Petite Anglaise got ‘dooced’ and sues

Petite Anglaise, fellow blogger and double-whammy style winner of our very own 2006 Satin Pajama Awards in the categories Best Expat Weblog and Best Personal Weblog was fired from her job because of her blogging activities, or ‘dooced’ in weblog lingo. Her plight is receiving major news coverage, as you will see below the fold.

Catherine Sanderson, as we now know her true name to be, won’t be leaving her job without putting up a legal fight first. I’ll let the media tell the rest of the story.

From CNN:

Unmarried mother Catherine Sanderson — “La Petite Anglaise” to 3,000 regular readers of her Internet diary — is launching legal action in France, claiming unfair dismissal against accountancy firm Dixon Wilson, British media reports say.

From The Telegraph:

But partners at the leading British accountancy firm Dixon Wilson alleged that she made herself and therefore the firm identifiable by including her own photograph on the weblog. They also complained that she used office time to work on it.

From the Middle East Times:

The case – one of the first of its kind in France – will be brought before the prud’hommes or labor tribunals later this year, and Catherine’s lawyer is pressing for an award of two years’ salary. Dixon Wilson, which offers tax and financial advice to private clients in Britain and France, was unable to comment.

From The Times Online:

Catherine said that she never revealed her name and never identified her employer online. Her French former boyfriend is “Mr Frog”, while their three-year-old daughter is “Tadpole”.

There are many more news sources, including Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, but let us finish with a quote by the great Petite herself and direct you to her blog:

I look at my daughter, her beautiful chocolate-icing coated cheeks, and wonder how on earth I have managed to make such a mess of things. Here I am, holding a fantasy birthday party, while our whole world is literally crashing down around our ears.

I was “dooced” today.

Suspended without pay, pending a dismissal meeting in ten day’s time.

Asked to collect my belongings together and leave the building immediately.

The words “faute grave” were used. Translated into English: gross misconduct.

Petite Anglaise: the blog that got me fired. Call me naïve, but I really didn’t see that coming.

Update, July 20th. Petite explains herself a bit more in the Guardian’s Comment is free section:

The dismissal interview took place on 5 May and it was not clear at its close what the firm’s intentions were. These were only confirmed when I received my official letter of dismissal on 11 May. I learnt, to my relief, that the accusation of gross misconduct had been dropped, to be replaced by “loss of confidence”, and “dismissal with real and serious cause”. These do not carry the same financial penalties, and immediate financial concerns were somewhat alleviated with the prospect of two month’s paid (but not served) notice.

However my ex-employer still maintained that my entries about work “brought the firm into disrepute”, took issue with my alleged use of work computers on company time, and, having been through my blog with a fine tooth comb, drew attention to that fact that there had been two half-day absences over the past four years for which I had apparently not disclosed the real reasons to the firm.

Update2: You can hear and watch Petite being interviewed by Channel 4. Just click on the ‘Watch the report’ link below the article.

Update3: French weblogger and lawyer Eolas obtained a copy of the letter of notice Petite received from her former employer and dissects it paragraph by paragraph. His conclusion:

Je maintiens ma première impression : si Dixon Wilson a deux grammes de jugeotte, il transigera rapidement pour éviter la crise en matière d’image qu’ils se sont provoqués tout seul et que Petite Anglaise puisse écrire sur son blog “Tout est bien qui finit bien, je me suis réconciliée avec Dixon Wilson et nous nous quittons bons amis, je vous écris depuis mon yacht à Saint-tropez”.

Or, Dixon Wilson had better kiss and make up before they ruin their image entirely by themselves.

7 thoughts on “Petite Anglaise got ‘dooced’ and sues

  1. I would not have seen it coming either … :)

    Tell me one thing why is this a problem?

    ‘But partners at the leading British accountancy firm Dixon Wilson alleged that she made herself and therefore the firm identifiable by including her own photograph on the weblog.’

    No really tell me, I don’t get. A lot of bloggers are blogging under their full name and some of them hold high positions in big organizations.

    I can only put it like Randy McDonald … too late :)

    ‘I wonder if I would have chosen to blog anonymously back in the day if I’d had any idea. Foolish thoughts, these; my die is cast’

  2. I would ponder that this has little to do with blogging itself, but with a self-empowered female typist existing. Her very existence is “gross misconduct” and that private perspective has been enforced with persistence and means. Undone, because she is “not done”.

    I would guess and hope that Petite has a fair case.

  3. I think she is lucky enough to be only fired and not detained like other bloggers, Alaa ,hao and al-sharqawi. So enjoy being fired and a part of news coverage.

  4. If what her employer claims is true, that she was maintaining her blog on company time, then they have every right to fire her.

  5. @Annet: You have a point, but why not add links and provide some publicity yourself for those detained bloggers? Like this one:

    http://committeetoprotectbloggers.civiblog.org/

    (committee to protect bloggers)

    http://morphemetales.blogspot.com/2004/12/statistics-on-fired-bloggers.html

    (Statistics on fired bloggers from the same author as the committee to protect bloggers)

    @Pete: That is why this case may turn out to be very interesting. It may not be legal in France to sack someone without prior warning. The ‘bad publicity’ argument seems pretty weak. But, let’s see what kind of a precedent Petite’s case will set.

  6. By the way, French blogger Eolas, who is a lawyer, is discussing the case on his blog Journal d’un avocat:

    http://maitre.eolas.free.fr/journal/index.php?2006/07/18/404-petite-anglaise-viree-pour-son-blog

    Et Dixon Wilson[3] se ridiculisant en virant une de ses employées pour des motifs dont chacun peut constater la futilité en lisant le blog incriminé. Comment se tirer une balle dans le pied, à voir cette réaction impulsive et un rien paniquée face à la découverte que les employés, notamment les femmes, d’une part ont une vie privée en dehors du travail, et d’autre part ont un esprit critique qui s’exerce même au travail.

    Si l’intelligence n’a pas totalement déserté cette entreprise, elle conclura rapidement un accord transactionnel et fermera ce dossier avant que sa réputation ne soit durablement affectée.

  7. I know that in Spain you cannot simply fire someone for example, who you know simply by taking a look at the company server, is spending all day dicking around on the internet. Technically, you can’t even take that look at the server without a court order.

    Even in the states, the courts have ruled that dicking around on the internet is not a fire offense. They equate it to reading the newspaper at your desk. Frowned upon sure, fireable offense, negative.