Co-authored by Mathew D. Dudek.

Social media has changed the way that companies and employees connect to clients and customers. As new uses for social networking emerge, legal issues in this area are arising.

In Eagle v. Morgan, et al., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was faced with one such issue: whether an employer could seize a former employee’s LinkedIn page and keep the page in operation following the employee’s termination. In that case, Linda Eagle, an executive with Edcomm Inc., had created a LinkedIn account using her work e-mail address as a sales and marketing tool. Eagle provided her LinkedIn password to certain other Edcomm employees so the employees could help monitor and update the account. Under “the LinkedIn ‘User Agreement,’ however, the account belonged to Eagle alone and she was individually bound by the User Agreement.” Following Eagle’s termination, Edcomm employees accessed the LinkedIn account and changed its password, effectively locking Eagle out of the account, and also updated Eagle’s LinkedIn page to reflect another Edcomm executive’s information, while still keeping a list of Eagle’s honors and awards. As a result, a Google search for Eagle or a search for her on LinkedIn would bring the user to Eagle’s LinkedIn account, which then bore the name, picture and credentials of the other Edcomm executive.

Eagle subsequently filed suit against Edcomm and certain individual employees, “the principal thrust of which is the alleged illegal use of Eagle’s LinkedIn account by Edcomm, to her economic detriment.”

 In addressing these claims, the court noted that on the day Eagle was terminated, Edcomm had not adopted a policy that informed its employees that their LinkedIn accounts were the property of Edcomm. Even if it had, however, the court stated that it was unclear whether such a policy would be legally valid under the contract between LinkedIn and Eagle, an individual user. Nevertheless, the court did not reach that issue given that there was no such policy in place when Eagle was terminated.

Ultimately, the court determined that Eagle’s “name” had commercial value which Edcomm had used to its own benefit. Based on this finding, the court ruled in favor of Eagle on state law claims of unauthorized use of name, invasion of privacy by misappropriation of identity, and misappropriation of identity. However, the court found Eagle’s request for damages legally insufficient because she “failed to point to one contract, one client, one prospect, or one deal that could have been, but was not obtained during the period she did not have full access to her LinkedIn account.”

Despite Eagle’s failure to establish specific damages, this case is a reminder that employers should review all policies which govern employee social media usage. Not only must such policies clearly set forth expectations regarding ownership of the account and what is and is not appropriate, such policies also need to be regularly updated to ensure compliance with the changing legal landscape, given that various state legislatures and the National Labor Relations Board are rapidly entering the fray over employee social media use and employer policies related thereto. For example, as of January 1, 2013, Illinois employers may not “request or require any employee or prospective employee to provide any password or other related account information in order to gain access to the employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking website or to demand access in any manner to an employee’s or prospective employee’s account or profile on a social networking website.” 820 ILCS 55/10(b)(1).

Back to Trade Secrets & Employee Mobility Blog

Search This Blog

Blog Editors


Related Services



Jump to Page


Sign up to receive an email notification when new Trade Secrets & Employee Mobility posts are published:

Privacy Preference Center

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalized web experience. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.

Performance Cookies

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.