Monday, August 1, 2016

Companies Can Fight Back Against Anonymous Internet Defamation by Employees

American companies are under attack in the form of anonymous defamatory reviews hosted on a myriad of employer review websites. is perhaps the most infamous.  As a business defamation lawyer, it is my job to combat the very unfair playing field.  The way it stands now, sites like Glassdoor hold themselves out as sources of accurate, factual information regarding various companies.  Furthermore, these sites represent that all reviews are only from former or current employees.

In fact, these websites do absolutely nothing to verify whether or not the anonymous reviewers ever worked at the companies being reviewed.  Quite naturally, these sites are often used by business competitors to trash each other anonymously.  Additionally, often one employee posts multiple defamatory reviews giving the impression that numerous employees have had poor employment experiences.  The harm to companies extends not just to recruiting and hiring of talent but the reputation of the company among its customers.  That is because the search engine rankings for such sites is typically quite powerful.

Employer review sites have made defamation a profitable business.  Glassdoor just received $50 million dollars worth of venture capital funding.  When companies such as Glassdoor are sued, they often refuse to provide identifying information regarding the defendants - often defying court orders. In some circumstances, review sites will even hire lawyers to defend the anonymous posters in an effort to protect their identity.  Defamation certainly pays but businesses and corporate executives pay the price with permanently damaged reputations.  

In this week's video, we present another way for businesses to attack online defamation.  The idea is to add a cause of action not just for defamation but breach of contract as well.  The way to do this, as we discuss, is to require employees to execute non-disparagement agreements in employment contracts in addition to employee handbooks.  A breach of contract claim has a four year statute of limitations as opposed to one in California.  Additionally, non-disparagement covers speech much more broadly than defamation.  Defamation is susceptible to defenses such as opinion, hyperbole and truth while non-disparagement is not.  Enjoy the video.