The HR Dept is warning business owners to perform checks on who their employees connect with on social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, as asking an employee to delete or hand over their connections upon termination of employment is a very under represented area of employment law. If an employee connects with potential clients and contacts as part of their role through LinkedIn or Twitter, logic would say that data belongs to the business.
The HR Dept states “It turns out it really isn’t that simple and that there aren’t many precedents set or actual laws to cover LinkedIn ownership once someone has left your business.” During a period of post employment restriction, if an ex-employee tries to solicit or tout potential or actual clients they dealt with during employment, businesses can apply for an injunction to stop them. Albeit expensive, this is perhaps a necessary step to protect a business’ interest. When someone leaves a business, updating their profile will alert all of their connections to their change in employment. If the ex-employee were approached by one, they should decline any opportunity under their post employment restrictions.
Though potentially confidential information, it is difficult to ask a leaving employee to either delete or handover their social media account because that information has been made public. The HR Dept is recommending to our clients that until further rules are drawn up or there are significant developments in cases currently at court that they monitor who their employees connect with through social media. Businesses should also ensure that it isn’t damaging their future business interest if employees are advertising your connections or clients, which businesses perhaps would like to remain confidential. Each individual case will be different, but it is an area which business owners should be aware of.
A well drafted contract of employment will help in taking preventive measures, but we advise businesses to review any policies with regards to contacting key contacts and clients using social media for their own protection.