A federal judge has ruled that Home Depot's attempt to obtain all social-networking posts by a former manager of its Burbank store was overly broad.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal rejected the company's motion earlier this month, but did rule that Home Depot had the right to some social-networking communications as long as they're between former manager Danielle Mailhoit, who is suing the retailer for discrimination, and any current or former company employees, as long as they are related to her employment or the lawsuit.
She claims she was dismissed due to gender discrimination and because she suffered from vertigo. She claims in her lawsuit that vertigo is physically debilitating, and that the company did not make appropriate accommodations for her condition.
Home Depot has denied Mailhoit's allegations, arguing in court that there were legitimate reasons for letting her go.
Home Depot had requested all photos Mailhoit had posted or in which she was tagged, as well as any profiles or messages, on Internet social-networking sites from October 2005 — the approximate date Mailhoit claims she was first discriminated against — through the present.
In her ruling, Segal cited a federal rule that requires requests for documents be described with “reasonable particularity.”
She also said that while social-networking sites contain information that is available for public view, federal rules do now allow requesting parties “a generalized right to rummage at will through information.”
Stephen Holmes, a Home Depot spokesman, said the ruling was only one part of the trial.
“This was a minor element of the general discovery process,” Holmes said in a statement. “While we believe this was a legitimate request that could have served up relevant facts to counter the plaintiff's claims, we respect the judge's ruling.”
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