Online diaries or Web logs-"blogs"-are a popular method of disseminating personal opinion and although a "blogger" certainly has the right to free speech, that right does not apply in terms of private relationships. For example, although the government cannot shut down a blog because of anti-war comments, the right to free speech does not prevent an employer who reads the blog from firing the writer. The fact that the blog was written when the employee was "off-duty" is inconsequential.
SIDEBAR: California, New York, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota recently have enacted laws prohibiting employers from terminating employees for actions engaged in during off-duty time and unrelated to the job.
If you are considering creating a blog, follow some guidelines to protect yourself:
Avoid criticizing your employer or fellow workers and disclosing confidential or sensitive information about the company.
Try to blog anonymously through a service that protects the identity of the user.
Limit readers by requiring passwords or allowing only designated e-mail addresses to access the blog.
Exclude search engines from searching your blog domain by using a Robots Text File program.
TIP: The "Robots Text File Generator" tool can be downloaded for free on Web Tool Central at www.Webtoolcentral.com.