When entering the job market, we have all heard the familiar phrase, “Be careful what you put on Facebook!” It should go without saying that when you learn information sealed under a confidentiality agreement, you should “be careful what you put on Facebook!” Recently, a (now) famous violator of this idiom, Ms. Dana Snay of Florida, cost her father, Mr. Patrick Snay, an $80,000 payout after she posted about his favorable settlement agreement in his age discrimination suit against his former employer, Gulliver Preparatory School. On her Facebook page, which is accessible to over 1,200  of Ms. Snay’s friends, many of whom attend(ed) the defendant-institution, Ms. Snay remarked “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” In light of the post, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Florida found that the confidentiality agreement between Mr. Snay and Gulliver had been breached—divesting Mr. Snay of his $80,000 portion of the settlement agreement.

However, while Ms. Snay put the proverbial wind in Gulliver’s sails, she was not a party to the confidentiality agreement—so she could not have breached it. Rather, the court held that Mr. Snay had violated the confidentiality agreement when he allegedly told his daughter that he had settled with Gulliver, and was “happy with the results.” The language of the settlement agreement specifically forbid Mr. Snay from sharing any information regarding the terms, or even existence, of the agreement with anyone other than his spouse or attorneys. With seemingly incontestable proof, in the form of a Facebook proclamation, that Mr. Snay had told his daughter of the settlement – Gulliver swiftly hailed Mr. Snay into court, with the appellate court dismissing Mr. Snay’s assertions that he “had to tell his daughter something,” since she had faced retaliation for the suit while still attending Gulliver. Ultimately, the court held that Mr. Snay’s post-breach concerns were unpersuasive, since he neither presented them to Gulliver, nor his own attorneys, during settlement negotiations.

Furthermore, in holding for Gulliver, the court noted that, while Ms. Snay did not herself violate the agreement, Ms. Snay’s conduct was precisely that which the confidentiality agreement sought to avoid—broadcasting to the school community that Mr. Snay was successful in his age discrimination suit against the school. So what can be gleaned from the Snays’ $80,000 misstep? If you feel the need to violate a confidentiality agreement (which you shouldn’t), avoid teenagers with Internet access.

 

Kate Haywood

 

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