He said what? How To Handle Online Disparagement By Former Employees.

An issue we have been seeing pop up with some regularity is the online disparagement of companies by former employees. While it can take many forms, we often see it in the form of Facebook posts by former employees. While it is a nightmare to get attacked online because it is damaging to your reputation: and it is potentially unlawful.

In the last decade, many companies have begun using Non-Disclosure Agreements in their contracting and hiring process. Not only have they become more common, the areas they cover have gotten broader. If an employee signed any sort of confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure clause when joining or leaving a company, they are not lawfully able to comment negatively about their time there. That includes “exposing” their old boss or company practices on Facebook.

In terms of how a company should react when being attacked online by a former employee, the response should vary based on your business and needs. No matter what, you should not post a response before consulting with an attorney. Some companies’ activities are governed by various privacy laws.  Those companies may not be able to post a response unless the former employee signs a release. Companies should not engage in a social media war with the former employee.

If the former employee has breached their Non-Disclosure Agreement by the negative social media post, they may now owe their former employer company some money. When properly drafted, employers can recover for their reputational damage and costs of enforcing Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Former employees who choose to make negative social media posts may be deterred by the existence of a Non-Disclosure Agreement.  Upon leaving employment, employees are generally reminded of any Non-Disclosure or Non-competition agreement they signed when starting employment.  This often serves as a deterrent as former employees recognize that they will need to hire a lawyer to defend their position if they disparage their former employer. 

In Minnesota, Non-Disclosure Agreements are much less limited in the scope of what they can cover than Non-Compete Agreements are. They should be drafted specifically for the needs of the company using them.

At Grabitske Law, we have been advising our corporate clients to proactively deal with the threat of future negative social media posts by employees by getting a good Non-Disclosure Agreement in place at the start of the employment relationship.  If you are dealing with vengeful former employees, don’t waste your time and energy getting caught up in a social media response. Contact Grabitske Law to get the help you need today. We can help!

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Grabitske Law Firm, PLC

For nearly two decades, Paul Grabitske has been helping clients with their legal issues in the areas of estate planning, probate, trust administration, business law, agricultural law and litigation.

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