Corporate attorneys are advising supervisors and managers to be careful when posting overly-positive or potentially misleading employee endorsements on LinkedIn. The big concern is that crafty employee plaintiffs’ counsel will use LinkedIn reviews much in the same way that they currently use positive reviews found in the employee’s written file: to establish that their client was wrongfully discharged or fired as a result of discrimination.
Counsel who represent employers have all come across glowing employee reviews that discuss, at length, the superior qualities and work ethic of an employee who, within weeks of the review, is fired for poor performance or insubordination.
As described in the National Law Journal’s article:
Plaintiffs’ lawyers, they fear, are scouring these sites, looking for evidence to dispute firings, as most LinkedIn recommendations are positive. So if a supervisor claims that an employee was let go due to performance problems but gave a rave review about him or her on LinkedIn — that, the lawyers stress, won’t look so good.
It is a valid point. Employment lawyers and H.R. personnel are constantly instructing management and supervisors to conduct regular, accurate, performance reviews. Reviews posted on LinkedIn need to be equally accurate. A good practice employers might implement is to tell their supervisors and managers not to post reviews, positive or negative; according to Carolyn Plump, a partner at Philadelphia’s Mitts Milavec, as quoted in the National Law Journal:
Generally, my advice is that I think employers are often better served by merely stating dates of employment, positions with the company and salary, and staying away
from much more because there are so many potential ramifications if they say something.
Of course, like most stories, this one has both sides. The example cited by the National Law Journal is that of a supervisor who is constantly leaving negative reviews. While a single negative review might be offered as evidence of discrimination, counsel for the management could offer evidence of all the other negative reviews to establish that the supervisor was not singling out a particular gender, race, or nationality.
So what is the conclusion? It is the always the same conclusion. Conduct regular, accurate, performance appraisals and enforce your existing policies indiscriminately.