Open Mouth, Forfeit $80,000.00: A Harsh Lesson About Confidentiality Agreements
This February, a Florida appellate court threw out an $80,000.00 age discrimination settlement because the Plaintiff’s daughter boasted about it on Facebook in violation of a confidentiality agreement. Ouch.
The settlement resulted from Patrick Snay’s age discrimination and retaliation suit against his former employer, Gulliver Preparatory Schools. Snay was the former headmaster for Gulliver in Miami, Florida. When Gulliver refused to renew Snay’s contract, he sued. The original case settled for $10,000.00 back wages, $60,000.00 to Snay’s attorneys and an $80,000.00 check to Snay. After telling his daughter that the case settled, she took to Facebook:
Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.
The post made its way back to the school’s attorneys who immediately protested, saying Snay violated the confidentiality agreement contained in the settlement papers. That confidentiality agreement required Snay and his wife to keep the “terms and existence” of the settlement private. But Snay told his daughter, and she…well…told Facebook.
Following the Facebook post, and only four days after the settlement was reached, Gullivers’ attorneys moved to sink the deal. Though Snay won an early ruling to enforce the deal, it was appealed and ultimately thrown out in February. Tossing the case, and the settlement, Judge Linda Ann Wells wrote, “Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he promised not to do….His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent.”
Does this mean a father cannot share with his family that a case resolved? Likely not. But here, Snay shared specific details about the settlement with his daughter and his daughter announced it to the world on Facebook. Moreover, what she said was not accurate. Her father did not “win” the case; the parties agreed to settle. Gulliver agreed to pay a sum and Snay agreed to accept it and both parties agreed to walk away and move on. That is how a settlement works and no-one “wins the case.” Boasting that her parents “won the case” is the exact representation a confidentiality provision seeks to protect against.
Take a lesson from Jimmy “The Gent” Conway (Goodfellas, 1990): “Look at me. Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.” Particularly when required to do so under the terms of a confidentiality agreement.