A court in California has ordered Glassdoor, the job board where staff can rate their employer, to disclose the identity of users who left “scathing” reviews for the New Zealand toymaker Zuru.
The anonymous reviews referred to Zuru as a “[b]urn out factory” with a “toxic culture”, where an “incompetent” management team “consistently talk[s] down” to employees and treats them like “dirt”, according to court documents in Zuru v Glassdoor.
Zuru has said these and similar statements are false, and wants to sue the reviewers for defamation in New Zealand, where the reviewers worked and the company is based.
To determine who wrote the negative reviews, Zuru subpoenaed Glassdoor, which is based in San Francisco, to reveal the reviewers’ identities and how many people have viewed the comments.
Alex Tse, a judge in the US District Court, denied Glassdoor’s motion to quash the subpoena. He did however judge that Glassdoor could not identify the number of people who have seen the reviews “without undue burden and expense”, so it does not have to produce that information.
Glassdoor contended that the negative reviews are not defamatory but “constitute opinion”, which it argued “is not subject to defamation liability”. It also asserted that Zuru failed to prove any monetary loss but Judge Tse was not persuaded.
He said: “Zuru’s defamation claim, while plausible, almost surely won’t make it off the ground without Glassdoor’s help. Glassdoor knows who wrote the reviews, Zuru doesn’t. And if Glassdoor doesn’t identify the reviewers, Zuru can’t sue them and will be left without a means by which to ‘vindicate [its] good name’.”
In a statement provided to Businessdesk, a Zuru spokesperson said: “These proceedings began after a series of fake reviews were posted publicly on Glassdoor. We are pleased that this spam has now been removed… We cannot comment on anything further relating to pending litigation.”
Glassdoor released a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed in the court’s decision, which was effectively decided under New Zealand law”.
“In this and many other cases worldwide, Glassdoor fights vigorously to protect and defend the rights of our users to share their opinions and speak freely and authentically about their workplace experiences.”
It added: “To date, we have succeeded in protecting the anonymity of our users in more than 100 cases filed against our users.” Glassdoor did not share whether it intended to appeal the court’s decision.
Glassdoor is part of the Japanese company Recruit Holdings, which also owns Indeed.