While the internet is a wonderful thing, the anonymity it offers its users can do quite some damage. In a small win for companies who feel they have little defence against anonymous feedback online, a Texas appeal court has ordered Glassdoor to reveal the identity behind two negative reviews of a US lingerie company. It denied the website’s claim that its reviewers’ anonymity is protected by law.
The reviews accuse online lingerie retailer Andra Group LP (Andra) of unethical and even illegal business practices, alleging it’s violating labour laws, has illegal hiring practices, employs illegal immigrants, and management harasses people based on race and sexual orientation.
While many companies simply have to endure (former) employees leaving negative reviews online anonymously, the seriousness of the accusations made this a different case.
“These assertions are not examples of rhetorical hyperbole or mere personal opinion. They are accusations of illegal conduct that are capable of being proved true or false,” the court stated. As a result, it has ordered Glassdoor to reveal the identities of two reviewers to allow Andra to investigate the claims.
The company had taken Glassdoor to court over a total of ten negative reviews, alleging they caused the business losses of more than US$88,000.
According to the company, the reviews negatively impacted its effort to recruit the right talent. It stated that “several qualified candidates refused to consider positions with Andra, and one candidate cancelled a scheduled interview based on the Glassdoor reviews.”
Additionally, after the reviews were posted, the company said it was unable to fill various positions via free or inexpensive websites as it had in the past, and as a result hired recruiting agencies at significant expense.
During the appeal, Glassdoor among other things argued that the First Amendment protects reviewers’ right to speak anonymously, which the court overruled due to the seriousness of the accusations.
In an email to Human Resources magazine Glassdoor stated: “We are disappointed in the appellate court’s ruling involving our members and two Glassdoor reviews. We are currently evaluating our options. It’s important to note that Glassdoor prevailed in the lower court to protect the anonymity of eight additional Glassdoor members that Andra Group sought to reveal.
Glassdoor actively promotes and defends the first amendment rights of people to speak freely about their opinions and experiences at work, without fear of intimidation or retaliation, and we will continue to do so. We typically prevail in these types of cases.”
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