Starting a new job? Tweet it, be sued

Be careful -- delight over a new position demonstrated online could land you in court.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

The volatile job market, recession and the need to tighten our belts makes securing a new position often as momentous as our birthday, Christmas -- or better.

In glee, with minds full of the debts we can clear, the car we can buy, and perhaps even the holiday we can take, social media beckons. Considering how often people share pictures of cupcakes or their thoughts on the weather -- and let's not mention the public, caps-fury breakups over Facebook -- it's no surprise we want to let everyone know when the job search has come to an end.

However, this potentially leads to legal trouble, according to commercial law firm Gunster.

The Palm Beach County, Fla.-based company's employment attorney Keith Sonderling says that status updates documenting career changes have led to an interesting quandary -- how far is too far, when an individual is bound by nonsolicitation agreements?

The line isn't crystal-clear, says Sonderling. Nonsolicitation agreements prevent staff from recruiting former co-workers after working for competitors, and as noted by Market Watch, social media updates "can be interpreted as an attempt to work around those restrictions and slyly solicit applications."

As a result of social media, the lines which define what communication violates these agreements is murky -- leading to businesses tracking status updates, changes in job title and friend requests online.

When these updates coincide with prohibited practices, ex-employers may be able to step in -- which attorneys say could simply be a cease-and-desist letter, or worse; an employer could reserve the right to seek damages.

The prohibited practices are the issue -- is sending a private message to an old friend mentioning a new job opening a violation, or is a seemingly innocent status about the awesome new job viewable as a sly recruiting scheme?

Proving intention and solicitation motives can be difficult, and so some firms have responded by tweaking nonsolicitation agreements to specify that workers cannot be recruited in any form through social media -- including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn -- for a prescribed time period.

Many of these cases are settled out of court. But the lesson holds true -- if you are bound by such an agreement, do not think your social media activity is safe from a potential lawsuit.

Via: Market Watch

Image credit: Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards