CHICAGO — Employees who keep in touch with their former co-workers on social media may want to review copies of their employment contracts to make sure they don't risk getting sued for violating a "non-compete" clause, even if they never directly seek to poach talent to join them in their new venture or come to work for their new employer.
A three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court recently reviewed claims made by Bankers Life and Casualty Company, accusing its former sales manager of attempting to recruit employees away from the firm to his new company.
The suit claimed the defendant had violated a non-compete clause by connecting with his former co-workers via social networking website LinkedIn. The co-workers then allegedly discovered on his profile that his new company had open positions.
“The thing it comes down to is the language of your non-compete and non-solicitation (clauses),” Timothy Herman, an attorney at Clark Hill PLC, told The Cook County Record.
Though the appellate court held that the move was not solicitation based on decisions in similar cases, the suit is unlikely to be the last of its kind.
“People use Facebook all the time, and if people have good news, the first thing they want to do is let people know about it," Herman said.
Herman said the ruling would only affect those with specific restrictions in their contracts that forbids them from soliciting employees or clients for a period of time. But those who have such restrictions could be held accountable for solicitation without actively poaching talent, Herman said.
Herman said it’s up to employers to tailor their contracts and not rely on a one-size-fits-all model.
“Social media is a part of all our lives," he said. "This could affect anyone who has employment agreements with their former employers."