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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Boss says soldier's wife not fired for blogging

I wrote about this for this week's paper, but we didn't have room for it, so I'm publishing most of my story here. Despite what I've said before, don't count on seeing this in the Burlington Free Press. When I spoke to Sarah's former boss, he said he'd spoken to Sam Hemingway. He said Sam told him he "didn't see a story here." I called Sam yesterday, and he refused to say anything at all about the story. So here's what I know:

Blogging has few hard-and-fast rules, but one of them is this: Be careful what you say about your job. A Vermont woman learned that lesson last week, when she was fired after writing an account of a conversation with her boss...

There had been no reported cases of blog-related firings in Vermont until last week, when “Sarah" posted her story to the public blog she shares with her husband “Roger,” a Vermont National Guard soldier stationed in Iraq. They don’t use their last names on their site, nor reveal their occupations, and they’re not eager for publicity. Since their identities aren’t important to this cautionary tale, their last names and occupations have been omitted here as well.

Sarah also says she would prefer to keep the address to her blog private, so it doesn’t appear in this story. But because the couple has not restricted access to their blog, it remains in the public domain and is accessible through search engines such as Google.

On August 31, Sarah reported on her blog that she had asked her boss for money to ship Roger’s bicycle to Iraq. When he refused to give her the full amount, Sarah felt betrayed. Their conversation, she writes in an explicit, unflattering account, was “very unpleasant. I felt like a beggar child, humiliated for asking for support . . .”

On September 6, Sarah was fired. In her blog post that day, she attributed her dismissal to what she’d written. She wrote that her boss told her, “If you think you can post to a public site and say things like that, then you no longer need to be working here.’”

Sarah’s account of this situation outraged her readers, who left comments calling the boss “a jerk.” Other blogs — including Seven Days’ 802 Online — spread the story. Burlington filmmaker and blogger Bill Simmon linked to Sarah and Roger’s site, telling his readers, “This sucks, and should be illegal.” Frank LoPinto, of The Cool Blue Blog, excerpted Sarah’s entry and punctuated it with his own comments, including his description of her boss as a “bastard.” “Way to go Boss Man,” he wrote. “Nice way to support the troops.”

But her former boss, who has also requested anonymity, disputes Sarah’s claim. He says her blog had nothing to do with her dismissal. He claims he didn’t even see it until after he’d fired her. “She was fired because of an extremely offensive and morally damaging email she sent from her company email address on company time,” he says. Sarah has admitted to sending an email about their conversation from her work account.

Since her former boss fired her, he has read her blog, and disputes her characterization of him. “I’m portrayed as a rather selfish, heartless individual,” he says. “What you’ve heard is far from the whole story.”

Neither party is willing to tell the whole story, so rumor and speculation fill the void. And that’s a hazard of the blogosphere, where stories can spread as quickly as a blogger can link to them. The only way to stop them is to not put them out there in the first place.

Veteran bloggers such as Fairlee resident Jeff Soyer, of Alphecca, have figured that out. “I’ve always kept my job and family out of Alphecca,” he writes in a post about Sarah's unfortunate situation. “You all know the horror stories of folks who haven’t.”

September 13, 2005 at 11:01 AM in Got blog? | Permalink


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'member that VT blogger who was fired a coupla weeks ago allegedly for blogging about work? Here's what I said about it:Yes, it's a bit dumb to blog about your employer, and while Sarah and Roger don't use their last [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 13, 2005 11:38:48 AM


The main problem that I've found with weblogs, especially with things like this is that you only get one side. Newspapers and other sources that are similar would do more research into an issue, finding both sides to a story.

Posted by: Andrew | Sep 13, 2005 9:57:57 PM

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