Leaving Your Job? Leave Your ID Badge, Bathroom Key and Twitter Handle at the Door

Published: Jan 19, 2012

Leaving Your Job? Leave Your ID Badge, Bathroom Key and Twitter Handle at the Door By Barbara Safani, Career Solvers

I recently came across this SHRM article Former Employees Claim Ownership of Twitter Handles, LinkedIn Connections describing the tug-of-war between employers and employees over ownership of Twitter handles and followers and LinkedIn accounts and connections once an employee leaves the company. While more and more companies seem to be creating more formalized social media policies, it’s obvious that there is still a lot of gray when it comes to deciding what rightfully belongs to the individual and what the employer can claim as theirs.

According to a Forbes article, Who Owns Your LinkedIn Contacts, a court in England ordered that an employee who resigned to start his own consulting business turn over his LinkedIn contacts to his former employer, along with receipts and contracts proving that none of them became clients of his new firm.

Yet in another case in New York, a head hunter who left her firm to start her own practice was sued by her former employer for approaching candidates and clients who were her LinkedIn contacts and also part of the former employer’s database. Here the court ruled that LinkedIn connections do not qualify as trade secrets because LinkedIn connections are easily derived from public information.

It remains to be seen how these issues will play out in the years to come, but in the meantime, here are a few suggestions for increasing your chances of retaining ownership of your social media information following a departure from a company.

1. Attach your LinkedIn account to your personal email rather than your company email.
2. Create a PDF copy of your LinkedIn profile so if you ever get “locked out” of your account you can retrieve your information.
3. Export your contacts regularly and store them in another database not connected to your social media accounts.
4. Create a Twitter handle that uses your name rather than a company name.
5. Prior to accepting a new position, read the employee manual and learn what the social media policy (if any) is.
6. If you are required to sign a non-compete, review it carefully and try to negotiate for a non-compete with terms that are the most specific and the least limiting. This may include specific language about your ability to retain ownership of your social media contacts.

About the Author

Barbara Safani is the Author of Happy About My Resume: 50 Tips for Building a Better Document to Secure a Brighter Future. Visit our blog at www.careersolvers.com/blog.

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