Legal Matters: The Dangers of Social Media for Your Nonprofit
For those of you who have ever been involved in a lawsuit, you’ll know what I mean. For those of you who have not, you’ll be forewarned.
This article is about evidence. The best kind. From-the-heart, spur-of-the-moment statements that amount to a virtual paper trail of everything someone says and does. I’m talking about social media evidence — like Facebook and Twitter.
As a trial lawyer, I get excited when I find or receive Facebook and Twitter pages from my opponents in a lawsuit. People love to rant and rave about their jobs on social media. These posts usually contain a treasure trove of evidence that can be used in favor of, or against, a company.
Here’s a war story that will make you cringe. I represented an organization that was sued by a former employee. The executive director fired the employee for performance issues. The employee hired a lawyer who alleged that the company’s explanation for firing was pre-textual and the actual reason for termination was age discrimination. In discovery (where parties request and obtain relevant documents from the other side), I requested and obtained printouts of the employee’s Facebook posts. What we found was shocking — this employee had been disclosing the company’s confidential information and trade secrets for months, bragging about the company’s revenue numbers and plans for growth that were supposed to be confidential, on Facebook. This public disclosure of confidential information has serious implications to the company — trade secrets must be kept confidential, otherwise they’re no longer trade secrets.
Ironically, this bragger employee also posted about how, since his termination, he was spending every day relaxing (rather than looking for a new job, as he testified in his deposition) and how he was going to buy a new BMW with the money he was going to receive from his lawsuit.