It’s what all employers dread – the prospect of an employee leaving to work with a competitor and taking with them all the valuable business contacts. Now in the digital age, with social sites like LinkedIn becoming so prevalent, it’s become easier than ever for employees to leave employment with access to all those relationships.
Can you prevent an employee from using those connections that they built up during employment with your business?
If there aren’t specific clauses in the employment agreement to deal with this, then the legal avenue that is available is the principle of breach of confidence, which prevents a former employee from using information that falls within “trade secrets” which are confidential to the employer.
The question is, are LinkedIn contacts within the ambit of “trade secrets”? This hasn’t been determined by a court in Australia, and unhelpfully courts overseas haven’t had a uniform answer to this question.
Until then, employers can take other steps to address this risk, such as having a tightly drafted restraint against contacting any clients for a certain period post-employment. Further, a company policy on social media could be used, making it clear that social media should only be used for the benefit of the employer, requiring that they delete any LinkedIn contacts that have been acquired during the employment before they leave. Also, steps could be taken requiring the employee to keep separate a social media account specifically for the purposes of the employer, which can then be closed before the employee leaves.
If you would like to discuss a recent employment issue, or if you would like assistance in reviewing your employment contracts and processes before an issue like this arises, contact us at [email protected] or on 02 8006 0830 for a confidential discussion.