LinkedIn and Non-Competition Agreements
Most business folks know about LinkedIn. A social networking site designed for business and professional communities. The goal of the site is to allow members to establish and document networks of professionals they know and trust. Many companies want their employees to have a presence on LinkedIn, which can lead to more business (read “sales and income”) to the employer.
But what happens when the employee leaves her/his employment to go work for a competitor in the industry? Can the employee “announce” they have left their previous employer and can now be reached at XYZ company – providing the same services for a better price? If they take such self-promoting actions, are they in violation of an otherwise valid non-compete agreement with the previous employer?
In Virginia the answer is “who knows?” As of the date of this blog, I have been unable to find any reported court decision on the topic. However, general guidance from decisions in other states can be summarized as follows:
- If the non-compete agreement does not mention LinkedIn accounts, and the need to close those accounts at the end of employment, the employer may have a difficult time convincing a court the ex-employees continued use of the account violates the non-compete agreement.
- If the non-compete agreement does not define the use of a LinkedIn account as an act of solicitation, the employer may be out of luck.
- The absence of any mention of LinkedIn accounts in employee manuals or company policies may make it difficult for the employer to complain about the ex-employee’s continued use of his/her LinkedIn account.
- The ex-employee may not be limited in the use of the LinkedIn account if there is an actual employment agreement and it fails to require the employee to close down his/her LinkedIn account upon termination of employment.
My Take: Better speak with a knowledgeable lawyer before taking the risk of promoting your new job on you LinkedIn account.