Many were quick to point out this interesting case but my colleague Robin Frederick sums it up best in today’s post. If this doesn’t convince you to “friend” your kids on Facebook, I’m not sure anything will!
Most tech-savvy parents counsel their kids to be careful about what they put on Facebook and other social media because their posts could come back to haunt them when they are applying for college or looking for a job. But one dad just found out that his daughter’s injudicious post cost him $80,000.
Patrick Snay, a 69 year old former head of Gulliver Schools, a private prep school in Miami, settled an age discrimination and retaliation claim against the school that he brought when his contract as head of school was not renewed. The settlement included $90,000 plus the payment of $60,000 to his attorneys for his fees, and he signed an agreement in exchange for the payment. One of the provisions in the agreement was a confidentiality provision, requiring Snay to keep the agreement confidential except for disclosure to his attorneys and his spouse.
Soon after the agreement was signed, and before the school payed Snay $80,000 due under the agreement, Snay’s daughter boasted on Facebook:
“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
This post went to his daughter’s 1200 Facebook friends, many of whom were either current or past Gulliver students, and quickly spread to school officials. In response, the school notified Snay that it would not be paying $80,000 that was outstanding under the agreement.
Snay sued to enforce the agreement, seeking the payment of the $80,000, and won at the lower court level. But the school appealed and a Florida appeals court ruled last week that Snay could not enforce the agreement because he breached its confidentiality clause by disclosing the deal to his daughter. He claims that all he said to his daughter was that his case was settled and he was happy with the result. According to the appellate court, this was sufficient to breach the confidentiality provision of the agreement, which prohibited Snay from disclosing “either directly or indirectly” “any information whatsoever regarding the existence or the terms of the agreement….”
The Court’s opinion found that, “[B]efore the ink was dry on the agreement, and notwithstanding the clear language … mandating confidentiality, Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do.” “His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent, advertising to the Gulliver community that Snay had been successful in his age discrimination and retaliation case against the school.”
Confidentiality provisions are serious provisions that should be complied with by whoever agrees to comply. This is an extreme example of a confidentiality provision gone awry, but is not surprising given the reach of Facebook and other social media. Before the advent of social media, a breach might never have been discovered. But in 2014 and beyond, anyone subject to a confidentiality provision should be extra cautious about complying with its terms. And we should certainly continue to caution anyone using social media about its dangers and perils.