Verrill Dana, LLP

Verrill Dana, LLP is one of New England's preeminent regional law firms. With offices in Portland and Augusta, Maine, Boston and Stamford, Verrill Dana provides sophisticated legal representation to businesses and individuals in the traditional areas of litigation, real estate, business law, labor and employment law, employee benefits, environmental law, intellectual property and estate planning.  The Firm also has industry-focused specialties including higher education, health care and health technology, energy, and timberlands. 

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Are You “Handl”ing Possible Employment Disputes with the Appropriate Electronic Use Policies?

Do your company’s tweets have a boatload of followers? We hope so, but who are they following—your business or the employee who created your Twitter account?

We hope your company is one of the 75.4% of companies using social media for business purposes. Proskauer Rose recently released the findings from their second annual survey entitled, “Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 2.0”, with interesting data about companies using social media in the workplace and the evolving legal ramifications of its use.

Strikingly, of the 75.4% of companies that report using social media for business purposes, only 68.9% of companies surveyed indicated that they had a social media policy in place, and only 33.3% indicated that they provide any form of training on appropriate use of social media. 

We hope you are part of that 68.9% of companies with a social media policy in place. If so, the big question is, do the termination provisions of your policy contain express provisions protecting the company against misuse of social media by former employees?  If you answered no, I’m not going to tell you not to worry, but I am going to tell you that you’re not alone; only 16.7% of companies surveyed had one in place.

Wondering why inclusion of such a provision is important, take the issues PhoneDog Media has been dealing with for the last year.  PhoneDog Media describes itself as “one of the largest and most popular interactive mobile news and reviews resources that attracts a community of more than 2.5 million unique visitors each month.”  Last year, PhoneDog brought multiple tort claims against a former employee, Noah Kravitz, after he changed PhoneDog’s Twitter handle, which he had created, from @PhoneDog_Noah to @noahkravitz, and kept its 17,000 followers. He made the change after leaving his position with the company. The dispute was positioned to offer insight into whether employees who create social media accounts must surrender upon termination what employers may believe are corporate, not personal, accounts.

Recently, however, PhoneDog Media entered into a settlement agreement that provided Kravitz with custody of the corporate Twitter account. After publication of the settlement, Kravitz was quoted as saying, “In retrospect I’m sure we all wish we’d been able to foresee what was coming and negotiate specific terms ahead of time,” and he hopes that this case will force employers and employees to address the issue “ahead of time.”

Does your company have a social media policy with express provisions discussing termination?

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