An executive who uploaded his CV to LinkedIn was forced to quit his job because he ticked a box stating he was interested in 'career opportunities', Reading Employment Tribunal heard today.
John Flexman is demanding hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation from his former employer, gas exploration firm BG Group, where he earned £68,000 pounds a year as a Graduate and Development Manager. He is thought to be the first person in the country to bring a case for constructive dismissal.
According to a report in The Telegraph, BG Group contacted Flexman while he was on holiday in the United States and ordered him to remove his CV from business-related social networking site LinkedIn. On his return he was accused of “inappropriate use of social media” and called to attend an internal disciplinary hearing.
BG Group said he was in breach of new company policy on conflicts of interest and also accused him of including confidential information in his CV, such as details about how he had reduced the firm's rate of staff attrition.
However, Flexman claims the details he posted were available in the company’s annual reports and that 21 of his colleagues, including the manager of the disciplinary process, had also ticked the "career opportunities" box and had not been disciplined.
The dispute led to Flexman resignation in June, following a breakdown in his relationship with senior executives. A BG Group spokesman said the company welcomed the opportunity to present its case at the tribunal and swore to defend its position.
The case highlights a grey area around employees' use of social networks such as LinkedIn. According to Kate Hodgkiss, Partner at law firm DLA Piper, employers have every right to seek to protect confidential company information by restricting LinkedIn and other profiles.
“Employers commonly place restrictions on what employees can disclose outside the company and restrictions on a LinkedIn profile are a logical extension of this,” she said.
However, organisations cannot prevent employees from looking for a new job.
“Placing a CV on LinkedIn is no different from, for example, an employee exploring job opportunities via a recruitment agency,” said Hodgkiss. “Cases like these demonstrate the complex issues which arise from employee use of social media and are important as their outcome may help to demonstrate how established legal rules may be applied to new technology.”
The news follows a report in December that a Twitter user was being sued for £217,000 by his former employer for taking his online followers with him when he switched jobs. Noah Kravitz accumulated 17,000 followers while working for PhoneDog, a website providing news and reviews about mobile phones.
He posted Tweets under the name @Phonedog_Noah, but renamed his account @noahkravitz after leaving the company in October 2010. PhoneDog launched legal proceedings seeking damages of $2.50 a month per follower for eight months, amounting to a total of $340,000 (£217,000).