Personal Statement regarding ethics, conflict of interest, and other “best practices” in employment or business opportunity search
Rev, April 2006
First, whenever I google my legal name,
this is one of the first pages that shows up. I am assuming that if you are a
visitor to this page, you could be an employer who is considering interviewing
or hiring me. Since the end of 2005 we have heard much more in the media about
this practice of using “Google” as part of an unofficial background check. Now,
some of you may be more familiar with my site and may have visited the
policy elsewhere on this site. Nevertheless, laws in many states (such as
After all, it’s the Internet, and I have used a public
space, right? Yup. I take very seriously the issues created in the past ten or
so years by the “right of publicity” that can be claimed by anyone using a
public space this way with free entry and without having to compete the
old-fashioned way. I do think that this is an area where employers need to
develop “best practices.” But the underlying policy should be, that an
employer’s “right” to draw attention to himself (herself) off the job should
depend “functionally” upon the kind of job that he or she has or has applied
for. That’s common sense. Some jobs (
Now, as far as what you will find here—you will find some extreme personal candor in a few places. You will find some fictional treatments of situations that seem troubling – but these are movie proposals, treatments, and scripts, and they are fiction! No, you won’t find anything like a social networking profile bragging about illegal behavior, don’t worry. You won’t find pornography, as commonly understood.
I have held some interim jobs since “retiring” early at the end of 2001, and I have a general discussion of some possible careers on by blogspot entry at http://billretires.blogspot.com/2006/02/jobs-for-recently-retired.html
Now, any number of employers could find this, so let me share for a moment what I real strongly that I can do, and what I “can’t” do. The blogspot gives a pretty good idea. Let me say, first of all, that if the mainframe market does come back, and if employers begin bringing work back from overseas because offshoring doesn’t save the money that they wanted (sometimes it doesn’t), I am game. I am confident that I could go back into a mainframe shop and become productive very quickly. Time is only a “dimension” and it still seems fresh. But I would need to know that employers are really serious about needing mainframe individual contributors again.
In the meantime, I have become very interested in how to bring some of these cutting edge issues (whether “free speech” “press v. speech” “right of publicity” (the “myspace.com problem”), Internet content labeling and potential censorship, GLBT and “don’t ask don’t tell”, filial responsibility, environment, global warming) to the media, especially commercial motion pictures, as well as educational databases. (If you’re the right movie production company, I hope you’ve found this—my knowledge based has been accumulated from unusual personal experience, displayed on this site and in books—and research of the past ten years, and it is extensive.) I can be the public spokesperson for ideas and content that I have helped develop. What will not work is a “we give you the words” scenario where I am supposed to go out an manipulate consumers so that a company can take advantage of a relatively short-term financial anomaly. “Get rich quick” schemes don’t work for me.
I do intend to “comply” with my own rules for promoting my own content publicly v. a job. Were I to find a business arrangement in which I joined with others to promote content which I believed in (whatever that is, a database, movies, a software product, a public policy initiative) and helped develop, I would remove my own materials from public display if we mutually decided that doing so was appropriate.
This file does have an ICRA label. I am trying to get this site labeled, so every file must be labeled. It is more restrictive than really necessary because of some difficulties with the ICRA system.
Note on Publicity Rights and Internet Profile Management; Outside Income Rules
In the past year, companies have floated the idea that professionals should allow public relations or similar firms to manage their “on line” presence as if that were part of their wardrobe. While in most jobs I would be pleased to have a professional profile posted, I will generally not allow an employer to curtail my own other publishing activities online unless I have a specific agreement to that effect and the job involves direct reports, speaking to the public, or making decisions about clients.
In some cases, employers have rules that say “no outside income” (except for pensions). These may be driven by securities regulations. In most cases, this arrangement will not be acceptable for me.
I explain this further with my proposed blogging policy.
I also have a site persistence policy, which explains my intentions for managing my online activity in various employment scenarios.
(Older file content)
Rev. July 2004
Since I am conducting a job search and career redirection, I want to state a few major points concerning the rules of conduct that I will follow in order to avoid a conflict of interest between my editorial and political writing (in books and on the Internet) and the legitimate business concerns of any prospective employer, client, or customer. These rules may sound extensive because presently I must look at a large variety of opportunities in combination. These range from more “conventional” jobs in information technology to media and policy research related jobs or contracts. The rules must take into account the possibility that I would become more publicly known.
