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Can An Employer Do Anything About Negative Online Reviews?

Discipline and Dismissals

What can an employer do about negative online reviews? What if they border on being defamatory? We have had several clients complain about comments posted on Glassdoor and similar sites in the past, but the prevailing wisdom was that there was little that could be done. Online reviews seem to be like the wild west, with no Sheriff in town to maintain control. A recent Ontario decision should provide some hope, however.

To date, Glassdoor was more like a brick wall when it came to any efforts to obtain the names of posters or help the victim of a negative review. The law in Canada did not provide victims much relief, largely protecting the rights of the (usually anonymous) posters.

However, in BeneFACT Consulting Group Inc. v. Glassdoor Inc., the Court ordered the company to produce the names, email and internet protocol addresses of users that posted allegedly defamatory comments the plaintiff company.

“The interest of justice does not favour permitting anonymous posters to engage in a campaign of defamation against individuals and businesses,” stated Justice Carole Brown. As a result, she ordered pre-action discovery to assist Benefact.

Interestingly, Glassdoor chose not to defend the action by BeneFACT and did not have a lawyer at the hearing and questioned the jurisdiction of the Ontario courts in a public statement, noting that the Glassdoor terms of use provide for disputes to be adjudicated in California.

This is but one decision, granted in an interim process where the defendant did not have counsel. But it should provide a glimmer of hope for employers dealing with unwarranted online reviews.

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