eDiscovery Issue: Court Grants Access to Class Members’ Social Media Accounts

Where social media, text messages, blogs, and emails are relevant, at least one court has ordered production of social media usernames and passwords for all class members and examination of accounts by a forensic expert. This court required a class of plaintiffs asserting discrimination to produce three years of text messages, email messages, and access to their online media accounts.

The EEOC filed Title VII suits against The Original Honey Baked Ham Company of Georgia on behalf of a class of female employees. In discovery, Honey Baked Ham moved to compel production of the plaintiffs’ Facebook accounts and text messages. Honey Baked Ham proved that the information was relevant using the named plaintiff’s Facebook account.

The court examined the postings on the named plaintiff’s Facebook account and found “musings about her emotional state in having lost a beloved pet as well as having suffered a broken relationship; other writings addressing her positive outlook on how her life was post-termination; her self-described sexual aggressiveness; [and] statements about actions she engaged in as a supervisor with Defendant” were relevant.

The court ordered every plaintiff to produce Facebook account information, cell phone records, and emails for three years. To preserve privacy and address confidentiality concerns, the court created a questionnaire to gather only relevant account information. Plaintiffs were to provide hard copy responses for review before production to Honey Baked Ham.