SW Legal studies in Business

Employees Must Provide Access to Social Network Sites for Litigation Purposes
Description

Employees who sued for sexual harassment must allow defendant employer access to all materials posted on social network sites, such as Facebook, during the time in question as the information and photos posted may be relevant to the claims made.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Sexual Harassment; Social Network; Evidence

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

The EEOC filed a complaint on behalf of individuals (women employees) who alleged that employer, Simply Storage, is liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor. Defendants requested production of documents related to social network sites (SNS). Specifically, defendants requested copies of plaintiffs’ Facebook and MySpace sites, including sections called “How well do you know me” and “Naughty Application.” The request would allow defendants access to all content during the relevant employment period. EEOC objected, contending that the requests are too broad, burdensome, will infringe on claimants’ privacy, and will embarrass the claimants. Defendants requested compliance with the discovery request on grounds of relevance to the suit. The trial court was asked to rule on the request.

Decision

Motion granted. A person’s expectation of privacy is reduced by entering into litigation. Simply because a SNS is protected by a password does not mean that the content may only be accessed by those invited. Production of portions of the employees’ SNS content was appropriate. The material is germane to the litigation. Hence, pictures of the employees taken during the relevant time period and posted on a SNS site are discoverable. The content of the SNSs may provide relevant information about the employees’ emotional state, which is relevant since the employees are claiming mental distress resulting from the alleged harassment.

Citation

EEOC v. Simply Storage Management, (---FRD---, 2010 WL 3446105, S.D., Ind., 2010)

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