Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Think twice about making that link

Office workers may need to reconsider how they use their LinkedIn social media accounts following a significant new court ruling.

The High Court has decided that a former employer is within its rights to continue exerting some control on a person’s LinkedIn account, if it is done to protect its business interests. This is despite the account being set up in the name of the employee, rather than the company concerned.

Employment law expert John Mehtam, a partner at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It is clear, following this ruling, that employers who encourage the use of LinkedIn need to have the appropriate guidance and policies in place. It is also wise to review employment contracts to ensure that any restrictions imposed on staff after termination of their employment are fit for purpose.”

His claims follow a case involving former staff members from Whitmar Publications Limited in Tunbridge Wells, who left to set up a new publishing company called Earth Island. The court heard how LinkedIn accounts set up during their time at Whitmar had been used as a source of email  addresses for a news release about the new company.

John said: “This was clearly a breach of good faith, and in the High Court of Justice, Mr Peter Leaver granted an interim mandatory injunction in favour of Whitmar. The issue has since been concluded by an out of court financial settlement, with Earth Island having to cover a substantial part of Whitmar’s legal costs.

“The case underlines the importance of imposing clear, express duties on employees and agents to promote the employer’s business on LinkedIn.

“It may also be worth considering including other clauses in a contract requiring staff to provide access to LinkedIn accounts, after termination, because although they appear to contradict LinkedIn’s user agreement, it would seem they have the law of the land on their side.”