Saturday, February 12, 2005

Fired for blogging!

Once in a while, I come across stories of employess fired for posting blogs that somehow upset their employer.

Ellen Simonetti, a 30 year-old flight attendant in Texas, was suspended without pay and benefits, and then fired by Delta Airlines this fall. She ran a blog, Diary of A Flight Attendent, which contained a mix of fact and fiction but she never mentioned the name of her employer. Still, they fired her over the photos she posted of herself in her uniform, obviously aboard Delta aircraft.

she's trying to get her job back

She believes that she was treated unfairly since there are lots of photos of male Delta employees on the Internet wearing Delta uniforms.

Breakfast in Milan

Simonetti has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This is an excerpt of her story, "I Was Fired for Blogging", posted on CNET, December 16, 2004.

"My name is Ellen Simonetti, but I am better known to Web surfers as the Queen of Sky.

I had been a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines for almost eight years when I started my blog, or online diary, in January of this year. I entitled it "Diary of a Flight Attendant."

On Saturday, Sept. 25, I came home to flashing messages on my answering machine.

"Ellen, I need you to call me back. It's about your trip tomorrow," repeated the urgent-sounding voice on the tape.

The voice was that of a Delta Air Lines in-flight supervisor. I immediately dialed the number on the messages, thinking perhaps my Rome flight the next day had been cancelled. What the supervisor told me, however, left me shocked and sick to my stomach.
The reason I started my blog in the first place was as a form of therapy.

"You won't be able to fly your trip's about some pictures on the Web."

I had to wait more than a week after that phone call to meet with Delta management and find out exactly what was going on. During that very long week, I lived in suspense in my humble Austin, Texas, apartment and prepared for the worst. I assumed I would be fired, so I started consulting with lawyers and other people.

That was when I began to hear stories about people like Heather B. Armstrong, of, who was fired because of her blog in 2002. Then there was "the Washingtonienne," who was fired earlier this year because of comments she entered in her blog.

As my story spread on the Web, I started receiving all kinds of e-mails from people on both sides of the Atlantic that employer blog backlash had gotten to. One, a comedian who wished to remain anonymous, told me she was fired from her day job after making a joke about co-workers on her blog.
I have decided to continue to blog and spread my story about employer blog backlash.

The very first thing I did after the phone call from Delta was delete all of the photographs from my blog that I thought my employer could possibly have a problem with. That included all of the pictures of me and fellow crew members posing in Delta Air Lines uniforms.

It was not until the meeting with human resources and my supervisor on Wednesday, Oct. 6, that I learned the official reason for my suspension: "inappropriate" pictures. The unofficial reason (implied through an intimidating interrogation): blogging.

The reason I started my blog in the first place was as a form of therapy. I had lost my mother in September 2003 to cancer and that hit me hard. It was much easier to write about my feelings than talk about them. Now, my employer was telling me that the very thing that had gotten me through those tough times, my blog, could cost me my career. I felt my rights were being infringed upon. And I decided to fight back.

After that meeting, I went home and got online and found plenty of pictures of male Delta Air Lines employees in uniform on the Web. I then searched for a specific company policy prohibiting posting pictures on the Web or blogging, which I could not find.

I had an excellent employment record with Delta Air Lines and had never been previously disciplined. Therefore, I find it odd that I was not at least given a warning before my suspension. I am still trying to figure out why I was singled out. In fact, two days after that meeting with Delta Air Lines management, I filed a sex discrimination complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Delta Air Lines.

Then, on Oct. 29, 2004, three weeks after I filed that discrimination complaint, I received a call from my supervisor. He advised me over the phone that my employment with Delta Air Lines had been terminated due to "inappropriate pictures in uniform on the Web."

I have decided to continue to blog and spread my story about employer blog backlash. If it is to be defeated, we all have to stand up to this silent and arbitrary foe, one that should never again be allowed to rear its ugly head."

Visit this link to see the CNET article as well as the 91 comments posted by readers. Some are supportive of her and some are not.

fly the friendly skies

Here's a list of persons fired for their blogs, from The Papal Bull blog.

1) Michael Hanscom, fired in October 2003 as a temp at Microsoft for posting a picture of Apple Macintosh G5s sitting on the loading dock at MS.
2) Troutgirl, fired from Friendster for blogs that included references to her work.
3) Matthew Brown, fired from Starbuck's for posting comments about the coffee chain, its customers and managers on his personal blog in September 2004.
4) Penny Cholmondeley, terminated from her post as Nunavut (Canada) Tourism marketing officer after someone anonymously complained about her blog to her employer, which included passing references to the locale.
5) Iain Murray, a Brit working in the US, fired from his post as Director of Research at an NPO in January 2003, apparently in part due to blogging at work.
6) Steve Olafson, fired from his job reporting for the Houston Chronicle after another reporter outed him as the anonymous force behind a blog that was critical of local politicians and other news sources.
7) Daniel P. Finney, also fired from a job as a reporter, but at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month when they discovered he was blogging, in part about his news assignments.
8) Jessica Cutler (Washingtonienne), fired this summer after blogging for a total of two weeks about her sexual exploits with six partners, including a few highly placed government staffers.
9) Heather B. Armstrong, whose experiences as an outed blogger first to her Mormon family, and later to her employer, helped coin the term "dooced." She was fired in February 2002.
10) I have not even been able to find out this man's name, but he was "fired from "UN/CEFACT" (a volunteer organization?) for posting his thoughts on the committee (is this thing a committee or a senseless collection of letters? WTF?) on his blog...
11) Amy Norah Burch, who was fired from her job as undergraduate coordinator for the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University, after "a handful of unflattering references to her workplace interspersed throughout the site’s archives raised eyebrows at the department." May 2004.
12) The story that has gotten so much attention this year, QueenofSky, who was fired from Delta Airlines after she posted pictures of herself in Flight Attendant uniform ("risque" poses?).

Update 1
13) Jeremy Wright was fired from the Health Sciences Centre, a major hospital in downtown Winnipeg, apparently after a co-worker or manager noticed that one of his blog entries referred to surfing the web and blogging for three hours while getting paid... [Thank you to Ryan (Quiplash) and Peter D for pointing this one out to me.]
14) Vibor Kalogjera was recalled from the Croatian embassy after he posted comments "that the diplomatic meetings were boring and that there was no difference between President Bush and the Democratic candidate John Kerry." (You have to scroll to the bottom of the page to see the report about Kalogiera.)
15) Joe (surname?) fired from Waterstone's in Edinburgh for blogging, in part, about his employer, including writing about "Bastardstone’s’ and have a character called ‘Evil Boss’ (my equivalent to Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss – in fact I compared head office directives to being in a Dilbert cartoon)."
16) David Higham, fired from an "anonymous courthouse," although I have not been able to determine what exactly he did that resulted in the termination.
17) Peter Whitney, fired from Wells Fargo-owned brokerage, Ragen Mackenzie, supposedly after a client did a web search for the company name.
18) Rachel Mosteller, fired from the Durham Herald-Sun, for blogging that included references to her editors.
19) Rob Smith, fired from Kerr-McGee, for blogging 'material that was "inappropriate" for a supervisor in their plant." Of course, this guy happens to be a racist wingnut who wrote lots of completely unflattering entries about his ex-wife, who worked at the same plant...
20) Gregg Easterbrook, fired from ESPN apparently for blogging about Kill Bill's producers, noting their Jewish ethnicity and asking "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?"
21) Veronica (surname unknown) fired after someone anonymously faxed her employer (employer unknown) saying he was a potential client and would never do business with a company that employed someone like Veronica and referring to the blog.


My thoughts on Ellen's firing? Presumably, she had the pictures taken aboard someone's aircraft without permission to pubilsh them. If she posed in the company's uniform, then, again, she crossed the line. I can't comment on her fictious writings about her job, since I haven't seen them. So, she crossed the line and used poor judgement. Having said that, the company could have issued her a warning and then dropped the issue once she complied, and everyone go home happy. The company's reaction was a bit heavy handed. If her writings truly were critical of the company, one wonders why she didn't change jobs, then blog about her former employer, using a fictitious name.

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