Shea Allen was a TV reporter in Alabama who has a personal blog. She was fired after she released a post of “No Apologies: Confessions of a Red Headed Reporter” where she, among other things, admitted she is “frightened of old people,” has “taken naps in the news car,” and that she’ll stop recording if you ramble and she deems you unnecessary for her story but let you think otherwise. You can check of her post for the full list. I’m not sure what to think of her statement that her best sources have secret crushes on her.
Shea’s boss was not impressed and fired her because the post did “irreparable harm to the station’s image.” She did an interview about the situation with Keith Yaskin from The Flip Side Communications and shared her thoughts about what happened here.
Shea doesn’t think that she should have been fired since the alleged inappropriate post appeared on her site where she’s sharing her personal views, and not representing the TV station and because she offered to take the post down once she became aware of her employer’s objections to it.
The First Amendment protects Shea’s right to free expression; however the fact that her statements were not illegal is not enough to keep her boss from firing her, at least if she was an at-will employee. At-will employees can be fired for any legal reason, including the fact that your boss doesn’t like what you posted on your personal blog as long as what you wrote about isn’t protected (i.e., your gender, race, religion, disability, etc.)
Keith hit me up for an off-the-cuff response interview and here’s what I had to say about bloggers like Shea being fired because of their blogs here.
What about the statement that she was just being funny? I believe that was her intent; however blogging gives you a voice but not necessarily a voice tone. You can’t guarantee that what’s funny to you will be seen as such by others, especially when it’s your boss reading about things that you do at work that he/she may frown upon.
I agree with Shea that her situation highlights a “gray area in social media.” It’s because of situations like this that every company needs a social media policy that provides clear dos and don’ts when possible but more importantly provides guidelines for employees when it comes to their online posts, whether they’re using the company’s social media accounts or their own. Companies should remind employees that their posts are permanent and that they should treat each post like a digital billboard that millions of people might see.
I also think that Shea’s confused about the limits of the freedom of speech. It applies to everyone in the U.S., but it doesn’t protect you from all the consequences that may occur because of what you said.
If you want more information on this topic, please check out my newly revised book, The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed.
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