When can announcing your new job via your social media page or profile potentially land you in hot water? A recent lawsuit filed in Massachusetts raised the issue of whether an employee who announced a new job on LinkedIn violated a non-compete agreement entered into with the former employer. Unfortunately, the court never had to decide the issue of whether such an announcement on LinkedIn or on any other social media platform violates an existing non-compete agreement. But, for former employees, it serves as a reminder that they could be liable in this scenario, given certain facts. Employers may want to consider drafting a non-solicitation agreement that expressly restricts employees from notifying the employer’s past or current clients via social media about any new job with a company competitive with the employer.
In KNF&T Inc. v. Muller, the employer KNF&T filed suit against one of its former employees for violating a non-compete contract entered into. One of the alleged violations involved the former employee’s announcement on her LinkedIn profile about her new position, which ended up notifying contacts that were the former employee’s clients at KNF&T. KNF&T filed suit alleging that the new job notification violated the non-compete contract since the announcement solicited business from current KNF&T clients
The court ultimately never decided whether a LinkedIn notification could violate the terms of a non-competition agreement. The defendants new position was in the information technology recruiting field and was view as not in direct competition with the employer, which recruited administrative support specialists. This type of determination would boil down to the facts specific of each case. But, had this specific issue been decided, it would have helped create some degree of predictability with similar fact patterns.
There are still important lessons to take from this case, however. The lesson for employees is that they should carefully review the terms of their non-compete agreement before making new job announcements to past or current company clients. The lesson for employers is to draft clear and specific restrictions that addresses such potential “solicitation” via social media in company non-compete agreements.