With all that was going on with the holidays, my colleague Peter Murphy reminds us that ownership of work-related social media is not an issue to take lightly.  Why? Well, let Peter take the story from there….

Back in May, Dan posted some very helpful advice to employers about ownership of work-related social media accounts. 

In short, clarifying corporate ownership of the account, ensuring that more than one employee has access to the account, and documenting such arrangements can go a long way to avoiding disputes if and when employees leave.

Although this blog is widely read and award winning in the United States [editor’s note: Peter’s flattery will get him everywhere in the office], apparently not all employers in Europe are reading it yet.

A restaurant in Britain, The Plough, fired its head chef in December, shortly before Christmas.

Although the restaurant terminated his employment, it did not terminate the Chef’s access to the restaurant’s Twitter.

In fact, it appears that the Chef is the only person with access to the Twitter account, as the Chef’s disparaging post-termination tweets are still on the account’s homepage three weeks after his termination:

Not only was the Chef allowed to disparage the restaurant to its own customers on Twitter, but his tweets also gave the restaurant unwanted attention all over the Internet.

People reading these tweets don’t know the circumstances behind the Chef’s termination, and his termination could have been very justified.

But because the restaurant failed to control its own social media account, the Chef’s tweets are setting the narrative.

Not a recipe for success.

Employers already use employment agreements, employment policies, and separation agreements to control messy post-employment situations. As this case demonstrates, clearly defined social media practices and policies are another important tool for controlling such situations.

This afternoon, I’ll be speaking to the Connecticut Bar Association’s Annual Meeting on a topic that is familiar to blog readers: The Intersection of Employment Law and Social Media.

If you’re attending, please stop by to say hi.

There are a few resources that I’ll discuss in the presentation that I would recommend here:

And for more posts on this blog about the topic, you can view the tag “social media”.

I look forward to seeing fellow lawyers at today’s event.

 

In my presentations on social media this year, I’ve talked a bit about the Phonedog v. Kravitz case where an employer sued a former employee who continued to use the company Twitter account he had started.

Are Your Accounts Under Lock & Key?

When the employee left, he merely changed the Twitter account’s handle to his own name and took the 17,000 Twitter followers with him. 

The case was just settled this week for undisclosed terms; the Employment Law Daily blog does a good job recapping the lessons learned from that case here. (For another perspective, also check out the Social Media for Law Firm post on the same subject.)

One thing we DO know though is that the employee is keeping the Twitter account, which now has over 27,000 followers. 

What’s the Takeaway for Employers?

Consider requiring employees who use social media as part of their job to agree that the company owns the account.  Employers could, for example, ask for login and password information on specific accounts too.

One practical problem though is that some of these accounts sometimes blend the personal and professional, as the Trading Secrets blog has noted, so its important to have clear rules up front.  The Trade Secret Litigator blog has some more tips as well. 

Earlier this fall, another case, Eagle v. Morgan, also talked about this notion in the LinkedIn context.  The Employee Handbook blog did a nice summary as well.   Expect more suits like this in 2013.