Is Your LinkedIn Company Page Safe? A revealing Court Case
by Jo Shaer, on November 20, 2013
Great article from Lighter HR Solutions about some potential problems with the ownership of contacts and properties held on social media sites.
Why creating a LinkedIn Company page is quite difficult
It says that one of the ex employees took all of the client contact details from the company LinkedIn page and used the information to invite them to the launch party of their new venture. They also refused to return access to the Page to the Company.
An injunction was sought to prevent the ex-employees from using confidential information in order to gain competitive advantage. The ex-employees were ordered to hand over the user name and password for the LinkedIn account
This is the reason why LinkedIn have made it much more difficult to set up a LinkedIn Company page. There were too many cases of Company pages being set up by employees without permission. And then holding the Page hostage.
Now, if you want to set up the Page or be an admin, you have to have an email address that contains the company domain. That way, should everything go wrong, the Company can close the email account and stop the ex-employee from retaining control of the page.
Why having more than one admin for your Company page is important
Having said that, it also shows how important it is to have more than one employee acting as an admin for the Company page. That way, if one person does go rogue, there is another admin to notice. And, if the rogue employee's email address is cancelled, the Company still has one admin with access to the page. If there is no admin, it may not be possible to cancel the email address because it will leave the Company page an orphan. LinkedIn's automated systems may not allow that to happen. So, have more than one admin.
Being able to close their account later does not stop them from syphoning off any information before they leave though.
LinkedIn personal business contacts - whose property are they?
I am reminded of a conversation I had with a business owner about how they were poaching a salesman from a competitor. The salesman had set up his LinkedIn account using a non-company email address. Therefore, it belonged to him not the company. And, of course, a large proportion of his connections were clients of his current employer.
This was his way of taking the records of those clients with him when he moved on to a new place of work.
I'm not sure there is anything legally that can be done about that. Can the law control ownership of a personal LinkedIn account? Or indeed someone's right to be connected to people - even if they met them through the course of business.
As was mentioned in this case, the final judgement prohibited the ex-employees from entering into contractual relationships with any of the clients from the business cards they had taken from the premises. But they did not mention the details of those who had followed the LinkedIn Company page.
The importance of a Social Media Usage Policy and Employee Contracts
I believe that some friends who worked in the insurance and banking industries had clauses in their contracts which stopped them from contacting clients for a certain amount of time after they left the Company. In some cases, they were not allowed to work in that industry at all for a set period of time. As I recall, it was called Gardening Leave.
As is mentioned in the article, in this case the employees did not have a written contract of employment containing post termination restrictions. If the employees had waited until after they left to set up in competition, the Company would have been powerless to stop them.
It's becoming more and more important for Companies to have an official Social Media Usage Policy but this should also cover who owns any contacts relating to business who are gained through social media sites.
And also an effective employment contract for any staff or outsourcers so they cannot set themselves up in competition using information that you have given/taught them.