Confidentiality agreements--whether they're in employee handbooks or legal settlements--typically require employees to refrain from talking or writing about some type of company secret. But as this new case shows, it's wise to make clear that such disclosures are also banned on social media.
Case in point: After Patrick Snay, the headmaster at a Florida prep school, sued for age discrimination, both sides settled for an undisclosed amount. The settlement required Patrick and his wife not to reveal the existence and terms of the agreement. Doing so could mean $80,000 would be slashed from the settlement.
Apparently because teenage girls are so good at keeping secrets, Patrick decided to share the settlement information with his daughter. At cyberspeed, the daughter posted a celebratory message on her Facebook page announcing, "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT."
The school cried foul, saying the posting violated the confidentiality agreement. A lower court said it didn't rise to that level. But a Florida appeals court sided with the school, saying it could reduce the payout by $80,000.
The judge said the daughter's Facebook posting was precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent," noting that many of her 1,200 Facebook friends were former or current Gulliver students. (Gulliver Sch, Inc. v. Snay, 2014 BL 51911, Fla. Dist. Ct. App.)
Final tips: Make sure your confidentiality pact specifically addresses social media. This agreement did not and it took two courts to finally determine that disclosure on Facebook "was a clear breach."
Plus, monitor social media to what's being said about your organization. In this case, keeping their ears and eyes open for online confidentiality breaches saved the school $80,000.
RELATED ARTICLE: Sample confidentiality policy.