Saturday, February 1, 2014

Could Your Update on LinkedIn Violate a Non-Compete Agreement?

Today, I am re-posting a blog post of a colleague of mine (with his permission) that I found to be particularly interesting and relevant for those of you who are looking to leave your present employers to start your own businesses or to just go work elsewhere. It has to do with announcing your new job on LinkedIn, and whether this act alone could be viewed as a violation of the prior employer’s non-complete policy. I have to be honest here, this possibility never occurred to me before. But now, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense: considering that so many people are connected and active on LinkedIn, you may solicit people to follow you to your new job by simply announcing your new job on LinkedIn.  Especially, if you are a recruiter.  Hmm…

About the author: James Hunt is a business litigator and a partner at Slater, Tenaglia, Fritz & Hunt, P.A., a commercial litigation and personal injury firm with offices in NJ and NY.

“It has been said in a wide variety of contexts that you must think twice before you post anything on social media websites. This may hold true when it comes to announcing your new job if you are still bound by a non-compete agreement.

In the recent case of KNF&T Inc. v. Muller, filed in Suffolk, Mass., Superior Court, KNF&T alleged its former vice president Charlotte Muller violated her non-compete contract in a variety of ways, including her announcement of her new job on LinkedIn. KNF&T is in the business of providing staffing resources and Ms. Muller’s new employer, Panther Global Group Inc., recruits in the field of information technology. When Ms. Muller updated her place of employment via LinkedIn, more than 500 contacts, including some she made during her employment with KNF&T, were notified.

KNF&T alleged the LinkedIn notification constituted a solicitation of business, which directly violated her non-compete agreement. In rendering its decision, the court focused on the fact that Ms. Muller’s new position in information technology recruiting did not constitute direct competition with KNF&T’s recruitment of administrative support specialists. Thus, the court held that there was not a violation of the non-competition contract.

The result? Since the Massachusetts court based its decision on the difference in the services provided by the two companies, the issue of whether a simple social media notification can constitute a solicitation of business remains unresolved. Thus, if you or your new employee is bound by the terms of a valid non-compete agreement, it is extremely important to be careful when announcing the new position.

What should you consider? You should have your attorney review the terms of the non-compete contract to determine what constitutes a violation of it. Typically, if the new position directly competes with the business of the former employer or the employee is connected with former clients on the social media website, you may have an issue.

If you have questions regarding non-compete agreements, contact an experienced business litigation attorney at Slater, Tenaglia, Fritz & Hunt, P.A. for a free initial consultation.”

This article is not a legal advice, and was written for general informational purposes only.  If you have questions or comments about the article or are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to contact its author, Arina Shulga.  Ms. Shulga is the founder of Shulga Law Firm, P.C., a New York-based boutique law firm specializing in advising individual and corporate clients on aspects of business, corporate, securities, and intellectual property law.