I have discovered one of my employees has been keeping a blog - and it has been used to make several disparaging remarks about the company. Apart from being frustrated that these opinions weren't shared with us, I am also worried as several business acquaintances have mentioned the blog to me. How can I prevent this from happening again, and can I sack the employee for this?
You can take steps to protect the hard-won reputation of your company. Internet service providers (ISP) are aware they may be held as the publishers of defamatory comments, leaving them liable for damages in any potential defamation claim, so contact the ISP hosting the blog to make it aware that the blog is potentially defamatory, and request immediate withdrawal of the material.
Although you can stop others reading the comments, this won't compensate for the effect on your company's reputation. A comment is defamatory if it tends to make people think worse of you, and this is what you must prove. You could, therefore, launch a defamation action against the employee, with the aim of receiving either damages, an apology, or merely acting as a warning to employees that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
Your case will be strengthened if you can prove that people such as customers thought less of the business after reading the blog, so approaching those individuals who have read it and getting their thoughts in writing would be a good starting point.
The disciplinary measures you can take will depend on your employee's contract terms. This may amount to an act of misconduct.
Be very wary of sacking the employee unless you are sure you are within your rights to do so. In a recent case decided in France, a British woman, sacked for writing a personal blog, won a tribunal against the company that fired her. The publicity surrounding the tribunal led to tens of thousands of people accessing the blog. Certainly not what the employer wanted.
Alison Henders-Green, partner, Dolmans
Briton sacked for writing Paris blog wins tribunal case