An interesting angle on the story of the Delta Airlines employee blogger fired for posting photos of herself in uniform on her personal blog was reported in yesterday’s New York Times.
The NY Times piece discusses the background to the case and the pending lawsuit the employee, Ellen Simonetti, has now filed against her employer alleging sex discrimination.
The article includes comment on what kinds of photos (note plural: not just one photo) Ms Simonetti posted:
Ms Simonetti has operated a weblog since January, calling it Diary of a Flight Attendant, and she says she did not hear from Delta about the site until after she posted a set of provocative photos of herself in her Delta uniform. In one photograph, her skirt is hiked to mid-thigh as she perches along a seatback on an empty airliner. In another, she is leaning over the seats, her blouse unbuttoned, exposing part of her bra. Ms. Simonetti said she posted those photographs because she thought they made her look pretty.
"Gosh, it’s a little tiny sliver of my bra, it’s not like a bright red push-up bra," she said. "It’s not like I worked the flight like that." But Ms Simonetti said her supervisor called her on Oct. 29 and said she was being terminated for "inappropriate photos in a Delta uniform."
Now that’s a very different impression you get than from reading previous media reporting and looking at the innocuous-looking example photo many media have used (in this BBC News report, for example).
The NY Times article then includes this comment from Ms Simonetti’s lawyer:
"This shows two things. She was not aware of any policy that would provide for termination under these circumstances. And it points to her good faith in being a good employee in following correct protocols and following proper steps to see if there could be an official nexus with her company."
While I have no idea what the lawyer’s talking about in the last part of his quote (he could be a poor PR saying stuff like that), the first part is the interesting bit – the employee says she was unaware of any policy that could get her fired for this reason.
I think it’s crucial to note again that Ms Simonetti was not fired because she blogged. She was fired because, according to her employer, she broke a company policy that had nothing to do with blogging.
Where it grabbed a lot of attention when the story first broke in September was because the medium she used in publishing her photos was a blog.
Nevertheless, this case does throw a spotlight on an ongoing issue that’s been focused on blogs – that of establishing clear polices that set out the ground rules on what’s permitted and what’s not – and adds a further dimension: that of clearly communicating those policies, whether they relate to corporate blogging or any other issue.
So far, Delta Airlines have remained tight-lipped about the whole affair, refusing to make any significant public comment on something they say is strictly a private employer/employee issue. Smart move, in my view, although it looks unlikely it will continue for much longer to be as private as Delta would like it to be.
New York Times | Fired Flight Attendant Finds Blogs Can Backfire (Registration required)
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