A federal judge in California has ruled that Home Depot will not be allowed to rummage through a former employee's social media postings.
The employee in question had filed an employment discrimination suit, based on gender and failure to accommodate a known disability (vertigo). She said she had cut herself off from family and friends and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Home Depot, looking to rebut her claims, asked for:
"Any profiles, postings or messages (including status updates, wall comments, causes joined, groups joined, activity streams, blog entries) from social networking sites … that reveal, refer, or relate to any emotion, feeling, or mental state of Plaintiff, as well as communications by or from Plaintiff that reveal, refer, or relate to events that could reasonably be expected to produce a significant emotion, feeling, or mental state"...
Judge Suzanne Segal very sensibly noted that Home Depot's request would pull in all sorts of irrelevant posts, including one in which the plaintiff had merely noted, "I hate it when the cable goes out." Gushing over the victory of a favorite football team would be equally irrelevant. Requesting all of her photos over a seven year period was also ruled too broad.
However, Home Depot's request for posts about her job or the lawsuit was granted.
While this decision isn't groundbreaking, it's a nice affirmation of what we always lecture: Tailor your e-discovery requests narrowly. Requests that look like a fishing expedition are unlikely to survive judicial scrutiny.
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