January 26, 1998 · Cavalier Daily

Offensive Web Page Costs Teacher his Job

Cameron Barrett, a computer technology teacher at a Michigan marketing company, is fired after publishing sexually explicit fiction on his Web page. This raises the question of whether Web pages should be considered private, or reviewed by employers.


1998-01-26 Cavalier Daily Offensive Web Page Costs Teacher his Job.pdf
John Flesher
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Offensive Web Page Costs Teacher his Job
The Associated Press
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. Hired to teach computer technology at a marketing company, Cameron Barrett suggested his trainees check out his Web page, where he published his own fiction.
Some women staff members did, and were shocked by the violent and sexually explicit passages.
They complained to their boss, and Barrett was fired.
"I said, 'If you're interested, you may go read it.’ But at no time did I make it part of the training, and I only said it once," Barrett said, complaining his stories were just that, stories. “Do you think Stephen King is going around his neighborhood killing people because that's what he writes about?”
The lesson?
"Just as people need to watch what they say in real life, what put on your Web page is going to visible to everyone, including future employers," said Esther Dyson, a director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
Although the first Amendment prevents the government from stifling speech, private employers are under no such constraints.
Companies can fire people for comments deemed inappropriate, and experts warn that personal Web sites, even if done at home, are public venues that employees use to determine who is suitable for the company.
A few people around the country have said they have been disciplined or fired over the content of their personal Web pages.
Lizz Sommerfield, 23, said she quit her job at a small Virginia publisher after being ordered to remove any reference to the company on her Web page, where she calls herself "SexyChyck" and poses in leopard print underwear.
And the Navy has moved to discharge a sailor after 17 years of service when it learned through America Online that he is gay.
Some experts argue that Web pages should be considered private, like the books and magazines read at home. But a lot may depend ono whether the employee erases the line between personal and professional.
In the Michigan case, Barrett “essentially invited people to look at a web page,” University of Michigan law professor Deborah Malamud said. “there’s a real difference between that and being held liable for having a copy of Playboy in your home.”
Barrett, 24, said he thinks it was unfair he was fired by Knorr Marketing in Traverse city because two members of the all-female staff he was teaching “were uncomfortable working with me after seeing my fiction.”
The company’s vice president, Jim McIntyre, said “there’s no doubt in my mind” that Barrett wanted the women to read the fiction.
“On several occasions he said, ‘I urge you to look up my own home Web page,” McIntyre said.
Experts warn that such firings will become more common. Businesses, especially those leery [sic] of sexual harassment lawsuits, will use the Internet to check on employees and prospective hires, they say.
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Date Added June 23, 2016
Date Modifed December 23, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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