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Has Entrepreneur Media Just Put Its Foot In It?

The news of the continuing editorial bloodbath at Entrepreneur Media, publisher of Entrepreneur Magazine, have been making extensive rounds of the media circles. Even after a round of lay-outs earlier this year, editorial folk have continued pulling their ripcords to parachute out at a time when media staff jobs are none too plentiful. And now a recent flare-up from an ex-employee elicited a response that seems like a bad business move and might even leave the publisher open for legal action.

Dennis Romero, a reporter who up until recently worked for Entrepreneur, lashed out on his blog in what has to be one of the most pyrotechnic examples of ex-employee rage to be found. Really, it's worth the read at least for the entertainment value as well as one potential data point if you've considered working for Entrepreneur or you are a freelancer pitching stories to the publication.

In short, he said that he was fired for allegedly failing to perform his duties as well as showing that he clearly did not want to work there. Agreeing with the second and flatly denying the first, he engaged in a long and detailed dissection of the company and its management, including flatly saying that the magazine's editor-in-chief was incompetent. And that was probably the nicest thing he said about her. Objective? Clearly not. Accurate? No way to know, though the exodus of people from the organization does suggest serious problems.

But what was really interesting, from a business point of view, is what a company representative apparently said to Jason Fell at Folio:

"We terminated his employment for cause," Entrepreneur vice president and corporate publisher Ryan Shea wrote in an e-mail to me this afternoon. "As you know there are two sides to every story."
I'm no lawyer. But I've been in corporate management, have studied the subject for decades, and know that there are some things you just don't do. One is to provide potential fodder for a wrongful termination suit, particularly when the person you've just fired is "a journalist of color with 20 years of often top-line experience," as Romero put it. I'd phrase it as coming from a background that is legally considered a minority.

California is an employment at will state. If relations with an employee are bad, sure, you could fire the person for cause. But have you done the paperwork? Have you documented, over time, shortcomings and then worked to correct the problem? Or have you just publicly claimed that someone was fired for cause, which might give the person fodder to sue, whether for defamation, wrongful termination, or both? Maybe this is a case where the company should print in its magazine for would-be business owners, "Please, do as we say, not as we do."

Image via stock.xchng user hisks, site standard license.