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September 06, 2012
You just got a great new job or started a new business and want to tell everyone you know . You change your employment status on LinkedIn and Facebook. But what if you leave to work for a competitor? Could your updated profile get you into trouble?
In competitive industries executives and other employees are often subject to non-competition and non-solicitation clauses in their employment contracts. The enforceability of these clauses depends on a number of factors, including the duration and scope of the restriction.
When you change your employment status, LinkedIn goes out of the way to highlight the change to all of your LinkedIn contacts. On the mobile version, the site will actually congratulate you and move the story to the top of your contacts’ feeds. Facebook will add the change to your timeline.
Ottawa employment lawyer Sean Bawden is an avid social media user and commentator. In a recent blog he says that simply changing the name of your employer on LinkedIn or Facebook is no different than sending out a letter of introduction, or placing a notice in the local newspaper or trade journal.
“Provided the dissemination of the information is wide and that the information does not include a request to follow you to your new employer or business, then there is nothing wrong with simply making the change.”
Where Bawden draws the line is if you make a concerted effort to add your previous employer’s clients as LinkedIn contacts or Facebook friends either shortly before or after adding new information to your profile. In these circumstances he says, “That’s total solicitation in my opinion. That’s where the old rules apply.”
And if you want to be “squeaky clean,” he suggests that you change your profile to show you have left the old company, but do not list the new company by name for several months. In this way, any former clients can initiate contact with you if they want to know what happened or move their business to your new company. But no argument can be made that you tried to lure away your former boss’s customers because you didn’t post any new information.
He also recommends that you do not post your new venture to your social media profiles until the date your resignation becomes effective. Any earlier and your former employer may be able to successfully allege you have violated your duty to resign on reasonable notice and/or the non-solicitation clause in your contract.