Indiana federal court wants to see litigant's web posts as part of a harassment case

By Correy Stephenson

The Daily Record Newswire

A U.S. District Court in Indiana recently weighed in on the intersection of e-discovery and social media.

In EEOC v. Simply Storage Management LLC, the court ruled that employees claiming to have suffered severe emotional trauma and harassment must produce all information from their social networking profiles and postings that relate to their general emotions, feelings and mental states.

After the employer in this case requested the plaintiffs' social networking profiles, pictures, messages, lists of "friends," personal information and postings, the EEOC objected.

It argued that the requested information was not relevant and producing it would violate the plaintiffs' privacy.

But the court said that it was "reasonable to expect severe emotional or mental injury to manifest itself in some [social networking site] content, and an examination of that content might reveal whether onset occurred, when, and the degree of distress. Further, information evidences other stressors that could have produced the alleged emotional distress is also relevant."

While the EEOC tried to limit production to "communications that directly reference the matters alleged in the complaint," the court said that was too restrictive.

"[A]lthough some employees may note occurrences of harassment on their profiles, not many employees would routinely note non-events on their profiles, such as, 'My supervisor didn't sexually harass me today.'"

Instead, the court said the employer was entitled to "any profiles, postings, or messages (including status updates, wall comments, causes joined, groups joined, activity streams, blog entries) and [social networking site] applications for [the plaintiffs] ... that reveal, refer, or relate to any emotion, feeling, or mental state, as well as communications that reveal, refer, or relate to events that could reasonably be expected to produce a significant emotion, feeling, or mental state."

The order covers videos, photographs and third party communications, the court noted.

Published: Thu, Jul 29, 2010

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