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Announcing your new job on Twitter can lead to legal issues

It is a common practice to announce a new job on Twitter and Facebook — in fact a contact of mine did so today. But there is a new wrinkle: Doing so can land you in a legal non-man’s-land.

Jonnelle Marte, Tweeting about a new job can get you sued

When they move to a new company, executives and employees these days often break the news on Twitter, Facebook , or LinkedIn. But such status updates about how a person is “excited to start the next chapter” at a new company, now shared as commonly as vacation pictures, could have consequences beyond just drawing the ire of jealous friends: They could lead to legal trouble.

For employees restricted by nonsolicitation agreements, for instance, which prohibit them from recruiting former co-workers after going to work for a competitor, the posts can be interpreted as an attempt to work around those restrictions and slyly solicit applications. And with little clarity as to what level of communication is required to violate these agreements, companies are testing the waters, questioning the motives behind status updates, title changes and even friend requests. “There’s not a bright line on how far is too far,” says Keith Sonderling, an employment attorney at Gunster, a commercial law firm based in Palm Beach County, Fla.

When such posts or online updates coincide with the hiring of a former colleague that the worker is prohibited from recruiting, it may be enough to cause ex-employers to step in. Some employees will receive letters from their previous employers attempting to halt the new hire, attorneys say. In rare cases, the employer may sue for damages, seeking to be compensated for what it will cost them to replace the worker or for any sales they claim were lost if clients also followed those workers to the competitor, says Dan McCoy, a litigation partner for Fenwick & West in Mountain View, Calif. Many of these cases never make it to court, because they end in settlements, employment attorneys say. But one thing is clear: Employers are watching your every social-media move.

The worst thing about the situation today regarding the legal issues surrounding these updates is that there aren’t any good legal precedents being set, so employers and employees don’t actually know where the legal boundaries are. In the meantime, read your employment and severance agreements very carefully.