Your ex-employee won’t tell you the password to your company’s LinkedIn page. Now what?

Posted on 05-22-2015 by
Tags: social media , Trending News & Topics , Labor & Employment , Employment Law

Many companies now have their own LinkedIn page to market their company on a larger platform. In order for that marketing to be successful you need someone to watch over and manage the page. The Employer Handbook poses the following question:

What happens when that person leaves and will not tell you the passwords to the page? What can you do?

One thing you could try a misappropriation of trade secrets lawsuit.

Could be theft of a trade secret

In a recent Illinois case, a plaintiff-employer claimed the identities of the members of its LinkedIn group constituted a trade secret. They added that when the ex-employee failed to return the group password, he effectively misappropriated that trade secret.

The plaintiff asked the court to take judicial notice of LinkedIn’s terms and conditions. The court allowed the claim to survive a motion to dismiss by the defendant.

Defendant believes Count II should be dismissed because the Speakers Bureau LinkedIn group is not secret….Plaintiff does not claim the group’s existence to be secret—only its contents. More generally, too little is known about the contents, configuration, and function of the LinkedIn group at this time, to conclude as a matter of law that its list of members did not constitute a trade secret.

This case also raises the following two-part question:

How “secret” are the group members? And what’s the value?

The author, Eric Meyer, did an experiment and visited the LinkedIn group featured in the case. He found that even though he was not a member of the group, he was able to identify 10 people in his extended network that were members of the group.

Meyer ends bring to light great questions regarding the value of the members as well as the inspection process before accepting (or rejecting) a member’s request to join the group.

I also question how much value the identities of the Group members would have to the plaintiff. While some may be business prospects, to say that of all members would be a reach.

Another question I’d have as the factfinder is what is the vetting process the employer undertakes when a LinkedIn user requests to join the group. Is membership rubber-stamped? Or must the applicant meet certain criteria?

How important do you feel the list of group members really is? What are your thoughts? Let us know below.

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