LINKEDIN AND NON-COMPETE: WHAT IS THE CONNECTION?
Most business professionals, especially those under age 35, are aware of and participate in such social networking sites on the Internet like LinkedIn.com. For those readers unfamiliar with this amazing site, LinkedIn is a popular business networking service that allows individual users to create profiles that look like resumes. Each user may build a network of other users, each of whom has to create a LinkedIn profile to join. Users who are linked together may view each other’s contacts, and can take advantage of “friends of friends” for business purposes.
Now, here comes the connection to a non-compete contract.
Mark Ions was employed by the recruiting company Hays Specialist Recruitment until he left to start his own competing firm. Following his departure, Hays became concerned that Ions had taken business contact information with him in violation of his employment contract, which prohibited him from making use of a range of confidential information, including “client database” information, and from soliciting clients with whom he had had contact during his employment.
The focus of Hays’ concern was Ions’ LinkedIn account. LinkedIn includes a feature that will upload a user’s e-mail contacts and send selected contacts a LinkedIn invitation. In a lawsuit filed by Hays, the company alleged Ions uploaded Hays’ customer contacts to LinkedIn at a point shortly before he announced to Hays he was leaving the firm. Hays denied doing so and, after being confronted with the allegation, deleted his entire LinkedIn network.
The court in England (where the case was filed) ordered Ions to disclose documents that evidenced his uploading of business contacts while he was employed by Hays.
What is the lesson? As an employee make damn certain you do not leave a trail of evidence on LinkedIn or any other social networking site on the Internet. Otherwise, your employer may just prove its case against you by subpoenaing your account records!