Social media is a great way to expand and maintain your network. The majority of social media networking, however, is informal and people tend to treat it that way. Interacting with your co-workers through social media can be a recipe for trouble. Along those lines, how does social media fit in with a non-compete clause?
What does the non-compete clause say?
As noted in this article, the first thing to consider is the language of the non-compete clause. Does it specifically prohibit any and all communications to former co-employees or former clients? If so, the use of social media to communicate with those individuals could be problematic. Taken to the extreme, would this require an individual to de-friend or remove previous contacts?
But what if the non-compete clause is more “standard” and prohibits an individual from contacting former co-workers to recruit them, or from recruiting/soliciting former clients? Things become murky at that point. Status updates talking about a new position are seemingly innocuous. Using Facebook, or LinkedIn, however, to solicit someone would appear to violate the clause.
What is the purpose of the communication?
Regardless of the medium (email, social media, telephone, etc.), if the purpose of the communication is contradictory to the non-compete clause, the medium probably does not matter.
But what about a status update that skirts the line. For example, what if a status update says “Loving my new job, everyone should work here.” If that update appears in a former employees news feed, is that considered a solicitation? Is that even considered an intentional or purposeful communication? What if the person simply forgot that the former employees receive their status updates?
Perhaps this case will shed some light on the issue. But given the prevalence of social networking, especially among co-workers, this is an issue that will not go away anytime soon.