<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: The new HP Way: "You're fired, and don't say anything bad about us"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The new HP Way: "You're fired, and don't say anything bad about us"

Hewlett-Packard, which used to be widely respected for its loyalty to employees (the "HP Way"), not only has become a leading proponent of downsizing (it recently laid off 570 more workers from its Corvallis facility), but demands that severed workers not "disparage" the company. The penalty for doing so: the loss of thousands of dollars in severance pay and thousands more in potential civil penalties.

Most of the five-page severance agreement is standard fine print (don't give away company secrets, take home office equipment, or make copies of confidential customer lists), but Article 9 says, "Employee agrees that he/she will not make or publish, either orally or in writing, any disparaging statement regarding HP." The admonishment is open-ended, with no expiration date and no definition of what might constitute disparagement. In other words, the ball is entirely and perpetually in HP's court.

Meanwhile, many of those 570 ex-employees will have to sell their homes, uproot their families, and leave the area in search of employment. How can some of them not feel a bit disparaging toward their former employer? How can they resist the urge - despite the penalties - to bite the hand that used to feed them?

What HP is doing may be entirely legal (though it sure seems to violate the right to free speech), but it certainly seems unethical.



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