I have “retired” from a “conventional” salaried position in information technology at a large financial institution. It is common when people “retire” that they may want to change career directions, particularly explore the “hidden job market” and perform work that is more self-expressive. I do have provocative literary content to offer, and this could be of value to, for example, media companies (cable, motion pictures, news, knowledge databases, games, periodical and book publishers, think tanks) or even software vendors supporting such companies. In some cases I could be competing with persons who have much more technical experience than I do in some media-related area, and the basis for my entering a business like that does include my own content and research skills. As noted in one of the dot-points below, sale of content (as to a media-related company) could affect my continuing to offer my own content on the web or in print in the manner that I offer it now.
Here are the main rules (they mainly concern conflict of interest):
· Normally, I will not accept a position requiring direct reports. It is all right to function as a technical team lead, but not to manage budgets or to sign off on personnel actions or performance appraisals. It is all right to contribute informally to interviewing and appraisals as a team member or team lead. Likewise, I should not make decisions about customers (such as who can get a loan or insurance), or (normally) give grades to students or make academic performance evaluation decisions that could affect their futures. As a practical matter, I may have direct reports after a training or “learn-the-business” period (of a minimum of three months, six months expected). I realize that this development could cause me to have to curtail much of my other publicity-seeking activities (as on this site) within thirty days of having such a supervisory responsibility. This is covered in more detail at the conflict of interest rules link. It is also possible that I could have direct reports in a business with a job responsibility to help solve a technical or public policy problem that I have already considered in my writings. In sum, generally jobs should emphasize responsibility for resolving issues than just responsibility for people.
· Normally, I will not appear in public or speak or write publicly to represent the employer’s adversarial interests. However, it could be appropriate to speak publicly about an issue that I have already addressed in my own writings.
· Fraternal companies, agencies and political lobbying organizations: Normally, I will not work for Defense Department of for a company or business unit whose core client(s) (with respect to the specific employment offer) is the Defense Department or individual members of the Armed Forces, in a salaried capacity. (The reason for this is related to my public activism concerning the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy concerning gays in the military.) It is acceptable to work in this capacity as a contractor or as a W-2 employee (no other benefits). It is acceptable to work in a salaried professional capacity with any other federal, state or local government agency, including civilian law enforcement, airline security, air traffic control, emergency preparedness, the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department, energy, education or school boards. (With regard to a new Department of Homeland Security, it would not be acceptable to work in a salaried capacity for a uniformed sub-department, such as the Coast Guard or National Guard, in which the military gay ban applies, or for a job whose budget largely depended on such a department, but it would be acceptable to work for a civilian operation. Again, I regard the policy as applying to me if I were to work for such an armed-forces-associated employer.) It is also unacceptable to work in a salaried professional capacity for a “fraternal” company representing a religious affiliation, and it is normally unacceptable to work in a salaried capacity for a lobbying organization. It is unacceptable to seek or hold a position based on partisan political loyalty. It is not acceptable to work in any capacity for an entity whose core business is tobacco or any illegal product. I do not hold any security clearances.
· Normally, the job should not involve “forced intimacy” or custodial duties that impact the privacy or modesty of another person. Jobs involving security screening should not involve making physically intimate contact with customers without probable cause. Jobs working with minors, as a matter of course, should emphasize academic subject matter and not just behavioral supervision, discipline, or acting as an “authority figure.” (1/5/2005). Jobs must not involve making emotional or psychologically intimate contact with non-intact persons or with minors not at the “age of reason” (defined as “middle school” minimum age, normally 11); students, clients or customers must be capable of normal conversation in everyday English with an adult. The reasons for these rules include my previous use of public media to seek possible future commercial gain with respect to my sexual orientation and my lack of familial experience with responsibility for children (either as a parent or older sibling), as well as lack of certification in child-care or special needs areas. Some jurisdictions may have legislation or administrative rules regarding these requirements, and therefore (and because of liability risks) I presume that this rule is legally driven.
