Question: My ex-employer’s website still has my picture, my name and resume on it. It is basically used as an advertisement to bring in clients.
My ex-employer doesn’t seem like he is going to make any changes to the current situation. What can I do?
Answer: Dear Allison: Your question touches on a more and more frequent problem, no doubt brought about due to the increased use of the internet. As a result, more and more states are enacting laws to protect people from the unauthorized use of their names, voices, signatures, photographs or likenesses.
a. Washington State has a law that appears to prohibit what your employer is doing. As you may know, I am not licensed to practice law in Washington State. That said, I did a brief review of Washington law, and found that Washington State appears to have a law in effect that is available to help you. Specifically, Washington Revised Code Section 63.60.010 provides that you have a “property right in the use of his or her name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness,” which cannot be taken by another person without your permission. Thus, you could quite probably sue your ex-employer for what he is doing. It is, in effect, an “authorized taking of property.”
b. I suggest you send your former employer a “Cease and Desist” letter. I always suggest to clients that they try to achieve their goals “using the law, but if possible, without using lawyers.” You can at least try to do so on your own by sending a letter to your former employer demanding that he stop what he is doing, or he will be subject to a lawsuit.
If you would like to obtain a Model “Cease and Desist” letter you can adapt for your use in this situation [click here].
c. If that does not work, this is a creative idea I have heard has worked well. I have heard of a person in circumstances similar to yours very effectively “fight fire with fire.” In that instance, the former employee of XYZ Company opened up a website called “XYZCompanyIsUsingMyName.com.” On that website, she wrote this “I no longer work for XYZ Company. As of November 15, 2010, they were still using my name and photograph without my authorization, creating a false impression that I was still there. I am not still there, and their implying I am is not true.” Her former employer stopped using her name and photograph immediately.
d. If these two steps don’t work, consider consulting an attorney in your locale. If neither of these efforts work, I suggest you consider consulting an experienced employee-side attorney in your area who might be able to either send his or her own “Cease and Desist” letter, initiate a lawsuit on your behalf, or in some other ways obtain relief for you.
If you would like to obtain information and names of several attorneys in the Seattle area, where you live [click here].
The use of your name and photograph without your consent could (i) confuse your present employer or future employers, (ii) hurt your reputation, and even (iii) get you sued by an unhappy customer of your former employer. I strongly recommend you do what you can to remedy the situation.
Hope this helps. Thanks for writing in. If you would consider posting your appreciation of our blog on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media, we would be most pleased.
Best, Al Sklover
© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.