Patrick Snay had worked as headmaster of Gulliver School in Florida, but his 2010-2011 contract was not renewed. In response, Snay sued Gulliver asserting causes of action for age discrimination and retaliation under the Florida Civil Rights Act. The parties settled the matter on November 3, 2011, and executed a general release and a settlement agreement for full and final settlement of Snay’s claims, with the school to pay $10,000 in back pay to Snay with “Check # 1”; $80,000 to Snay as a “1099” with “Check #2; and $60,000 to Snay’s attorneys with “Check # 3.”
The settlement agreement included a confidentiality clause prohibiting Snay and his wife from disclosing the existence and terms of the agreement subject to disgorgement of the $80,000.
13. Confidentiality. . . [T]he plaintiff shall not either directly or indirectly, disclose, discuss or communicate to any entity or person, except his attorneys or other professional advisors or spouse any information whatsoever regarding the existence or terms of this Agreement . . . A breach . . . will result in disgorgement of the Plaintiffs portion of the settlement Payments.
Unfortunately, shortly after signing the agreement, Snay told his daughter that the case had been settled and that he and his wife “were happy with the results.” Four days after the agreement was signed and before payment by Gulliver was made, Snay’s daughter posted the following on Facebook to about 1,200 of her Facebook friends, many of whom were either current or past Gulliver students:
“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Gulliver soon discovered the posting and notified Snay that he had breached the confidentiality agreement and that it would forward the attorney’s fees payment, but not the $80,000 to Snay. In response, Snay asked the court to enforce the agreement for full payment. The lower court agreed with Snay. Gulliver then appealed. In its decision on February 26, 2014, the Florida District Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Snay had breached the confidentiality clause and therefore forfeited the $80,000. Snay found out the hard way that confidentiality agreements can have teeth and that breaching the confidence through social media can have real bite.