Tell me about some of Glassdoor’s successful legal efforts to defend user anonymity. | Glassdoor
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Tell me about some of Glassdoor’s successful legal efforts to defend user anonymity.

Updated 24 September, 2019

 
Below are some of our "Greatest Hits" of court orders in cases involving Glassdoor's successful efforts to defend the anonymity of its users.

Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court of Santa Clara and Machine Zone, Inc. No. H042824 (March 10,2017)

  • Glassdoor successfully appealed a trial court ruling compelling the disclosure of user identity in connection with a breach of contract lawsuit brought by Machine Zone (since rebranded MZ), a California mobile gaming and platform company. MZ attempted to unmask the identity of an employee who posted a review on Glassdoor allegedly disclosing confidential information regarding MZ's RTP Platform technology in violation of a nondisclosure agreement signed by all MZ employees.

  • In Glassdoor, Inc., MZ denied the accuracy of the employee's review without identifying any real confidential information it might be understood to have disclosed. The Court concluded that MZ failed to make a prima facie showing that the employee's statements disclosed any confidential information in violation of the nondisclosure agreement.

  • The published appellate opinion in the case set important legal precedent for anonymous free speech cases, holding that:

    • Glassdoor has standing to assert its users' interest in maintaining their anonymity against legal action to compel disclosure.

    • In any action predicated on anonymous speech, regardless of legal theory, the plaintiff should not be able to discover the speaker's identity without first making a prima facie showing that the speech in question is actionable" [emphasis added].

    • Anyone seeking to obtain the identity of an anonymous speaker must clearly identify, on the record, the specific statements that are claimed to be actionable and provide necessary supporting evidence of the applicable claim.​


FKA Distributing Co., LLC v. Doe, No. CIV 1603809 (Marin Super. Oct. 19, 2016)

  • Glassdoor successfully opposed the enforcement of a subpoena seeking disclosure of user identity in connection with a defamation lawsuit brought by a Michigan-based maker of health devices and consumer electronics doing business as Homedics.

  • In FKA, the plaintiffs claimed that a review of plaintiff FKA Distributing Co., LLC ("FKA") on glassdoor.com stating that FKA "can't get its [sic] head above water" and FKA's CEO "spent the money faster than we could make it" was defamatory. The Court held that the review was protected opinion. The Court relied on the facts that (1) "Glassdoor specifically disclaims responsibility for 'unintended, objectionable, inaccurate, misleading, or unlawful Content'" on its site; (2) the statements used "loose, figurative, or hyperbolic language"; and (3) the phrases at issue "could have dozens of meanings" and therefore "cannot be proven true or false."


Awtry v. Glassdoor, Inc., No. 16-mc-80028-JCS (N.D. Cal. Feb. 5, 2016)

  • Glassdoor successfully opposed the enforcement of a subpoena seeking disclosure of user identity for four reviews of RightSize Facility, Inc. The owner of the business, Mason Awtry, believed that the information would be "critical" to his defense to defamation claims brought in Illinois by Emily Mackie, a woman with whom he had a child. Specifically, he claimed that he had reason to believe Ms. Mackie authored four scathing reviews while posing on Glassdoor as an employee of his business - and this would support his defense that Ms. Mackie was "a liar". 

  • In Awtry, the Court ruled in favor of Glassdoor on the grounds that, among other things, "there is a significant likelihood that ordering disclosure of the identities of the reviewers who posted the Glassdoor Reviews will result in a substantial chilling effect" on anonymous expression using the site, and "[i]t is highly unlikely that the individual who posted [one of the] review[s]...would have done so had she believed there was a possibility her identity would be disclosed to the CEO whose micromanagement she disparaged in her Review." The Court stated that "if courts are willing to enforce subpoenas like Awtry's based on what amounts to speculation that the anonymous review is only posing as a current or former employee, individuals who are in fact current or former employees are likely to be reluctant to post the candid reviews that Glassdoor tries to offer its users." The Court further noted that the defendant failed to "demonstrate that he has made reasonable efforts to obtain the information he needs from other sources."


Brudy v. Doe, No. CV1500541 (Marin Super. Feb. 13, 2015)

  • Glassdoor successfully opposed the enforcement of a subpoena seeking disclosure of user identity in connection with a defamation lawsuit brought by the named partner of Lawrence Brudy Associates, a Pennsylvania law firm.

  • In Brudy, the Court held that a review of the plaintiff on Glassdoor, containing statements such as "[t]he men could have gotten away with murder," Constituted protected opinion. The Court did so on the grounds that the statements in the review of the plaintiff were "either opinions (e.g., accusations of sexism), overly generalized (e.g., a womanizer but with no specifics and no statement as to whether married), or hyperbolic (e.g., 'treated like slaves')."


Logic Planet, Inc. v. Does 1-10, No. CIV1600912 (Marin Super. Mar. 14, 2016)

  • Glassdoor prevailed in both a motion to fight a New Jersey subpoena and an opposition to a motion to compel enforcement of a California subpoena for user identities in a lawsuit by New Jersey-based software consulting company citing 10 Glassdoor reviews as defamatory.

  • In Logic Planet, reviews, of the plaintiff on Glassdoor made critical statements "includ[ing] claims of slavery, death, brainwashing, crying 24/7 and other similar hyperbole," and, on that basis, the Court found the reviews to be opinion, noting that "[w]hile the court appreciates the Plaintiff's desire to vindicate itself from unflattering rhetoric, the balance weighs in favor of First Amendment protections."


SunEnergy1, LLC, et al. v. Jeffrey Lawrence Brown, CA No. N14M-12-028 (New Castle County Superior Court, November 30, 2015)

  • Glassdoor prevailed in a motion to fight a Delaware subpoena seeking user identities in a lawsuit by North Carolina-based solar developer and contractor company citing two reviews as defamatory.

  • In SunEnergy1, the Court first noted that Glassdoor was a site for opinions:

"The content of the reviews on Glassdoor.com are such that it should be obvious to any reasonable person that the authors (all listed as current or former employees) are using the website as a vehicle to express their personal opinions about the company in question...Glassdoor.com is a website for employment and company evaluation-it is not a news website (e.g. WSJ.com or NYT.com) where there is an expectation of objective reporting and journalistic standards. 
Nor is it a website where a person would go to find detailed factual information about a company such as earnings reports and SEC filings. It is quite evident to the Court that Glassdoor.com is a website where people go to express their personal opinions having worked for a company-not a website where a reasonable person would go looking for objective facts and information about a company." SunEnergy1, LLC, et al. v. Jeffrey Lawrence Brown
, CA No. N14M-12-028 (New Castle County Superior Court, November 15, 2015) at 7-8.

  • The Court then ruled that the review "a terrible place to work" was "nothing more than a rant by a former employee citing anecdotal evidence, about why she thinks it is a terrible place to work" and it "contained no objectively provable factual assertions."


Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court of Marin County and Travelers Haven, LLC, No. A145727 (August 28, 2015)
 

  • Glassdoor successfully appealed a trial court ruling compelling the disclosure of user identity in connection with a defamation lawsuit brought by Traveler's Haven, a Denver short-term housing solution company.

  • In Travelers Haven, the Court of Appeal held that a review of an employer on glassdoor.com containing the phrase "company parties = lots of drugs [sic]" constituted protected opinion on the ground that the post was written in a "flippant, truncated, and florid style."


Remember:  This FAQ is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely upon this information without seeking advice from an attorney who is competent in the relevant field of law.

 

 
   

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