Blogging While (Publicly) Employed: Some First Amendment Implications

Paul M. Secunda

Marquette University - Law School

January 16, 2009

University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2009
Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 09-04

While private-sector employees do not have First Amendment free speech protection for their blogging activities relating to the workplace, public employees may enjoy some measure of protection depending on the nature of their blogging activity. The essential difference between these types of employment stems from the presence of state action in the public employment context. Although a government employee does not have the same protection from governmental speech infringement as citizens do under the First Amendment, a long line of cases under Pickering v. Bd. of Education have established a modicum of protection, especially when the public employee blogging is off-duty and the blog post does not concern work-related matters.

Describing the legal protection for such public employee bloggers is an important project as many employers recently have ratcheted up their efforts to limit or ban employee blogging activities while blogging by employees simultaneously continues to expand. It should therefore not be surprising that the act of being fired for blogging about one's employer has even led to a term being coined: "dooced." So the specific question that this essay addresses is: do dooced employees have any First Amendment protection in the workplace? But the larger issue examined by implication, and the one addressed by this Symposium, is the continuing impact of technology on First Amendment free speech rights at the beginning of the 21st Century.

This contribution to the Symposium proceeds in three parts. It first examines the predicament of private-sector employees who choose to blog about their workplaces. The second section then lays out the potential First Amendment free speech implications for public employees who engage in the same types of activities. Finally, the third section briefly considers a potential future trend in this context from Kentucky involving government employers banning employee access to all blogs while at work.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: blogging, work, public employment, First Amendment, free speech, dooced, technology

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Date posted: January 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Secunda, Paul M., Blogging While (Publicly) Employed: Some First Amendment Implications (January 16, 2009). University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, 2009; Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 09-04. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1329052

Contact Information

Paul M. Secunda (Contact Author)
Marquette University - Law School ( email )
Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
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