Several women who are suing their employer for sexual harassment were ordered to produce their cell phones, email, and any data needed to access any social media websites they were a part of. The magistrate intends to appoint a special master who will oversee the information and the magistrate will determine what is relevant to the lawsuit.
The defendants argue that such information is necessary for their defense. Evidently, one of the women posted a picture of herself wearing clothing with a typically pejorative word towards women printed on it while alleging her employer called her such a word. Another plaintiff discussed with friends online how her life had improved post-termination as well as her financial expectations from the lawsuit.
Of particular concern is the defendant’s wish to find comments relating to “her self-described sexual aggressiveness … sexually amorous communications with other class members…” To me it sounds as though the defendants wish to shame the plaintiffs to dissuade them from carrying out the lawsuit. Social media will likely be a major source of new law during our careers, but in my opinion, regardless of the wisdom of maintaining certain information in an online form, courts should not allow access to private email, cell phone, and social media conversations (perhaps not publicly broadcasted posts) as a means for defendants to intimidate and humiliate plaintiffs with a valid claim.