By Eric B. Meyer
I’ll bet this father didn’t “like” his daughter’s Facebook post very much.
Dad is the former headmaster at a school in Florida. When the school failed to renew his employment contract, he sued for age discrimination and retaliation. Eventually the two sides settled, with the school to pay $10,000 in back pay, $80,000 as a “1099,” and $60,000 to dad’s attorneys.
The settlement was strictly conditioned upon confidentiality. It included a provision that divulging even the existence of the agreement, would cost dad the $80K payment.
Daughter’s post breaches confidentiality
But, only four days after the agreement was signed, and before making any settlement payments, the school notified the father that he had breached the agreement based on the Facebook posting of his college-age daughter. In it, she said:
Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
This Facebook comment went out to approximately 1,200 of the daughter’s Facebook friends, many of whom were either current or past students at the school.
When the school later withheld the $80K, the father sued to enforce the settlement agreement to get his loot. But the Court, in this opinion in Snay v. Gulliver, sided with the school:
Before the ink was dry on the agreement, and notwithstanding the clear language of section 13 mandating confidentiality, Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do. His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent, advertising to the Gulliver community that Snay had been successful in his age discrimination and retaliation case against the school.”
Honestly, I’m surprised that the court enforced such a large penalty provision in the settlement agreement. But, then again, the violation — broadcasting the existence of the agreement to 1200 people — is fairly egregious.
That’s why, when I draft settlement agreement, I often include confidentiality language warning that keeping quiet about the agreement means shutting your yap and your social media fingers.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.