it, and are pursuing action. Whatever that means. So, I confront the DON and ask her what the problem is since I do not write about work, and the only thing I wrote one afternoon was, "I'm off to work, I hope we're not short." She said that was slander and action was being taken. She said to me at least 5 times as I was trying to explain myself, "We are never short." She basically wouldn't even let me speak. Does this make sense?
First of all...slander is something spoken, libel is something written. So if she's saying slander then she's probably never actually talked to someone in a legal capacity, because they would know the difference.
If you actually wrote the words "I hope" we aren't short...I'm pretty sure it isn't libel. You have to make a statement, not comment on your feelings, for it to be slander or libel. Also, things phrased as a question aren't usually considered libel or slander. (not that this was a question)
Also...lawyers and hospitals aren't stupid. It would cost them money to pursue something that small...with minimal return. It sounds to me like she's just trying to scare you. Which doesn't say much for her.
I am not a legal person at all, so none of the above can be considered legal advice...just my understanding of the laws and the way corporations work. Grin. Just in case.
Last edit by Halinja on Mar 19, '07
: Reason: clarity
Mar 19, '07
The point is that everyone has a right to free speech. Expressing a concern about work is not slanderous. This is a prime example of how work and corporatism can invade the personal life of the employee. If you were blogging on your office computer they may have a legitimate concern. What you do on your own time is on your own time.
However the pragmatist in me says adopt an anonymous identity, set up a new blog and post an out of business sign at your old site. If you are in a union shop I would call a steward and have a discussion about the issues.
Check out the Electronic Freedom Foundation to see if there are any defenses that you could mount in the event management attempts to discipline or terminate your employment.
<H1>How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)
Published April 6, 2005
Updated May 31, 2005
Blogs are like personal telephone calls crossed with newspapers. They're the perfect tool for sharing your favorite chocolate mousse recipe with friends--or for upholding the basic tenets of democracy by letting the public know that a corrupt government official has been paying off your boss.
If you blog, there are no guarantees you'll attract a readership of thousands. But at least a few readers will find your blog, and they may be the people you'd least want or expect. These include potential or current employers, coworkers, and professional colleagues; your neighbors; your spouse or partner; your family; and anyone else curious enough to type your name, email address or screen name into Google or Feedster and click a few links.
The point is that anyone can eventually find your blog if your real identity is tied to it in some way. And there may be consequences. Family members may be shocked or upset when they read your uncensored thoughts. A potential boss may think twice about hiring you. But these concerns shouldn't stop you from writing. Instead, they should inspire you to keep your blog private, or accessible only to certain trusted people.
Examples of Protected speech
One way to make sure your blog doesn't earn you a pink slip is to make sure that you write about certain protected topics. Most states have laws designed to prevent employers from firing people who talk openly about their politics outside of work, for example. Be warned that laws like this do vary widely from state to state, and many are untested when it comes to blogging.
1. Political Opinions
Many states, including California, include sections in their Labor Code that prohibit employers from regulating their employees' political activities and affiliations, or influencing employees' political activities by threatening to fire them. If you blog about membership in the Libertarian Party and your boss fires you for it, you might very well have a case against him or her.
In many states, talking or writing about unionizing your workforce is strongly protected by the law, so in many cases blogging about your efforts to unionize will be safe. Also, if you are in a union, it's possible that your contract may have been negotiated in a way that permits blogging. Some states protect "concerted" speech about the workplace, which means that if two or more people start a blog discussing the conditions in their workplace, this activity could be protected under local labor laws.
Often there are legal shields to protect whistleblowers--people who expose the harmful activities of their employers for the public good. However, many people have the misconception that if you report the regulatory violations (of, say, toxic emissions limits) or illegal activities of your employer in a blog, you're protected. But that isn't the case. You need to report the problems to the appropriate regulatory or law enforcement bodies first. You can also complain to a manager at your company. But notify somebody in authority about the sludge your company is dumping in the wetlands first, then blog about it.
4. Reporting on Your Work for the Government
If you work for the government, blogging about what's happening at the office is protected speech under the First Amendment. It's also in the public interest to know what's happening in your workplace, because citizens are paying you with their tax dollars. Obviously, do not post classified or confidential information.
5. Legal Off-Duty Activities
Some states have laws that may protect an employee or applicant's legal off-duty blogging, especially if the employer has no policy or an unreasonably restrictive policy with regard to off-duty speech activities. For example, California has a law protecting employees from "demotion, suspension, or discharge from employment for lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer's premises." These laws have not been tested in a blogging context. If you are terminated for blogging while off-duty, you should contact an employment attorney to see what rights you may have.
It would not hurt to mention how in the hypothetical you think that health care facilities should be unionized. (and send a copy of the post to the California Nurses Association or your local state Nurses association.) Because if the manager tries to play a game then you have set the groundwork for claiming it was in retaliation for your expressing your views about the right of free association and collective bargaining. Best of luck!
There are numerous other links posted at this site.
Last edit by HM2VikingRN on Mar 19, '07