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Texas EPL Alert: Will the Texas Supreme Court Open the Door for Employers in Glassdoor, et al v. Andra Group, LP?

November 2, 2018

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in what many expect to be an important case for employers in Glassdoor, et al v. Andra Group, LP. The case concerns several disgruntled employees who had apparently aired grievances on the popular career website, Glassdoor.com. Glassdoor provides a platform for users to publicly and anonymously post reviews and information such as salary, work hours, and corporate culture of their employers for the benefit of current jobseekers.

Displeased with its negative reviews on the platform, Dallas-based apparel company Andra Group, LP filed a petition in Texas state court seeking to discover the identities of ten specific reviewers pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 202. The company supported the petition with a sworn affidavit stating each of the ten reviews were false and defamatory in nature. Under Rule 202, a party may seek pre-litigation investigative discovery in limited circumstances as a form of equitable relief. However, due to the potential for abuse, Texas courts closely scrutinize Rule 202 petitions, narrowly tailoring any orders granting relief for discovery.

In Glassdoor, et al, supra, the trial court denied in part and granted in part the petition by Andra Group, LP, focusing its analysis on whether the posted reviews were either hyperbole or too nonspecific to constitute actionable defamation. Of the ten reviews, the trial court found two were sufficiently specific to constitute actionable defamation, and further held “that the benefit of allowing Andra … to investigate statements it believes to be defamatory outweighs any burden on Glassdoor, Inc.” On appeal, Glassdoor and the two anonymous reviewers renewed arguments under the First Amendment and Texas Citizen’s Participation Act, but the Dallas appellate court found the trial court applied the correct analysis and upheld the order as to the two reviews.

An appeal to the Texas Supreme Court followed and Silicon Valley took note, with Reddit, WordPress, Yelp, Twitter, and TripAdvisor, in addition to a first-amendment think tank, Frontier Foundation, each submitting support for Glassdoor’s position. Following argument, the case was submitted for decision on September 19, 2018.

The case presents a potentially significant turning point for employers and employment litigators alike. Access to Glassdoor could be a critical tool for employers and litigators attempting to refute false accusations by former employees as well as a tool for rooting out corporate espionage tactics.

The experienced team of employment litigation attorneys at Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP are able to assist employers navigating the complexities of investigative discovery actions and protecting companies from baseless attacks on their reputation. For more information, please contact Robert Hellner, Esq., at (469) 210-2052 or rhellner@wshblaw.com.

 

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