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Defendants in harassment suit ordered to give over personal information

At the end of September 2011, approximately 20 women along with their manager, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against their regional manager who they say repeatedly subjected them to offensive unwanted sexual comments, innuendos and physical touching. The women claimed that after reporting the incidents through the chain of command, they were retaliated against through discipline or even discharge.

Now, more than a year later, a judge has granted a surprising motion that has many critics wondering how invasive this type of ruling can be.

According to reports, a federal judge has ordered the women to provide their cell phones and passwords to their Facebook accounts or any other social media accounts that may contain evidence pertinent to the case. Although many have argued that this may be considered an invasion of privacy, the judge is allowing the women to object to the ruling before the material is produced.

The judge partially granted the motion after the defendant claims to have gotten a hold of information from one of the plaintiff's Facebook pages that they say pertains directly to the case. The defense team argued that there could be other evidence related to the employment discrimination case in the form of text messages, Facebook posts and other information stored in cyberspace that could be "relevant to the defendant employer's somewhat unclear discovery requests."

Some attorneys have pointed out that by allowing the defense team access to personal information on the plaintiff's cell phones and Facebook pages, the defense team could come across information that may be incredibly private even though the defense may think it's relevant to the case. Some warn that information from before the lawyers were involved should not be included in the information that is handed over to the defense and that the use of the information should not be abused in anyway.

Source: The ABA Journal, "Plaintiffs in EEOC Suit Must Turn Over Cellphones and Facebook Account Passwords, Judge Rules," Martha Neil, Nov. 20, 2012

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