You Load 16 Tons…

But do you owe your soul to the company? How far can employers go in restricting their employees’ behavior while not at work? I’ve signed numerous non-compete, non-disclosure, and business confidentiality agreements over the years. This basically amounts to promising not to reveal to the public or others outside the company stuff I’ve been privy to because of working there. Fair enough. I have no beef with that.

However, ESPN has now taken it a bit further. They have issued a company policy forbidding employees “to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms.” This includes things like Twitter and Facebook.

Now I suppose you could argue that on-air personalities who are using social media sites as an extension of their professional audience might be subject to some control. But as I understand it, this is all employees. The policy states, “Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted.”

I would venture that most people who work for ESPN are probably sports enthusiasts. Yet they can’t blog about their fantasy football league or gripe on Facebook about that bad call the ump made last night. That seems overly restrictive. I suppose this is closest to being a non-compete issue. In the same way as I cannot start-up a side business selling product that would compete with my employer, ESPN employees can’t Tweet about sports because it is (sort of) the publication of competing news content. That seems a slippery slope.

I work in the tech field. Should I be prohibited from writing about technical topics here? Would it be less damaging to ESPN if I blogged about last night’s game rather than if the mail delivery guy at their office did?

I grant that the line between many of our personal and professional lives is getting more and more fuzzy. In general, that’s upside for the company as we are often working and responding to company issues in our off-hours. But I can’t abide them now deciding they get to control what I do outside of work with regard to publicly available or personal information and personal opinions. That’s going too far.

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