Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The dangers of blogging, part 549

Petite Anglaise has been sacked for writing her award-winning blog (or “gross misconduct”, as they called it) – and has launched a test case before an employment tribunal claiming compensation of two years’ salary. The Telegraph has more, as does (of all places) The Gulf Times.

It has to be said, I can’t see her winning this one – you write a blog at work, using work computers, in breach of company policy (as I am doing now, in fact), you can hardly complain when they throw the book at you, surely? Yes, it may be an over-reaction to a fairly harmless bit of spare-time musing, but – as bloggers are wont to say all the time when it comes to their comments boxes – their gaff, their rules. It may be a bit nasty of them, they perhaps could have reached a compromise, but it’s hardly cause for compensation, surely? Or am I missing something here?

(I, meanwhile – and without wanting to brag – have recently been offered a pay rise and a decent amount of additional responsibility at work, largely thanks to the blogging. This, in turn, has ensured that I’ve got rather less time for the blogging of late. Life works weirdly – and these things seem to be the luck of the draw.)

Very important note: This is not to say that I don’t have a lot of sympathy and think PA’s former employers are probably a bunch of shits, in case this sounds overly insensitive and leads to a bunch of her many loyal fans assuming I’m trying to flame the poor girl. I’m just not a fan of compensation culture – especially people trying to get compensation when it is they who have done something wrong. I’m also not a fan of people being sacked, but that’s life. These things happen.

Update: More from Petite at Comment is Free, including more detail over the sacking. The lack of warning could, possibly, give her some ground for complaint – although she does note that “a clause about ‘loyaut�’ is included in most French employment contracts”. An odd one…

8 Comments

  1. The irony is that the widespread reports that make the partner who sacked her – helpfully identified by the Daily Mail as James Howes – look like a total arse are probably going to do far more to bring the firm into disrepute than the blog ever did.

  2. IMHO she should get on and be a writer and incorporate her experiences into her writing. Asking for compensation is a nonsense in this type of situation, unless there is evidence she has been seriously victimised. Jonn's is a good point too.

  3. BTW I don't think anyone is going to promote me for blogging, although if it interfaces effectively with my teaching, which I am going to try this autumn, I hope that it might get me a few brownie points from the students. But well done, Clive, anyway.

  4. It's a very bad PR move on her former employers' part, for sure. I can't work out their thinking:

    "Ah, you write a popular blog that receives upwards of 3,000 visitors a day and has been nominated for numerous awards. This blog deals with your daily life. You've talked about your work, occasionally in a vaguely derogatory manner, but never mentioned us as your employers by name.

    "I know – we'll sack you, providing you with lots of free online publicity (judging from previous blogswarms formed around people sacked for their online writings) and also removing the one thing that has stopped you from mentioning us by name, namely your job loyalty and discretion."

    Bloody stupid, if you ask me – but I can't see that they've done anything that they weren't fully within their rights to do.

    She'll come out of this well, I reckon – should do, at least. Her subject matter isn't my kind of thing, but she's certainly a very good writer, and the publicity this will generate should get her noticed by people with the power to commission. Assuming, of course, that she fancies writing professionally…

  5. Aren't you looking at this from a very UK-perspective though? We're not exactly European leaders at employment rights. The French take employees' rights far more seriously and so I'm not sure the case is as clear-cut as you seem to be suggesting. Blogging in her free time at work is not really any different from reading the paper or making personal calls, and it would be pretty unreasonable to sack someone for that. As long as the the blogging wasn't done to the detriment of her actual work (i.e. eating up time when she should have been doing work) then she may have more chance of success.

  6. I'm in two minds. She has posted her photo which, along with the description of her job and domestic life, allowed her to be identified. Nothing wrong with that. But admitting that she skived off work on the "nanny" excuse does look like a sackable offence to me. I'd call that a breakdown of trust between PA and her employers on her part. Sickies really aren't a human right.

    OTOH, they wouldn't know about it except for the blog, and, while I don't know French (or British) law here, the apparent claim that blogging itself is gross misconduct seems shaky.

    So I think she's been foolish. But I hope the court considers that the apparent offence is pretty harmless, there's been no loss of revenue as a result, and her ex-employers acted inappropriately. In other words, I hope she wins at least a moral victory.

  7. Jonn's said what I was thinking at lunch as I read the Indy article, if their concern was disrepute, then they've got it in spades now, although how it would affect their business is unsure.

    The two half days "sick" would be problematic, but not dismissable,t he rest? Not got a point at all.

  8. Congrats on the promotion Clive.