Court Finds LinkedIn Posts Can Violate Employment Agreement
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UPDATED: Sep 18, 2017
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A Minnesota court has ruled that posts on LinkedIn (and by extension on other social networking sites) can violate the non-solicitation clause of an employment agreement.
The case of Mobile Mini, Inc. v. Vevea involves two competitors in the portable storage business.
Liz Vevea left Mobile Mini in November 2016 and subsequently went to work for Citi-Cargo.
She had been a productive employee, responsible for over $1.2 million in sales with roughly 254 customers in 3.5 years.
Mobile Mini alleged that since Citi-Cargo hired Vevea she violated provisions of the non-solicit and non-compete clauses in her employment agreement with Mobile Mini.
Vevea’s employment agreement included a provision that after leaving Mobile Mini she would:
not … directly or indirectly solicit Company Customers for the purpose of making portable storage sales, … or make referrals for profit related to Company Customer, … for twelve months;
Six months after she resigned Vevea updated her LinkedIn account with the following:
I’m excited to have joined the Citi-Cargo Sales Team! We lease and sell clean, safe, and solid storage containers and offices. We are locally owned and operated, with local live voice answer. We offer same day delivery to the Metro, and have consistent rental rates with true monthly billing. Give me a call today for a quote. XXX-XXX-XXXX.
The post also included photos of Citi-Cargo containers.
A week later, Vevea again posted on LinkedIn:
Call me today for a storage container quote from the cleanest, newest, safest and best container fleet in the State of Minnesota.
Mobile Mini brought suit two days after this second post. Vevea and her new company sought to dismiss the case.
Mobile Mini claimed that two customers Vevea had worked with, representing $130,000 in 2016 sales, had decreased the amount of business they did with Mobile Mini or announced they were planning to take their business elsewhere.
The court found that there was no direct evidence that Mobile Mini had actually lost customers or missed business opportunities because of Vevea’s alleged breaches of her employment agreement, but that it wasn’t implausible that her alleged solicitations could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business.
Blatant Sales Pitches
The court found that:
Vevea made two blatant sales pitches on LinkedIn on behalf of Citi-Cargo before the expiration of the Agreement’s non-solicitation provision. Contrary to Defendants’ arguments, the posts are not mere status updates announcing Vevea’s new position and contact information — if that were the extent of the posts, then there would likely not be a breach of contract…
Instead of merely announcing a job change, the language of the posts here demonstrates that Vevea’s purpose was to entice members of Vevea’s network to call her for the purpose of making sales in her new position at Citi-Cargo.
The court noted the likelihood that Vevea’s LinkedIn network included at least one, if not many, Mobile Mini customers.
The court also issued an injunction ordering Vevea to remove the LinkedIn posts.
Although this Minnesota federal court decision isn’t binding on other courts, it suggests that other courts might rule the same way.
Thus, employees with non-solicitation clauses in their employment agreements might want to avoid posting blatant sales pitches on LinkedIn and other social media while they’re still governed by the non-solicit clause.