Litigation often ends in settlements that are memorialized in written agreements.
These settlement agreements, especially in employment-related cases, often
include confidentiality provisions that prohibit the parties from disclosing
the existence and terms of the settlement, except to specific people such
as an accountant or attorney.
A recent Florida case is an example of why litigants should take confidentiality
In that case, a school headmaster settled an age discrimination case with
his former employer for $80,000. The settlement agreement had a confidentiality
provision. Four days after the agreement was signed, the headmaster's
daughter posted on Facebook that her father had won his age discrimination
case against the school, that the settlement would fund a vacation to
Europe, and that the school should "suck it."
When the school learned of the Facebook posting, it refused to pay the
settlement because the settlement agreement provided that a breach of
the confidentiality provision would result in the return of the settlement
money paid to the headmaster. While a lower court found that the daughter's
Facebook posting was not a breach, the Florida appellate court disagreed
because the headmaster admitted that he told his daughter that the case
had settled and that he was satisfied. His daughter then broadcasted this
to her 1,200 Facebook friends.
- Settling defendants should put "teeth" in confidentiality provisions,
requiring the settlement to be paid back if violated;
- Settling plaintiffs should strictly follow confidentiality provisions,
even with close family members;
- Everyone should be reminded that anything posted on social media is there
for posterity for the world to see.