· Of course, normal rules of conduct (as generally required by law) protecting customer privacy, trade secrets, and other general intellectual property law such as copyright apply. Common sense rules, like the usual prohibition of using employer or customer supplied computer resources for personal use or for use in running a personally owned business, will be adhered to, of course.
Here are a few of the fine points:
· A number of companies are mentioned in my books and web site or other postings, usually for the purpose of providing the historical or specific technical or legal background of an issue, sometimes in bibliographic reference. The mere fact that a company is mentioned does not mean that I may not work for the company now. If the company is mentioned in a derogatory context then I may not. But there are very few of these companies. Check with me on this.
· With respect to technical writing assignments as a contractor or employee (such as grant writing or proposal writing) it is perfectly acceptable and welcome to gather all relevant facts through research or customer debriefing, and assure the technical accuracy and logical cohesion of the proposal. In such an assignment, a deliverable document is usually published internally for confidential use by the customer (or grantor). It is not acceptable to write a “one sided” document intended for immediate use in mass marketing or lobbying. I will provide technical and research consultation in conjunction with writing, but I may not “get money” for a client through “connections.”
· Sometimes contractor positions would require the contractor to supply individual professional liability insurance (which can be quite expensive). For technical contracting, this insurance will normally not cover media perils associated with my own writing.
· Positions involving pornography “without redeeming social value” cannot be accepted. Positions that would be perceived as anti-social or harmful or illegal, such as providing instructions for assembling weapons of mass destruction, cannot be accepted. Positions involving commercial “hucksterism” are not acceptable. Telephone marketing for non-profits is acceptable, but not for commercial operations.
· Multiple level marketing is normally not acceptable. However, multiple level marketing of intellectual property is acceptable if the partial volume refunds or overrides are invested in a third party or in a business (properly incorporated first) intended for film or other publication development, as otherwise discussed on this web site.
· Some employers may have prohibitions against “moonlighting.” The offer of self-published books requires the establishment of a proprietorship (at a minimum), registration (including assumed name) with local government, and periodic maintenance of a web site and attention to general business matters on an interim, irregular basis. This would be seen as part-time home-based “self-employment” and might, on its face, violate a moonlighting ban, although only in a “trivial” way. I do engage in occasional “self-employment” in this sense. I do receive royalties from iUniverse.com for the “Do Ask Do Tell” book but that portion does not normally require maintenance. There would not be “work” for other entities without notification.
· I do not use pseudonymns for my writing. Since my name has an unusual spelling as is, it is easy to identify. My leagal first names are “John William” with a nickname (assigned by my parents) of “Bill.”
· It is possible to consider salaried employment and contractor employment, including “W-2” contractor employment. In some cases, contractor employment is to be preferred because it maintains a greater separation publicly between me and the employer. For travel and for off-site support from home, I will normally want to use a (laptop) computer that I own personally.
· Many employers have on-line job application scripts on the web. Typically these ask for self-grading of skills and often ask or a personal URL as an optional field. My assumption will be that this URL is intended as a resume site unless otherwise noted. Generally, I will mention or “volunteer” information about this doaskdotell web site and associated books only if the content is directly or reasonably related to the requirements for the position as posted. If an employer wants to know about personal web sites, or web sites about unrelated home based business or “controversial” sites with political content, then it should ask explicitly on its own application and make a note to that effect on the job opportunities section of its web site. Of course, employers may look for employees’ names with Internet search engines (particularly names with uncommon spellings and non-pseudonyms) but I believe that they should announce their intention to do so before a person applies when in fact they have such concerns. Employers should be aware of this kind of “publicity conflict of interest” problem, should be upfront about their policies on the issue with applicants and current employees, and should vet the issue particularly with management employees or employees in public relations or (“spokespersons”) who speak for them to the media.
