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Unlawful company policies, restricting off the clock lifestyle. California

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  • Unlawful company policies, restricting off the clock lifestyle. California

    I work for a large company which produces audio equipment. They recently released an employee policy update which is a "condition of employment" requiring that all employees (even on their own time and equipment) must refrain from posting their opinions on the company, its competitors, and the consumer electronics industry as a whole. Violation of this will result in immediate termination.

    I can understand the company's reasoning for wishing to protect themselves from false representation by employee's who are off the clock and claiming to have "insider knowledge," but what I can't understand is this:

    How could it be legal for this company, in the state of California, to create a policy that is so general and broad that it requires me to never post my opinion (on or off the clock) regarding a huge industry (the consumer electronics industry) regardless of whether it is related to the company itself, it's competitors, or if I post anonymously.

    This new policy would honestly infringe upon my day to day lifestyle. I know there must be some sort of statute which protects my rights. Where is the line drawn on how far a company can control my behavior while I'm off the clock?

    This reminds me of an article I once read which concerned a company in Michigan requiring it's employees to be "non-smokers" on and off the clock. They were given the choice of quitting smoking or being fired. The company claimed it was an economic decision because the employees would cost the company money by raising medical insurance rates. I believe it was ultimately decided in favor of the employees.

  • #2
    It is legal because there is no law that prohibits it.

    Whether or not the policy is enforceable, however, is another question, and one you will have to take up with a CA attorney.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

    Comment


    • #3
      I can understand the part of the policy where opinions, regarding the company you work for, would be prohibited. Don't just assume that the 1st amendment is applicable when it comes to opinions about your employer, just as screaming at your boss when you do not agree wouldnt be protected.
      But I am curious as to why you wouldnt be allowed to give an opinion on your competitors. "Trash talk", keeping it clean for image purposes of course, as to why your company is a better place to work for, ect... I would encourage. But given the lack of full detail here I guess they are just making it a general rule so it cant be picked apart and abused.
      Your options in the workplace are the three "L's"- Live with it, Lobby for change, or Leave. Screaming for an attorney will do no good most of the time.

      Comment


      • #4
        How could it be legal for this company, in the state of California, to create a policy that is so general and broad that it requires me to never post my opinion (on or off the clock) regarding a huge industry (the consumer electronics industry) regardless of whether it is related to the company itself, it's competitors, or if I post anonymously.

        This new policy would honestly infringe upon my day to day lifestyle.


        Posting/blogging presumably critical opinions on the consumer electronics industry is part of your lifestyle??? Perhaps you should take up a new hobby.

        I know there must be some sort of statute which protects my rights. Where is the line drawn on how far a company can control my behavior while I'm off the clock? No, there isn't.

        If you wish to continue to post/blog, you're free to do so. Your employer is, in turn, free to terminate your employment. Whether you'd have any civil recourse should that happen is something you would need to discuss with a local attorney.

        Comment


        • #5
          The current trend indicates court support of an employer’s decision to terminate an employee who engages in conduct that the employer feels is detrimental.

          Employees whose blogging damages their employer may violate the employees’ duty of loyalty to the company, which includes duties of obedience, confidentiality and loyalty. Insubordination, harmful speech and disparagement of the company or its managers on blogs would likely violate an employee’s duty of loyalty.

          There are recent examples of the perils of employee blogging include a flight attendant posting provocative photos of herself wearing her uniform, a newly-hired employee recording his impressions (including criticisms) of his new employer, and an employee taking the liberty of posting photos of a competitor's computers being delivered to his worksite. In each instance the employee was terminated based on the content of his/her blog.
          So as Beth as stated
          Whether you'd have any civil recourse should that happen is something you would need to discuss with a local attorney.
          But don't count on anything favorable coming your way in this.
          Somedays you're the windshield and somedays you're the bug.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by HateWorking View Post
            I can understand the part of the policy where opinions, regarding the company you work for, would be prohibited. Don't just assume that the 1st amendment is applicable when it comes to opinions about your employer, just as screaming at your boss when you do not agree wouldnt be protected.
            But I am curious as to why you wouldnt be allowed to give an opinion on your competitors. "Trash talk", keeping it clean for image purposes of course, as to why your company is a better place to work for, ect... I would encourage. But given the lack of full detail here I guess they are just making it a general rule so it cant be picked apart and abused.
            I never assumed that the 1st amendment is applicable. I stated that I can completely understand the need to create and enforce policies regarding the company and its direct competitors. What I can't understand, is the need for forcing us to withhold are opinions on a market as large as the consumer electronics industry (as a whole) irregardless of whether it is related to the company's bussiness.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Beth3 View Post
              How could it be legal for this company, in the state of California, to create a policy that is so general and broad that it requires me to never post my opinion (on or off the clock) regarding a huge industry (the consumer electronics industry) regardless of whether it is related to the company itself, it's competitors, or if I post anonymously.

              This new policy would honestly infringe upon my day to day lifestyle.


              Posting/blogging presumably critical opinions on the consumer electronics industry is part of your lifestyle??? Perhaps you should take up a new hobby.

              I know there must be some sort of statute which protects my rights. Where is the line drawn on how far a company can control my behavior while I'm off the clock? No, there isn't.

              If you wish to continue to post/blog, you're free to do so. Your employer is, in turn, free to terminate your employment. Whether you'd have any civil recourse should that happen is something you would need to discuss with a local attorney.

              It's not just critical opinions; it's any opinion in general.

              Let's say I purchased a new digital camera. If I were to post online that I thought the camera was great, according to this policy I would be terminated. Irregardless of the fact that the company has never manufactured a digital camera I would still be expected to adhere to this policy.

              Furthermore, I do post regarding the consumer electronics industry on blogs/forums (IE new games, some computer forums, and news bulletins like digg.com) on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, my minor happens to be computer science (many classes require me to post on academic forums such as blackboard) and it is essentially impossible to follow this policy without changing my minor.

              Finally, technology happens to interest me. If you feel I need a new hobby keep it to yourself. I'm not judging you for being interested in labor law and I'd ask that you return the same respect. I came for a discussion, not a hypocrit making quaint remarks upon what I choose to do in my free time.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mlane58 View Post
                The current trend indicates court support of an employer’s decision to terminate an employee who engages in conduct that the employer feels is detrimental.

                Employees whose blogging damages their employer may violate the employees’ duty of loyalty to the company, which includes duties of obedience, confidentiality and loyalty. Insubordination, harmful speech and disparagement of the company or its managers on blogs would likely violate an employee’s duty of loyalty.

                There are recent examples of the perils of employee blogging include a flight attendant posting provocative photos of herself wearing her uniform, a newly-hired employee recording his impressions (including criticisms) of his new employer, and an employee taking the liberty of posting photos of a competitor's computers being delivered to his worksite. In each instance the employee was terminated based on the content of his/her blog.
                So as Beth as stated But don't count on anything favorable coming your way in this.
                I think you skimmed over my post. I said I completely understand the need for the employer to protect itself. What I don't understand is how they can terminate you regardless of whether or not the opinion was detrimental or even related to the company.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Indeed View Post
                  I think you skimmed over my post. I said I completely understand the need for the employer to protect itself. What I don't understand is how they can terminate you regardless of whether or not the opinion was detrimental or even related to the company.
                  They can because they can. There's no law saying they can't. You'd probably get UC, but still no guarantee.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The policy is probably in response to cases such as the negative publicity behind incidents like the Diebold/CIA scandal on Wikipedia. Just because you don't disclaim anywhere on your blog that you're an employee of that company/industry, it is still possible to figure that information out. It can be potentially harmful to the company from a Public Relations standpoint if you offer any kind of opinion on the industry and it is later discovered that you are an employee of the industry. Because you're an employee of that industry, your opinion or information offered is automatically biased, which gives anyone interested in finding out, the ammo to attack your company.

                    Comment

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