Caution: This Office Is a Gossip-Free Zone

It's no secret, all over America, employees spend a large chunk of their workday gossiping. A 2002 survey said the average employee spends 65 hours a year gossiping, according to the business communications company Equisys.

But one Chicago public relations firm is attempting to cut that time down to zero, which means absolutely no gossiping behind colleagues' backs is allowed, or else.

When Sam Chapman started his small company, Empower Public Relations, two years ago it was in part because he left a firm where vicious backbiting was an epidemic. He said it damaged careers and morale.

"I think gossip can be toxic and cleaning it up is an important mission," Chapman told "Good Morning America"

Now that he makes the office rules, his primary one is that things are said to your face and not behind your back.

Some Empower workers said they found the policy a little shocking initially, but many of them have come to appreciate the sometimes brutal honesty in their workplace.

"If I still have some unresolved issues at the end of the day, I save the drama for my mama," said account executive Jayne Spottswood.

Even the firm's clients seem to appreciate the gossip-free work zone.

"You know when you walk out the door that they're not going to talk behind your back," said public relations client Jill Paider.

For those who are unable to resist the pull of rumor and being a gossip monger, a penalty exists.

"If you're committed to gossip, you get fired. So, there's a very severe penalty," Chapman said.

So far three people have been fired from the firm. But, Chapman's company isn't the first one to dismiss employees for gossiping.

In April, four city workers in Hooksett, N.H., made national headlines after they were terminated in part for gossiping about an alleged affair between co-workers. The rumor turned out to be false.

"When I was given my termination papers, I just looked at the gentlemen that were present in the room and said, 'You've got to be kidding,'" said Sandy Piper, who was fired for gossiping.

The office idle chatter is not a joke to many companies and more of them are writing new rules and policies about office gossip.

"If you're talking poorly about everybody and causing harm with intent, you should expect to get in trouble," said ABC News workplace contributor Tory Johnson.

It's a warning that more employees are taking seriously as the weigh the consequences for office scuttlebutt.

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