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The Internet Will Hear About This!

June 6, 2021

Morgan T. Dilks

A business’ reputation is among its most valuable assets. For many businesses a damaged reputation means a damaged bottom line, which, in the worst cases, can result in the closing of the company.  Earning a great reputation takes hard work, but unfortunately, all of that hard work can be eroded with a few keystrokes.  

In today’s technological landscape, websites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, Great Place to Work, Comparably, and Careerbliss have become, unfortunately, great places for former employees to vent about perceived slights or events that may or may not have taken place while in the service of their former employers. When false information is posted by former employees in a malicious attempt to attack their former employer, employers seem to be left with little recourse.  Employers who maintain a large workforce and smaller employers who experience routine turnover can be disproportionately exposed to such attacks.

When malicious and false information about an employer is instantly accessible, as it is for most people today, employers sometimes feel like they are held hostage by former employees. But what can an employer do about it?  Fortunately, there are options for employers who choose to take the bull by the horns and address this proactively.  Enter: The Non-Disparagement Agreement.

For years, employers have used confidentiality agreements to protect the disclosure of trade secrets unique to their business (e.g. the recipe for the “secret sauce”).  However, with the rise of multiple platforms for disgruntled employees to easily trash their former employer online, anon-disparagement agreement should be something considered by all employers.  A non-disparagement agreement is a tool that can be used to prevent or dissuade a former employee from posting disparaging opinions on the internet about their former employer.  Such a clause should apply during employment and for a set time period after employment.  

While this will not stop anonymous reviews from being posted online (very little can), it can give the employer recourse for disparaging statements from posters who are identified or easily identifiable.  Often, a disgruntled employee who was recently terminated and decides to air their grievances on the internet will provide clues as to the cause and circumstances of their termination, leading to an easy identification.  If the former employee signed anon-disparagement agreement at the beginning of their employment, they are no win violation of that agreement, and action can be taken to remedy the situation.

Defending your business’ reputation can be critical to your success. While a business may have to suffer the occasional negative opinion from consumers (deserved or not), with proper guidance and a non-disparagement agreement in place, a business can protect itself from internet insults hurled by a disgruntled former employee.  If your business could benefit from a non-disparagement agreement, it might be time to consider adding that to your pre-employment checklist.  If you’re not sure where to get started, we’re here to help.

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