What We Put on the Internet: Infertility and Employment
The Daily Dot had an interesting post yesterday about getting Dooced for what you write online. In other words, losing your job over your Internet musings. Some of the examples were blog posts, others were Tweets or Facebook updates. The point is to be careful about what you put online. It’s not just complaining about another person or uploading pictures of yourself drunk on Facebook; the Daily Dot article even covers people who didn’t get a job because the writing they placed online wasn’t up to snuff for a position that relied heavily on a person’s writing style. His tweets were deemed “banal.”
Which brings us to the topic of infertility.
Image: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr
We know from the EEOC that there are protections in place if your employer discovers that you are doing fertility treatments either because you give your employer that information or they discover that information inadvertently. Infertility is protected as a covered disability.
But what about when your employer discovers your blog, sees that you are ensconced in treatments and are therefore engaged in family building, does the math to see how much maternity leave will cost the company if you do get pregnant, and finds a reason to let you go in order to avoid paying for said leave?
Of course this is illegal, but how many people could build a case against their employer for being unfairly laid off? It’s not as if the employer is going to give skulking on someone’s blog and the subsequent number crunching as their reason for dismissing the worker. It’s fairly easy to fire an at-will employee; it’s much harder for a worker to build a case against an employer that they were wrongfully terminated because they wrote online that they were trying to build their family.
So where does that leave infertility bloggers?
It’s a sticky situation. You want to be able to talk about your situation and gather information and support. You can go the anonymous route, though I sometimes think that anonymous blogging gives the writer a false sense of security and therefore a lack of circumspection. If you’ve ever logged into your blog from work, if you’ve ever visited your blog at work, if you’ve put in any Google-able details about yourself in a post, if you accidentally left a comment once that utilizes your real name: you’ve created a trail to your anonymous site.
The Internet additionally is a place where hindsight is 20/20. You may begin your blog writing under your own name about something innocuous as your wedding plans, and years later, have that same site grow with you and morph into an infertility blog. Your name is already attached in search engines to those entries. The Wayback Machine ensures that people will be able to find your name linked to the site for years to come. Or the opposite could be true; you write about a certain topic not considering how it could bite you in the ass… until it bites you in the ass.
We’re writing today but we don’t know what could get us in trouble tomorrow.
So what is a person to do? The reality is that chances for wrongful termination are slim. Even if you write under your real name. The vast majority of employers will not terminate an employee just because they may have to pay maternity leave in the future. Part of being on the Internet is accepting that as much as the Internet brings us, it also takes away. It takes away our privacy, first and foremost. And you don’t even need to be on the Internet for that to happen when it comes to the posting proclivities of other people.
But the Daily Dot article is also a reminder to be circumspect. To think before you post because words and images live on forever on the Internet.
Do you worry that what you write online could get you fired?