It is relatively easy to build up an extensive network of contacts and clients using LinkedIn and it is also easy to regularly communicate with them.
This great tool can also cause significant damage to businesses when employees leave. Although it is accepted that employees are not able to remove from their employers any confidential information, including client lists, before their departure, the position in relation to contacts on LinkedIn is not so clear.
When an employee starts a new position with a new employer one of the first things they do is update their details on LinkedIn. This automatically notifies all their contacts that they have moved. It also lets the contacts know where they have moved.
Traditionally ex-employers have tried to hide this information for as long as possible to protect their business and to avoid losing customers.
Many employees now have post-termination restrictions that stop them from poaching or soliciting clients of their ex-employer for a limited period.
Is an employee who updated their LinkedIn profile in breach of those restrictions given that their actions are likely to cause a response from previous customers who may otherwise not have been told of the employee’s departure or their whereabouts?
The courts in England and Wales have not yet determined this issue although a court in America has found that such action is not in breach of a non-solicitation restriction.
Given that the legal position is not clear, employers would be well advised to ensure that there are other post termination restrictions in place that protect their business.
These would include a restriction on the employee dealing with clients of their ex-employer for a reasonable period after their departure. Such restrictions are only enforceable if they are reasonable and if they protect a legitimate business interest.
Amanda Pillinger is a solicitor at Thomas Guise.
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