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Can I be forced by a former boss to change my LinkedIn profile?

THE QUESTION

I'd been working for 14 months with a company, but wasn't happy with my functions and resigned three weeks ago. This morning, while communicating by e-mail with the HR person and my previous boss, my LinkedIn profile link was in my signature. My boss e-mailed back and said that my LinkedIn profile no longer represents my current employment situation, and asked me to remove or update my profile with immediate effect.

I don't want to update LinkedIn yet with my current unemployed situation, because this could have a negative impact on potential future employers. My LinkedIn profile represents my entire business career. Can they force me to change my profile?

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THE FIRST ANSWER

Bruce Sandy Principal, Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting, Vancouver

You own your LinkedIn profile and its content. Thus, your previous employer likely cannot force you to change it. However, you run the risk of not getting a positive review in a reference check from your previous boss if you do not change the dates of your employment with that company, as she has requested. Your former boss can point this out in a reference check and bring your veracity and honesty into question. This can potentially compromise an offer from another prospective employer.

Be aware that even if you do not list your most recent boss as a reference, prospective employers will be curious about this and will likely want to contact her. Some organizations and companies will ask you to sign a document authorizing them to contact the references that you have provided – as well as any other previous employers.

You may also want to pose your question to an employment lawyer with respect to the ownership of your LinkedIn profile, any potential legal ramifications regarding misrepresentation of information on the site and reference checks.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Eileen Dooley Vice-president of Gilker McRae, Calgary

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No, you cannot be forced to change your LinkedIn profile, but as it currently stands, it is inaccurate and misleading. My question to you is: Would you leave your résumé to read that you are still employed? If so, then you stand a far greater chance of not getting a job, owing to being dishonest on your résumé and LinkedIn representation.

LinkedIn is, essentially, an online version of your résumé. It should, therefore, mirror your résumé with job titles, dates, job responsibilities and so on. So if one says you are working and the other says you are not, then you will likely have some explaining to do, which will be considerably more awkward than saying why you are unemployed to begin with.

Your former boss requesting an update, or outright removal, of inaccurate information on your LinkedIn profile is fair game. You, by choice, no longer work there, so put an end date in your employment period for that role.

And be honest with potential employers if they ask why you are no longer working there. It is safe to say the fit was no longer there, and that you decided to move on. The last thing you want is for your story to conflict with your LinkedIn profile.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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