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Facebook Could Cost You $$

On February 28, 2014, Yahoo published an article entitled “Daughter’s Facebook Brag Costs Her Family $80,000.” The title itself sounds horrifying, especially since most parents consistently question their children’s use of the famous social networking site. In this article, a Florida Headmaster settled an age-discrimination suit for $80,000, after being terminated at the age of 69. The settlement included a non-disclosure provision that prevented the plaintiff from speaking publicly about the case or the settlement amount. Little did the headmaster know, his daughter couldn’t resist putting up a Facebook status disclosing the fact that there was a settlement. With over one thousand friends, the daughter’s post went “viral” and was discovered by opposing counsel and the courts. The courts reversed the settlement and issued a ruling stating in part, “his [the headmaster’s] daughter… did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.”

Furthermore, be weary of discussing certain matters in front of family members. Although, I am sure it with good intentions that the father in this article spoke to his daughter about the case, there are drawbacks to telling family members who don’t fully understand the importance of non-disclosure. Social media, as a whole, has taken the legal profession and the workplace to an entirely new arena: dissemination of personal information to a wide audience. Employees are cautioned to take steps to ensure maximum privacy on these sites, so are students applying to colleges and individuals reviewed for moral character and fitness.

Here are some easy steps you can take to ensure you don’t violate settlement agreements:

  1. You should scan in and keep the settlement agreement in an easily accessible place so you can review the document from time to time.
  2. If you discussed the settlement amount with your spouse or family members (provided this is permissible), you should go over the agreement with the individual and ensure they understand all the terms of the agreement.
  3. If you discussed the settlement amount with your CPA when you were doing your taxes or an attorney, make sure you email a copy of the document to the individual and request that they respect the terms of the settlement agreement (I am assuming you have a carveout to allow for this action).
  4. Ensure you have gone over the confidentiality section of the settlement agreement with your employment lawyer so that you understand whether the confidentiality pertains to the amount of the settlement, the allegations in the case, etc.
  5. Ensure that when you are negotiating the settlement agreement, it does not affect your abilities to discuss your employment in your efforts to gain subsequent employment.
  6. Try to draft the settlement agreement in a manner when only the amount of the settlement is part and parcel of the confidentiality agreement.
  7. If you have questions about the scope of the confidentiality agreement, discuss it with your lawyer before you have discussions with others.
  8. If you want to discuss your settlement amount with others, just DON’T!!!! You can control what you say. You can’t control what others say or do. Once you discuss the settlement amount with others, you lose control. If that person violates the confidentiality agreement, it is generally the same as you violating the settlement agreement. This could result in you having to cut a large check back to the employer!!!

The bottom line: Don’t publish any information surrounding a lawsuit on social media. Non-disclosure means Facebook statuses are off limits!

The above blog post was written over one year ago. The information in this blog post may not be current due to changes in the law or recent case decisions. We encourage you to contact our firm, at 973-509-8500, for information on this particular post and to make sure the content is still current.

The entries for this blog are intended for informational purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice, and may not reasonably be relied upon as such. If you face a legal issue, you should consult a qualified attorney for independent legal advice with regard to your particular set of facts. This blog may constitute attorney advertising. This blog is not intended to communicate with anyone in a state or other jurisdiction where such a website may fail to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state or jurisdiction.

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