Ex-Employee Must Return Social-Media Log-In Info to Employer

What happens to an employer’s social-media accounts when the employee tasked with managing those accounts leaves the organization? I asked that question in a recent post, Who Owns Your Company’s Twitter Account? A recent case from the Southern District of New York, Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivell, offers an answer.

Ardis, the employer, moved for a preliminary injunction against its former employee, Ashleigh Nankivell, seeking to require her to, among other things, return its log-in information for various websites. Nankivell had been employed as the company’s Video and Social Media Producer, in which she was responsible for maintaining the company’s websites, blogs, and social-media pages for marketing purposes. She was given and had sole control of all passwords and related information necessary to access the sites.

After her employment ended, Ardis demanded that Nankivell return the access information–since her departure, the employer had been unable to access the sites or update content.

The court found that the employer would be irreparably harmed if the access information was not returned prior to a final trial on the merits because, without that information, the employer precluded from continuously updating its profiles and pages and from reacting to online trends.

The employee argued that there was no irreparable harm because the pages had not been updated for two years prior to her termination. The Court rejected this argument, citing the fact that it was the defendant’s responsibility to update the sites, so she could not use her own failure to perform her duties as a defense.

And, even if that was not the case, the Court continued, new opportunities may arise the employer would not be able to take advantage of due to the employee’s withholding of the access information.

So, in short, in this case at least, the answer to the question, Who Owns the Company’s Social Media Information?, is The Company.

Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivell, 11 Civ. 50134 (NRB) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 19, 2011).

Contact Information