As an employment lawyer and blogger, I’ve seen and heard a lot. But, I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around this one.
How could this even happen?
Yesterday, a college sued its former baseball coach in federal court. The reason the case is in federal court is that the plaintiff claims that the defendant, whom it fired in June, engaged in federal trademark infringement. You can view a copy of the lawsuit here.
So, why is an employment blog addressing a trademark infringement action? Check this out.
According to the plaintiff, after it terminated the defendant’s employment, he “took sole possession and control” of the team’s twitter account by changing the login information. Then, for several
hours days weeks, the defendant maintained control over the account.
Did he tweet?
Oh, yeah, he did. (Allegedly).
The plaintiff claims that the defendant used the Twitter account to disparage the school and misrepresent its positions to current students, prospective students, including prospective athletes, alumni, donors, and the rest of the public.
(Unfortunately, the plaintiff didn’t attach any of the tweets to the complaint.)
The plaintiff claims that since the tweets came from the school’s account, it appeared as though the tweets were from the plaintiff and not the defendant. The plaintiff alleges that the unauthorized tweets damaged the school’s reputation, fundraising efforts, and ability to recruit students, including by dissuading prospective students and student-athletes from considering or attending the school, by dissuading prospective employees, including for the Athletics department from considering employment at the school, and by dissuading donors from supporting plaintiff.
But wait, there’s more.
The plaintiff claims that the defendant eventually ceded control of the school’s Twitter account only to create another Twitter account. This account had a Twitter handle that looked just like the plaintiff’s, an avatar with the school’s trademarked mascot logo, and a Twitter bio that suggested it was the plaintiff’s along with the hashtag #FreeRocco. (Rocco is the defendant’s first name).
Why am I having a tough time wrapping my head around this? I’ll tell you why.
WTH is the head coach doing with the login and password for the team’s Twitter account? How does that even happen? And then to let the coach hold the account hostage for weeks?!?!
Here’s the deal. When an employee that has access to your social media gets fired, you change the social media passwords before (or at worst, at the same time as) you terminate employment. Social media aside, I’ve got an entire checklist of items when terminating employment.
Do you want a copy of my termination checklist? Email me, and I’ll hook you up.