Subadhra Sriram's Blog

How a Facebook post lost $80,000 for this family

The staffing industry is in the midst of a passionate love affair with social media. But not every situation ends well.

Take the latest case — outside of the industry — making the rounds.

A college-age daughter in Florida caused her father to forfeit his settlement payment from a former employer because she announced the settlement on Facebook, according to Globe Business Publishing Ltd.’s free news service.

The father was the headmaster at a private school and, after he was fired, he sued the school for age discrimination and retaliation. As part of the agreement, the school agreed to pay the father $80,000 and his attorney $60,000.

The agreement contained a confidentiality clause:

[T]he plaintiff shall not either directly or indirectly, disclose, discuss or communicate to any entity or person, except his attorneys and other professional advisors or spouse any information whatsoever regarding the existence or terms of this Agreement … A breach … will result in disgorgement of the Plaintiff’s portion of the settlement Payments.

The father chatted with his daughter. He admitted in his deposition that he had told his daughter that the matter was settled and that he was “happy with the results.”  After the agreement was reached, the daughter posted on Facebook

Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Guillver (sic).  Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT. 

The daughter had approximately 1,200 “friends” on Facebook, many of whom were either current or former students at the school.

The school argued that her post violated the agreement’s confidentiality provision and it refused to pay the father his portion of the settlement. The appeals court in Florida agreed with the school.

What this brings up is that both buyers and suppliers of staffing services have to be careful about what you share on social media. But that’s just one obvious aspect of the big picture. The fact is that you have to know how to use social media smartly. It’s not enough to get rookies to take on social media functions in organizations just because they are young, connected and familiar with it.  It requires a certain expertise to be effective and not land you or your company in trouble.

Countless celebrities whose posts or photos have gone viral and created a backlash wished they had been less quick to hit that button. You don’t want to end up on Dumbest Tweets. Ever. So before you or one of your workers tweet or post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ — or whatever your personal favorite is — make sure you have the right person in place to do the job. The person should know how to write, understand your industry and the implications of social media.  And yes, please respect confidentiality agreements.

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