Social media sites such as LinkedIn and Ladders have changed the landscape for salespeople and jobseekers alike. Salespeople can reach and develop a larger customer base with less effort, and job seekers can connect with decision-makers in unprecedented ways. But with so much more exposure, salespeople who leave an employer may have to be particularly careful about comments made on social media, especially if the employee is subject to a non-solicitation agreement.
A 2017 ruling by a federal district court in Minnesota exemplifies this notion. The court granted a preliminary injunction preventing a former employee of Mobile Mini, Inc. from soliciting customers through LinkedIn.
While this ruling was made by a district court judge under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, it provides significant guidance for companies in this jurisdiction regarding potential violations of non-solicitation agreements.
Upon resigning as from her position as a sales rep for Mobile Mini, the employee promised, among other things, not to solicit any her former employer’s customers for at least 12 months. After joining a competitor six months later, the employee posted two seemingly benign posts that announced her move to the new company and asked potential customers to call for quotes for products from her new employer.
Even though she was now in another region of the country, Mobile Mini brought suit, arguing that the posts violated the non-solicitation clauses in the agreement and immediately asked the court for a preliminary injunction. The court agreed, reasoning that the posts went further than announcing a job change when they included requests for potential customers to contact her. The court found that LinkedIn posts were blatant sales pitches that exceeded the scope of what could be said under the non-solicitation clauses.
Indeed, making an announcement about a new position with a new company is within an employee’s right, but an employer is entitled to protect their position in the marketplace. After all, there is a difference between telling social media followers about an employee’s job change and actively soliciting business in spite of a promise made to an employer. In these instances, an experienced business law attorney can protect the rights of a company and enforce a properly executed non-solicitation agreement.