Keith Olbermann gets out of the doghouse as of Tuesday night. The famous host of MSNBC's "Countdown" was recently put on suspension for his monetary contribution to Democratic candidates. The Olbermann suspension without pay began on November 5, however, it will end as of November 9, marking what one news source claimed was the world's shortest suspension.
MSNBC has a policy against allowing its employees (at least the ones who appear in front of millions of viewers) to donate to candidates, reports Politico.com. However, Olbermann reportedly told the higher-ups he was not aware of such a policy. Rachel Maddow, fellow left-leaning host on the network, said she was aware of the policy and used this point to delineate the news organization of MSNBC from the "political organization" of other, more conservative networks.
Politics aside for the moment, what would happen if MSNBC had found one of its camera-men had donated $7,200 (the same amount as Olbermann) to a candidate for, say, the Green party? Would there have been a suspension or a firing? It should all come down to a written company policy.
For those of us who are not celebrity commentators, or celebrities of any kind, we should look to the employee handbook, ethics policy, employment contract, or other repositories of written company rules regarding employee activities. As illustrated by the recent firings of Rich Sanchez at CNN and Juan Williams at NPR, what employees do, even when not on the clock, may result in discipline or firings. In order to keep the results even-handed and predictable, and so employees know what behavior to avoid, the policies should be based on written and accessible rules.
An outpouring of support for Olbermann on suspension may have helped nudge the "indefinite" suspension toward lasting all of two shows. As Olbermann tweeted his followers: Greetings From Exile! A quick, overwhelmed, stunned THANK YOU for support that feels like a global hug & obviously left me tweetless XO." That was fast.
- Olbermann, Impartiality and MSNBC (New York Times)
- Why You Should Create an Employee Handbook (FindLaw)
- Model Disciplinary Warning (FindLaw)
- Nationals Commentator Rob Dibble Fired for Strasburg Comments (FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty)