Breach of Noncompetition Agreement Via LinkedIn

LinkedIn, a social networking site targeted towards professionals, can be used as an online Rolodex-a place to store one’s contacts and a vehicle to maintain professional relationships.  As with all social networking sites, LinkedIn and its potential uses should be on the radar of employers.  One of the potential issues that has been discussed is the ability to make a “recommendation” on LinkedIn, whereby one user can make positive comments about another.  Some critics have raised concerns about the problems that could arise should a former employee file suit for wrongful termination and use a positive recommendation left by his supervisor as evidence to support his claim. 

Another, equally serious concern is the ability of employees to upload client and customer lists as LinkedIn contacts and the inherent loss of control over those contacts resulting to the employer. An offshoot of this problem is the subject of a new lawsuit, which demonstrates yet another way that social media is affecting employers.

Portfolio.com reports about a noncompetition lawsuit filed by TEKSystems, an IT-services and staffing company.  In the suit, TEKSystems names three of its former employees and one of their new employers as defendants.  The suit alleges that the employees breached their noncompete and nonsolicitation obligations by contacting at least 20 of TEKSystem’s contract employees.

So far, the allegations are nothing out of the ordinary in the world of noncompete and nonsolicit lawsuits.  Employee promises not to steal customers or other employees when she leaves.  Employee leaves.  Employee tries to steal customers or other employees.  Employer sues. 

But then it gets interesting.  TEKSystems alleges that it can prove the breach with evidence from the defendants’ LinkedIn accounts.  TEKSystems claims that one of the defendants had LinkedIn connections with 16 of its contract employees and sent messages to those connections inviting them to visit her in her new workplace. 

This is the first lawsuit that I’ve heard of that is based in part on evidence from an employee’s LinkedIn account.  It’s a real-life example of the potential for harm to employers that can result from employees’ use of social media and emphasizes the need for employers to take a proactive approach with social media and the workplace.

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