Friday, July 12, 2013

Employer Sues Ex-Employee for Not Updating LinkedIn Profile - COTW #151

Recently, an employer took a shot at suing an ex-employee for fraudulent misrepresentation over his failure to update his social media accounts. The employer claimed he "falsely represented on social media outlets, such as LinkedIn, that he held the position as JAVS' International Managing Director after his date of termination." Jefferson Audio Visual Sys., Inc. v. Gunnar Light, 3:12-CV-00019-H, 2013 WL 1947625 (W.D. Ky. May 9, 2013).

Unfortunately for the employer, this claim was dismissed. The employer admitted that it had not relied on the representation, a necessary element of the cause of action. The Court was apparently unimpressed by the employer's theory that the ex-employee had defrauded "the world."

So, what can employers do? Well, they can send a bunch of demand letters (which this employer did . . . and it ultimately worked). But what about causes of action? I'm not an IP guy, but maybe there's an IP issue here (using company trademarks?)? If the employer incurred actual damages, like losing customers, it could raise an interference with contractual/economic relations issue. It almost sounds like an invasion of privacy - false light issue, but I'm pretty sure (don't quote me on this) that corporations lack standing to bring such claims. Defamation maybe?

Drop a comment if you have an idea!

Update: One option is to have employees sign contracts to update their social media profiles upon termination. The employers would have a breach of contract cause of action then. Sounds pretty burdensome though.