The intersection of social media and the workplace has become a given. Use of social media is rapidly expanding while societal norms regarding exposure of employment-related information continue to erode. The result is an increasingly complex social media environment for employees, employers, and attorneys.
Added to the complicated mix are various cases and National Labor Review Board opinions that attempt to define what recourse an employer has against an employee over social media content. When can an employer fire an employee over what the employee said on their personal social media accounts? When is the employee’s speech protected? The questions can sometimes be hard to answer, especially if the company has an underdeveloped, or no, social media policy.
Once an employment decision is made, a host of new issues arise regarding the discovery of social media. Different rules apply to the discovery process in the context of litigation and mediation, and the distinction of what may or may not be discovered in either situation could make all the difference in a case.
On February 22, 2012, join us at CBA-CLE to learn about employment law and social media trends and how they affect you, your clients, and your practice.
This interactive program, Employment Law and Social Media: Rights, Obligations, and Disputes in the Workplace, will use hypotheticals and audience inquiries to approach numerous issues important for practitioners, including:
- Recent Court decisions and NLRB opinions and their impact on workplace social media policies;
- Discovery and use of social media in litigation; and
- Discovery and use of social media in mediation.
As a primer for the discussion, Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix, a faculty member for the program, has provided us with a number of Practice Tips that attorneys should be mindful of when engaging in discovery of social media in litigation:
- Seek discovery of social networking information from the opposing party before subpoenaing Facebook or other social networking websites.
- Perform a public search for information usually available on a social networking website.
- Be mindful of your ethical responsibilities. Hiring a private investigator to “friend” the opposing party may be “inherently deceitful and unethical, even if the investigator uses his own name.”(1) Contacting the opponent yourself would likely be impermissible direct contact, and may also violate the rule providing that a lawyer may not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.(2)
- In complex cases, explore the possibility of “unbundling,” or development of a litigation management team to handle electronic data.(3)
- This is not your father’s discovery. Successful discovery of social networking information may require significant efforts to educate the judiciary about the fallacy underlying electronic discovery (just because something is electronic, it can be searched and produced instantly) and the actual cost and burden of production.
- Advise your clients to be prudent and avoid spoliation sanctions. “The courts have a right to expect that litigants and counsel will take the necessary steps to ensure that relevant records are preserved when litigation is reasonably anticipated, and that such records are collected, reviewed and produced to the opposing party.”(4)
- (1) Phil. Bar Ass’n Prof’l Guidance Comm. Op. 2009-02 (Mar. 2009), available at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/WebObjects/PBAReadOnly.woa/Contents/WebServerResources/CMSResources/Opinion_2009-2.pdf.
- (2) See, e.g., Robert S. Kelner & Gail S. Kelner, Social Networks and Personal Injury Suits, N.Y.L.J., Sept. 24, 2009, available at www.law.com/jsp/nylj/PubArticleFriendlyNY.jsp?hubtype=&id=1202434026615.
- (3) Howard B. Iwrey et al., A Multidimensional Solution to the Problems of Runaway Discovery, 29 No. 6 OF COUNSEL 12 (June 2010) pp. 2-3.
- (4) Pension Comm. of the Univ. of Montreal Pension Plan v. Bank of Am. Sec. LLC, 685 F. Supp. 2d 456, 472 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).