Law Firm Subpoenas Glassdoor For Negative Anonymous Reviews, Supercharges Streisand Effect With Its Response

from the whoo-boy dept

Many of you likely know about Glassdoor.com, which is a website used by both employers and propsective employees for recruiting, job applications and reviews of companies by former employees as to what it's like to work at a given company. As with any source of crowdsourced reviews, it is not without its pitfalls and controversy, but most of that has to do with different methods by which companies and former employees try to promote or slam a partricularly workplace with anonymous reviews. Anyone who has done job placement research, however, knows how valuable the site is.

Yet the use of anonymous reviews, as is typical of other sites, breeds discontent amongst some. Typically you will hear complaints from companies being reviewed negatively about these anonymous reviews being unfair, untrue, or ginned up by a limited number of ex-employees. That's usually the end of it. Occasionally, however, you get a company that wants to sue over reviews like this. California law firm Layfield & Barrett is apparently one such firm.

California trial attorney Philip Layfield, joined by his firm, has filed a defamation claim against 25 John Does over anonymous comments they left online about Layfield, his current firm of Layfield & Barrett, and his former firm of Layfield & Wallace. Our network of tipsters is mighty, and we’ve gotten our hands on a third-party subpoena served upon Glassdoor.com, a jobs and recruiting website, that allows users to post anonymous reviews of places they are current or former employees of, in order to provide an assessment of the working environment for job seekers. The subpoena seeks the identifying information of several users who have taken to this anonymous online forum to complain about their allegedly miserable work.
You can see the full subpoena below, but it does indeed seem that some of the reviews left for the firm were quite nasty. Titles for some of the posts include "Deceptive, Unethical, Poorly Managed, No Sense Of Direction," "Working Here is Psychological Torture," and my personal favorite "For the love of God, do NOT work here." One can understand why an employer would be unhappy about the existance of these reviews.

Suing over them, however, is likely to be as feeble as it is misguided. This is typically the part of the post where we talk first about the difficulty of suing successfully over these types of opinion-based reviews, move on to then talk about the importance of sites like Glassdoor.com honoring its users' anonymity, before finally coming around to explain that the Streisand Effect will now take hold of this whole thing, with the lawsuit serving mostly to catapult the negative opinions the firm disliked into the forefront of more people's minds than otherwise would have been. And that would usually be the end of the post.

That is not the end of this post, in part because Glassdoor has promised to fight the attempt to out its anonymous contributors, but even more so because Philip Layfield agreed to comment on the story for Above The Law, and Oh. My. God.
With respect to the lawsuit filed, here is the reality. Our law firm has approximately 150 employees and 35 attorneys. We demand the best of the best. Many people lie about their skills, their experience and their desire to be the best when the interview. We pay top dollar for candidates and many of our attorneys earn in excess of $1 million per year. When people are lazy or incompetent, they either quit because the writing is on the wall or they are terminated. Unfortunately, most of those people are unwilling to recognize their shortcomings and they turn to anonymous blogs to spit their venom. The reality is that they should be upset with their parents for raising lazy and incompetent young adults, but they choose to spew false information on blogs such as Glassdoor. The majority of these posts contain blatantly false information. We are going to obtain the identities of these cowards and bring them to justice.These people are going to have to answer for their conduct and we will shine a light on this very cowardly practice that has become an epidemic. People need to realize that just because you are sitting anonymously behind a keyboard, you can’t break the law. Ultimately, future employers will have to decide whether they want to employ people who post false and hateful information about former employers. The same way that Glassdoor operates as a hate forum for disgruntled employees, employers have a right to know information about job applicants.

Unfortunately, most employers are too busy to spend time posting negative information about former employees on job sites, although that would probably do a lot of good for society. For example, I would love to post information about employees who graduated law school, but can’t put two sentences together, or those that are sick at least one day every week.

We will not give any further comments until the case is over.
Imagine yourself for a moment as someone who was willing to give Layfield and his firm the benefit of the doubt thus far. Are you any longer? Probably not. This comment does nothing to verify the accuracy of the complaints at Glassdoor, but it does solidify them in the mind to some degree, does it not? In addition to the demeaning nature with which Layfield addresses his former employees, the aggrandizing tone with which he describes his own firm, and his silly labeling of Glassdoor as a hate forum, he does us all a service by outlining his desire to have employers act every bit as vindictively towards former employees as he complains about in reverse. That kind of delicious hypocrisy isn't in rare supply, of course, but that doesn't make it any less scrumptious to behold.

And, to the previous point, whatever Streisand-y Effect might have resulted from the legal action the firm had already taken will now be supercharged by this boorish comment at a well-read legal industry blog. And here at Techdirt. Any likely many other places as well. If the goal was to make the firm a more attractive place to work, it's difficult to think of a better strategy than this to achieve the opposite.


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  1. identicon
    PRMan, 23 May 2016 @ 9:10am

    I'm going to defend them a little bit...

    Now, reading his tirade, I am certain that it is a horrible place to work. There's a lot of code there for 80 hours a week or else.

    That said, he's not entirely wrong. I am seeing this in every industry now. The newest generation expects everything to be handed to them and if you do ANYTHING to correct or try to improve them, they will run and whine to HR or a review site and woe to you.

    In their minds, they have no responsibility to improve. They are perfect special snowflakes just as they are and you had better realize it quickly or they will rain down terror on you.

    I have a friend who manages a fast food restaurant. He has employees calling in sick one day a week and (he hears from other employees) going to the mall together. Because he needs reliable coverage, he reduced their schedule. Makes sense, right?

    He was called by HR and told that it's "retaliatory". So what? He's just supposed to be short-staffed all the time and provide a horrible customer experience? Or he has to overstaff and make no money?

    That's just one example, I have seen this in other companies as well. At some point the employee has to have some responsibility for themselves as well.

    It's a two-way thing, but right now the pendulum is starting to swing too far the other way.

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