· Normally, I will not remove my publications from circulation as a condition of employment. (Actually, I don’t think many legitimate employers would make an offer with such strings, and technical employers still generally remain focused on the specific skills for specific positions—although maybe some employers are not comfortable with associates who draw attention to themselves or seem “opinionated,” even when the “opinions” are really rehearsals of discoverable facts—and here the question for me is, “Who owns public debate?”) However, content may be trimmed, streamlined, or reformatted more professionally, as with style sheets, Adobe Acrobat, or databases. (7/8/2002) If I found an employer that was also interested (either immediately or within a reasonable time in the future) in purchasing the content or in assisting me with a legitimate attempt to market similar materials (as in motion pictures, periodicals, broadband, cable, or knowledge databases) on a much larger financial and operational scale, I would certainly be willing to review my own individual self-publishing activities inasmuch as they could create a conflict or violate a non-compete clause. In some such cases, contract employment (as arranged by a third party) may be more appropriate than salaried employment with benefits.
For skills listed as “good” or stronger on an information technology
application, I am prepared to take a “hands on” technical competency test if
required (typically this will be web-based and automatically graded, although
some employers use sample lab problems or even essay tests). For “lighter” or supplementary skills I would
not be prepared for such an exam. I maintain, at my own expense, a considerable
technical reference library at home of text books in a wide variety of
information technologies ranging from
· Employment with media companies or book publishers presents some potential special issues since arguably I have intellectual property that I could try to sell to them. In general, I should not accept salaried employment in which my own publishing entity could be construed as “competing” with another publisher. Ask me in this case, as this has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. A media-related or entertainment-related employer (or potential client) should contact me directly for detailed discussion of issues having to do with my own content. I am definitely interested in helping such companies research tough issues.
· Speaking and media engagements based on my own writings still might occur (paid or unpaid).
Advertising of my own books, website, or other products (like future
· Generally, a position that requires making cold solicitations, cold calls or contacts to random prospects for marketing purposes is not acceptable. Telemarketing or telefunding, for a commercial, arts organization, or charity is acceptable only when there is some pre-screening or “cherry picking” to make sure that prospects being called have some reasonable connection to what is being sold or solicited. Use of a do-not-call list to narrow the prospect list (whether legally required or not) may qualify as sufficient and appropriate pre-screening, but then the company must comply with the law strictly. The job should measure call conversion as a way of guaranteeing that excessive calls are not generated.
· Work-for-hire intellectual property. U.S. Copyright law regulates the ability of employers to ownership rights of intellectual property created by employees to i.p. created within the scope of employment. For contractors, there can be individual negotiation (as when there is a contract to produce a particular work for an employer) but generally the same provision (scope of contract) applies. That means that an individual still owns works that he or she creates outside of employment with personally owned resources. This also means (as for liability insurance purposes) that an employer generally may not be held liable for intellectual property torts associated with an employee’s own intellectual property, except in unusual circumstances (divulging employer’s confidential information or some legitimate conflict of interest). An employer might be asked to sign a letter acknowledging understanding of this principle.
· I cannot work for a company against which there are credible reports of ethical violations including shaving time on clocks.
· I can consider home-based business ideas, but they must be ethical, not be based on “getting something for nothing,” Ponzi or pyramid schemes, mass recruiting other people, high-pressure selling, spam or any illegal direct marketing or telemarketing practice, money laundering (as with “Nigerian scams”), objectionable Internet practices (such as inconsiderate use of popups), facilitating copyright infringement, virus or worm writing or dissemination, pornography, illegal drugs or other generally socially objectionable or illegal activity, or any business model based on seeing what one can “get away with.” Any multi-level marketing scheme would have to be vetted very carefully (as above).
· An employment or business opportunity may not be predicated on misuse of property. Examples of misuse: use of a personal automobile for business purposes (other than commuting) without informing the insurance company, use of residential property in violation of zoning ordinances (home-based businesses in compliance with local zoning laws are all right!), misappropriate of a trademark, assumed name, or intellectual property rights of another person or party (including copyright).
· In most cases, I will not invest a significant amount of my own funds in any business activity unrelated to publishing (such as most franchise opportunities), film or media. I will consider other film or media projects proposed by others, but very carefully, of course.
· I cannot work for a company that, however inadvertently, uses on of my wordmarks or domain names or does business with an entity (other than me) that does.
· I take responsibility for any illegal acts that I commit while at work, even on orders from a superior. Therefore I cannot work for a company that, according to credible evidence, is violating a law. Discovery of illegal activities in a company results in immediate termination.
