Teenagers! In the world of social media, they seem to have no sense of privacy. They will share anything and everything with their multitude of Facebook “friends.” And in one case, doing that cost the teenager’s father $80,000 for breach of the confidentiality provision in his settlement agreement.
In Gulliver Schools Inc. v. Snay, a headmaster sued his school for age discrimination and retaliation. The parties settled for a total of $150,000 – $10,000 in back wages, $80,000 in other compensation, and $60,000 for attorney’s fees. The settlement agreement included a confidentiality provision, stating that the headmaster “shall not directly or indirectly, disclose, discuss or communicate to any entity or person, except his attorneys or other professional advisors or spouse any information whatsoever regarding the existence or terms of this Agreement…. A breach…will result in disgorgement of the Plaintiff[']s portion of the settlement Payments.”
So it appears that, practically before the ink was dry on his signature, the headmaster told his daughter about the settlement, because she immediately posted on her Facebook page: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” This charming comment was shared with her 1200 Facebook “friends,” many of whom had attended Gulliver or were current students there. Unsurprisingly (because really, kids, social media is not private!), Gulliver found out about the posting and notified the headmaster that he had breached the agreement. Therefore, the school initially refused to pay the monies that were to go directly to the headmaster, although it paid the attorney’s fees. It later paid the $10,000 in wages, but continued to withhold the $80,000.
The Florida Court of Appeals agreed with the school that there had been a breach – the headmaster had “violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do” by telling his daughter that the case had been settled. And then she “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.” Bottom line, the daughter’s Facebook post cost her father $80,000.
From management’s perspective, this case illustrates the importance of a strong confidentiality provision – and making sure that plaintiffs understand what that actually means. From a parental perspective, I would have grounded my daughter for the next ten years.