Can You Be Sued for a Glassdoor Review?
If you are a current or former employee, Glassdoor and Indeed.com are your way of getting the word out to prospective workers about your company. Part of you may want to warn them away from what you feel is a toxic work environment. Posting negative reviews on Glassdoor is not without legal risk for you. If your employer is motivated enough, they can make your life hell in court. Even if they cannot win a lawsuit, they can force you to incur legal expenses of your own to defend against a lawsuit that they file against you.
Your Identity May Be Revealed
First, your posts on Glassdoor may not be completely anonymous. There are a couple of different ways that your former employer can unmask you. First, they can get a general idea of who is posting by using your IP address to trace your area. Second, they may be able to go to court to force Glassdoor to reveal your identity. Glassdoor swears that they will go to every length to protect their posters, but there are some circumstances under which your employer can find out who you are.
Once your employer is able to figure out your identity, they may try various ways to pressure you to amend or take down your review. If you are unmasked, you have reason to be afraid. Once your employer figures out your identity, it is better to take down your review than to risk the consequences.
The biggest risk is that your employer can file a lawsuit against you in court for defamation. There is good news and bad news here. The good news is that it is very hard for someone to sue you for defamation and win. They will have to prove that you intentionally made a false statement with the intent of defaming them. In other words, they will have to prove that you told a lie after having set out to purposefully harm them. Not very many people are able to win defamation lawsuits.
Employers Can File a Defamation Lawsuit Against You Which Will Be Costly to Defend
The bad news is that they can file a lawsuit against you. Even if you eventually win the case, you would still need to go through the entire lawsuit process to reach that result. While the company would have to pay for their own legal fees, you would be responsible for paying your own lawyers. Unless the lawsuit was completely frivolous, you would not be able to recover your own legal costs. Accordingly, you could have to empty out your bank account to defend yourself solely on the account of an online review that you wrote.
It is very rare that a company would sue a former employee for defamation, but it has been known to happen. Lawsuits are becoming increasingly more frequent as companies realize the damage that these online review websites can due to their reputation. A pattern of bad reviews can have a noticeable effect on a company's recruiting and retention. In turn, that will harm their bottom line.
This does not mean that you will be sued every single time that you leave a bad online review. For the most part, employers have better things to do with their time and money. However, if they are seriously threatened with the substance of your review, they may file a lawsuit. In most cases, their complaint will have enough substance to it that it will proceed past the motion to dismiss stage.
While this should not stop you from posting a bad review of an employer online, it does require you to be careful in doing so. One rule of thumb is to never name specific names. This may be enough to provoke a reaction. You should also make sure that you leave an objective review and try to keep your emotions under control. Take great pains to stick only to the facts as opposed to embellishing to give your review more of a flourish. These are the things that can get you in trouble if you are up against a litigious employer with an axe to grind.
Although you have freedom on speech, it is not unlimited. You do not have the right to defame your former employer. At the same time, they have the right to sue you. Accordingly, you can post reviews, but choose your words carefully just in case.
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