LinkedIn Lessons for Employers: Part 1

Last week, LinkedIn debuted on the NYSE with an initial public offering of stock at $45 a share. The share price climbed on Friday, sending the social-networking company’s market value to $9.1 billion. According to the Washington Post, this is approximately 24 times its 2011 revenue. linkedin logo by webtreats

Employers like to think of LinkedIn as the “good son” among social-networking sites, especially as compared to Facebook.  LinkedIn is marketed to professionals and is used widely for recruiting. It also can be used as an online rolodex, enabling professionals to connect with others in their industry and get automatic updates when your “connections’” contact information changes.

In light of the recent LinkedIn IPO, it seems like a good time to give some thought to some of the employment-law implications of this darling of the social-networking sites. In this series, I’ll review some of the employment-law cases in which LinkedIn has played a substantive role.  In the last post in the series, I’ll discuss some of the ways that the lessons from these cases can be applied to an employer’s social-media policy. 

1.  Integrated Enterprise:  Will the Real Employer Please Stand Up?

In Freire v. Keystone Title Settlement Services, the plaintiff sued her former employer, alleging unlawful harassment and discrimination. The employer argued, among other things, that it did not employ the minimum number of employees to subject it to liability under Title VII. The plaintiff countered that the employer and its parent company operated as an integrated enterprise and, together, did employ the required minimum number of employees.

As evidence of the integrated nature of the two entities, the plaintiff introduced the LinkedIn profile of her former supervisor, which stated that the supervisor was employed by the parent company. The defendant countered with an affidavit by the supervisor, which stated that the supervisor had mistakenly used the wrong company name as her employer and that she had completed that portion of her LinkedIn profile before the relevant period.

No. AW-08-2976, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121190, at *10-11 (D. Md. Dec. 30, 2009), aff’d 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 15817 (4th Cir. July 29, 2010).

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