by Paul Alan Levy
Anyone who has volunteered for a community group has no doubt noticed the proliferation of silly forms that have to be signed in the course of the relationship. But a form that the Illinois branch of Save-a-Pet has recently decided to impose on its volunteers, limiting their right to express their opinions on “social media,” seems considerably worse than most. It makes one wonder how much Save-A-Pet really values its volunteers, and what wrongdoing Save-A-Pet has to hide.
According to the form, a recent policy change requires volunteers to sign a form giving up their right to post “any comment or picture” about an “employee, volunteer or client” of Save-A-Pet without their consent. Volunteers must also agree not to post any “negative comments or pictures involving any . . . resident,” nor post any comment that “could be construed as harassment of the public, volunteers or staff,” nor use the Save-a-Pet logo or "organizational material” except on “approved Save-A-Pet flyers." Volunteers who have questions about whether information is “confidential,” or whether any posting is otherwise “appropriate,” are directed to ask the chief administrator for guidance.
Apparently, volunteers form relationships with particular animals and with fellow volunteers that they are reluctant to place at risk by refusing to sign, and fear as well that just voicing internal criticism may lead to ostracism. The consumer who brought this form to my attention was uncomfortable about signing and wanted to know whether it was “illegal.”