· No fault termination policy. In some instances, I may believe that I should not continue an employment or business relationship, or an employer may also believe that I should not continue the relationship or that my presence would be unwelcome. This may happen because of a combination of circumstances, some of them having to do with the publicity surrounding my writings. This might also happen if I believe that the employer is engaging in illegal activity, or my presence could result in legal issues. In some cases, termination of the relationship may occur “at will” and without due process or explanation, effectively as a “no fault” termination. Most of the time I believe issues should be out on the table, but in a few cases this may be impossible and it may be prudent, in a practical sense, to let the matter drop. Such incidents are not regarded as “for cause” terminations on future employment applications, but they would normally make unemployment benefits inapplicable.
Here are a few ad hoc remarks:
I value my own freedom and independence in expressing myself publicly. This can lead to opportunity cost or limitations when the compensation from writing publicly is not sufficient to avoid the necessity of “working.”
Some jobs (and this would even include even many unpaid volunteer opportunities with non-profits) demand public loyalty and publicly visible commitment to the aims of the organization as part of the job (“paying your dues”). Normally, such jobs are not appropriate for me. Instead, I believe that I am more valuable to a customer by maintaining some distance from that customer’s public aims. That way, I may provide factual information and opinions that may be trusted by the customer for objectivity and intellectual honesty. I can play devil’s advocate and point out the potential flaws or “wishful thinking” or even ethical ambiguity in a customer’s intentions.
Freelance writers often deal with the practical challenge of writing a piece for a targeted audience for a paying customer. It is often difficult to maintain intellectual honesty and cover a topic completely when a particular client with a particular customer base pays for work to be published at large. Some writers look at targeting as a matter of technique and professionalism. If a writer can stick to articulable and provable facts, integrity may be maintained. For example, a writer could present detailed research on the availability of specific unusual surgeries or medications in a particular country’s single payer health care system, where the larger context is obviously to engage in a political debate about health care funding.
I have spent most of my professional career in information systems. In the early 1990s, already in my early 50s, I decided to enter the area of public debate on some controversial issues (like gays in the military) and even to distinguish myself by writing in these areas, even at the cost of advancing publicly (into management or through publishing) into information technology, where I was more “credentialed.” I did not want to “leave the debate to professionals” on a few public policy problems that, for autobiographical reasons, had attained so much personal importance to me. It did not want to allow silently others to decide “through the political process” what I and others like me (lesbians and gay men) may or may not do. Technology made it possible to enter the debate with little financial investment, yet the same technology could eventually lead employers to become concerned about how professional associates present themselves as individuals publicly.
In information technology, work, even at decent compensation
levels, has been regarded as a practical matter, and a separation between work
and personal matters has been typically more respected than in a lot of other
fields. One reason was that in large mainframe business systems a huge amount
of project development, management, implementation and support could be visible
“publicly” relative to an organization but not to the outside world. Career
tracks not requiring management were recognized. Since completing Y2K there has
been a bit of a sea change. The development of the Internet, which fed the
economic boom of the late 90s, emphasized the external consumer and this tended
to lead to a cultural change. Technology changed so quickly that many formerly
comfortable mid-career I.T. professionals could not keep up as “hands on”
people and needed now to look at management. At the same time, a population of
some (often younger) professionals often
referred to as “geeks,” tended to look at I.T. more a mechanical manipulation
and playful curiosity rather than as a field for long term projects and
accomplishments. This concurrence of developments increases the challenge in
balancing earning a living with creative or editorial writing. However, there
may be new opportunities to bring I.T. into the writing and media area
(developing XML style sheets is one example) and this development might provide
the most appropriate opportunities. Furthermore, over time java and .
This page updated
See special note about site persistence
4201 Wilson Blvd #110-688
For related issues regarding employee-owned intellectual property visit: white paper
For my current Intellectual Property Ownership Agreement visit Proposed Intellectual Property Ownership Agreement
For the former Conflict-of-Interest rules in previous employment (pretty much the same) visit COI rules
this provision would exclude many “non-profits,” although not legal services
organizations or performing arts, education, etc. See Rebecca R. Kahlenberg, “At Nonprofits, It’s Better to Be a Believer:
Embracing Cause Can Give Workers Sense of Belonging,” The Washington Post,