Federal Lawsuit Asks Judge to Rule That Social Media Contact Violates Non-Compete Clause


The U.S. District Court for Minnesota is hearing a test case for how restrictive covenants are affected by social media. Our Chicago restrictive covenant litigation lawyers were extremely interested to read about TEKSystems, Inc. v. Hammernick in a June 15 ComputerWorld article. According to the article, information technology staffing firm TEKSystems is suing a former employee who once helped recruit IT professionals for the company to place at other businesses. That former employee, Brelyn Hammernick, is accused of violating her non-solicitation, non-compete and non-disclosure agreements with TEKSystems through her use of the social media website LinkedIn. The company claims Hammernick violated her agreements by connecting with at least 20 TEKSystems contract employees, among other things. Other defendants are Horizontal Integration, Hammernick’s new company, and two colleagues who moved there from TEKSystems, Quinn VanGorden and Michael Hoolihan.

According to the federal complaint, Hammernick signed an agreement not to work for a competitor of TEKSystems for 18 months after leaving her job there and within a 50-mile radius of the company’s Edina, Minnesota office. The agreement also restricted her from recruiting employees and clients of TEKSystems for the same 18-month period, including people who had been contract employees for up to two years beforehand, and from revealing the company’s confidential information. The complaint accuses Hammernick of violating all three provisions after moving to Horizontal Integration, a direct competitor. In addition to connecting with former colleagues on LinkedIn, the company accuses her and her two colleagues of using their knowledge of TEKSystems’ clients to solicit them for Horizontal Integration and soliciting several contract employees to move to Horizontal Integration. TEKSystems asked for substantial financial damages as well as injunctions enforcing the restrictive covenants.

This case contains numerous more conventional restrictive covenant issues, but our Illinois non-compete litigation attorneys are also very interested in the novel issue of whether social media contact is in itself a violation of a non-solicitation clause. Without knowing more about the situation, we suspect that the district court will not accept this argument. In itself, connecting with someone on LinkedIn or another social networking site does nothing more than give both people access to each other’s contact information. This could be considered an “electronic Rolodex,” and no court would uphold a non-solicitation agreement that requires an ex-employee to discard her Rolodex. In fact, the language of the agreement, as laid out in the complaint, prohibits contact with TEKSystems employees only for the purpose of soliciting them away from the company. For this reason, we think TEKSystems will have an uphill battle on that claim.

Based in Chicago and Oak Brook, Illinois, Lubin Austermuehle represents both plaintiffs and defendants involved in restrictive covenant litigation important to their financial futures. In many cases, litigation over a non-compete, non-solicitation or non-disclosure clause is a bona fide business emergency that can affect your business’s health immediately and long before a court can hear your case. That’s why our Evanston restrictive covenant attorneys are available to handle cases right away when necessary, requesting temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions to protect you from major financial losses. We are proud of our record of winning results on non-compete and other breach of contract cases. From two offices in greater Chicago, we represent people throughout Illinois, including Wilmette, Naperville, Schaumberg, Wheaton and Joilet. To learn more or set up a free consultation, you can call us toll-free at 630-333-0333 or send us a message online today.

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