Brad Serwin, General Council at Glassdoor wrote on the Glassdoor’s blog, that the protection of an individual’s right to free speech, including the ability of people everywhere to leave anonymous reviews of their workplace experiences, has been a key foundational driver for Glassdoor since the launch of the website nearly nine years ago.
“Our comprehensive efforts to defend anonymity and free speech comes in various forms, including support for legislation, litigation, and regulation and consumer education and advocacy,” stated Serwin.
In an opinion delivered by Chief Justice Conrad L. Rushing and associate justices Eugene M. Premo and Franklin D. Elia, last month the California Sixth District Court of Appeal overturned a ruling to disclose the name of a former employee who wrote an anonymous review on Glassdoor Inc. about Machine Zone, Inc. (since rebranded MZ). MZ claimed that the post disclosed information in violation an employment non-disclosure agreement.
In doing so, the Court set three legal precedents that greatly strengthen the ability of Glassdoor and other websites that publish user-generated content to protect and safeguard the identity of anonymous individuals who share free speech online.
- Establishes that Glassdoor has standing to assert the First Amendment interests of our members while maintaining their anonymity. In addition to Glassdoor, the ruling should also apply to other publishers, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, who assert these rights on behalf of their contributors.
- Extends California’s legal test applicable to the question whether to allow a defamation plaintiff to unmask the identity of an anonymous speaker to any claim implicating anonymous free speech, like a claim of breach of a non-disclosure agreement or breach of other contracts. In short, the Glassdoor test requires that, whenever anonymous free speech is challenged, before the speaker is unmasked, the plaintiff must now prove that they have a “prima facie” claim (this is legalese that means evidence must be presented to show the claim is valid on its face).
- The Glassdoor test also requires that 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. This means, for instance, that an employer challenging a Glassdoor review must identify the specific parts of the review they believe are unlawful.
These new rules clarify legal principles that had not yet been stated in a published California appellate opinion. They are now binding precedent to be applied in trial courts throughout California – and will serve as important persuasive authority for courts evaluating anonymous speech cases across the U.S. This raises the stakes for companies and their executives who attempt to take legal action against anonymous free speech, including against Glassdoor members, without adequate basis.
For more information about the ruling, visit Glassdoor’s blog by clicking here.