A Colorado federal judge ordered
that a person suing her former employer must provide all of her cell phone
messages, social media passwords, and passwords to access any of her email
accounts or blogs for the judge’s in camera review.
The former employee, along with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sued The Original Honeybaked Ham
Company of Georgia, Inc. alleging sexual harassment, hostile environment, and
retaliation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In requesting the messages and passwords, the defendant argued that the plaintiff
“utilized electronic media to communicate” with other plaintiffs and discussed
her emotional state and other topics on the Internet.
The judge found that the information
requested may be compared to a file folder titled “Everything About Me,” which the plaintiff shared with others. “If there are
documents in this folder that contain information that is relevant or may lead
to the discovery of admissible evidence relating to this lawsuit, the
presumption is that it should be produced,” the judge wrote. “The fact that it exists in cyberspace on an
electronic device is a logistical and, perhaps, financial problem, but not a
circumstance that removes the information from accessibility by a party
opponent in litigation.”
The opinion noted that the
plaintiff “posted on her Facebook account statements that discuss her financial
expectations in the lawsuit; a photograph of herself wearing a shirt with the
word ‘cunt’ in large letters written across the front (a term that she alleges
was used pejoratively against her, also alleging that such use offended her); [and]
musings about her emotional state” and her
The judge required the plaintiff
to make the information available to a special master to review before the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al. v The Original
Honeybaked Ham Company of Georgia, Inc. D.C. Colorado, No. 11 CV 2560, issued
November 7, 2012.