Microsoft sacks temp over blog photo

As blogging becomes increasingly popular, businesses and employees need to be aware of the implications

Microsoft has fired a long-term temp after he posted a photograph of Macintosh G5 computers being delivered to the company's Redmond campus on his Web site.

The temp in question, Michael Hanscom, said that according to Microsoft the fact the computers photographed were Macs had nothing to do with the decision to fire him. He claims he was sacked for violating company security policy rather than alluding that Microsoft uses equipment from rival Apple.

Microsoft declined to comment on the incident, citing policy against discussion of personnel matters.

According to legal experts, the recent explosion in popularity of Web logs, or blogs, means companies must re-evaluate how they respond to employees commenting on company-related issues in a public forum.

Hanscom, who worked at the MSCopy print shop, noticed a truckload of G5 Macs being delivered to the campus, and took a picture of them to post on his blog, which he said is generally read by friends and family. He said he framed the photo so that nothing of the campus was visible. But when Microsoft got wind of the photo it decided to let him go, according to Hanscom's own account. 

The sacking stirred controversy on other Web discussion sites, including the widely read, and Hanscom said he woke up the morning after his post to more than 250 email responses.

He said that while Microsoft may be getting bad press, he does not fault them for the decision. "I goofed. I regret it, but the damage is done," he said in a post on his site.

For employers, the incident highlights the fact that workers are increasingly making comments that are visible to the public, which can raise conflicts, according to law firm Masons.

"In a worst-case scenario, employers might find themselves liable for the comments made by their staff," said Masons employement law specialist Robyn McIlroy, in a statement on "Blogging could also opens the door to problems of defamation and harassment." She recommended that firms revisit their employment policies on confidentiality.

But any policy ban on blogging at work should be clearly stated, McIlroy said. "That should be clearly stated in the communications policy and reflected in the disciplinary policy, and of course employees made aware of these restrictions on use," she stated.