1 August 2014: Do employers own their staff’s linked in contacts?
We wrote in July 2013 about Confidentiality, Restrictive Covenants and Linkedin profiles. LinkedIn is becoming a particularly important tool in some jobs, and the ownership of an employee’s contacts after employment ends therefore becomes particularly important.
The case of Whitmar Publications Limited v Gamage also addressed the status of LinkedIn contacts. Whitmar Publications applied for an injunction against ex-employees who used the company’s LinkedIn group contacts to market the launch of a rival business. One of the ex-employees maintained four LinkedIn groups on behalf of the company and refused to provide Whitmar with any of the access details for the groups on leaving.
The Court granted an interim injunction preventing the employees from using the company’s contacts. The Court found that the employees’ actions amounted to a misuse of “confidential information” and a breach of the implied duty of good faith, even though LinkedIn’s terms state that the account is personal to the account holder and the information itself is stored on LinkedIn’s servers and not the employer’s servers.
The Whitmar case offers a lifeline to employers wanting to protect ex-employees from exploiting their social media contact lists. However there are further steps employers can take to protect their business:
1. Specify in the employment contract that the employer owns the social media profile or contact list created in the course of employment.
2. Have a policy setting out what procedure will be followed to take control of those social media contacts when employment ends.
3. Make sure that post termination restrictions include non-dealing in addition to non- solicitation, so that even if contacts approach your ex-employee, he can’t do business with them for a period anyway.
Reculver Solicitors is a firm of employment lawyers and solicitors based on London Central, Holborn WC1V, just by chancery lane tube station. We advise on post termination restrictions, unfair dismissal, redundancy and much more. Call us today on 0207 118 0950 for a confidential chat.